Dear GW Feminists,
First of all: Can I say how fantastic, how bold, how seriously impressive you are? Because there was some phenomenal organizing work that happened to make the Phyllis Schlafly counter protest as successful as it was. It was a protest of over fifty students — and it was literally put together overnight! There were signs, and thanks to some extremely strong leadership, we were able to bring them into the event (against YAF’s wishes)! These are incredibly important things, and we should be incredibly proud.
I’m going to change course here a little bit, but bear with me: A few weeks ago, when I saw the feminist symbol next to the phrase “RIOTS NOT DIETS” emblazoned in spray paint on the face of HellWell, I almost cheered out loud – I thought I knew everyone in the small handful of self-declared feminists on campus, but here was someone else! And not just someone else, but someone else who was outraged (because, as we all know: if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention)! But my celebration was tinged with anxiety. Where was this feminist? Who were they? Could there be others? DO THEY WALK AMONG US? Most importantly: how were we to go about finding each other?
I won’t credit or thank a woman who doesn’t believe that spousal rape exist for bringing us all together, but the collective organizing power that brought the counter-protest together certainly deserves applause. Up until the counter-protest, I never felt like there was any sort of feminist consciousness here; I never felt fully connected to any kind of GW feminist community. But then we were storming the halls, screaming “This is what a feminist looks like!” and it happened. We all became a part of something.
I’m telling you this because we are currently at a CRITICAL MOMENT. Hot on the heels of victory, we all need to know how amazing this was; how amazing we are. But we also need to recognize how much power we have in our hands right now — and how much bigger this can become, if we want it to.
Because we are too great a force to be bothered with the Phyllis Schlaflys of the world; there are bigger fish to fry. And if we can organize like this again, we’ll not only show that GW feminists aren’t going to sit down and shut up while YAF and other organizations sponsor others who support systemic and structural violence against women, people of color, queer and trans folks, people with disabilities, etc.– we’ll start to make waves all over campus, maybe even all over DC. We’ll start to call the shots.
I want us to start talking about these things. I want us to start to articulate a feminism that has a life of its own; something that goes beyond saying no to Schlafly’s demands that we all acquiesce to the cult of domesticity, and that actually encompasses our own needs and desires. I want us to be able to have constructive conversations about how we can’t make comparisons between sexism and the legacy of slavery in the U.S. (which were drawn in the call to action against Schlafly) — because even if we might have the best of intentions, these histories are not the same, and comparing the two erases the experiences and identities of thousands upon thousands of people.
We need to remember that mainstream American feminism has historically been a white-centered movement. As contemporary activists, we have a responsibility to — thoughtfully, and with willful intent — place intersectionality at the center of our feminism, and not as an afterthought.
I want us to be able to have these conversations, and I want us to be able to have them in a way that only brings us closer together, makes us more inclusive, makes us stronger. I want to see us at the forefront of some serious change around here. I want to be able to look at any GW student and think, “This is what a feminist looks like.”
I think we can do it. Do you?
Love and solidarity,