December is the month of the top ten lists, reflections on the past 12 months, and critical assessments of the year and its goings on. There are even top-ten lists that curate the top ten best top ten lists.
Then January comes. We recover from our exertions over the holiday season, return to our schedules, perhaps with a resolution in tow or some loose intention about being better this year, or doing more, or doing less. But now, it’s almost February and what of our intentions? What of our hopes for this year?
In an effort to say things out loud, live with hope and work with intention, I thought I might invert the model of the top ten list of awesome things and write, instead, a list of aspirations for the year ahead. Because my life’s work is within movements, on-the-ground and online, this list skews political, as I do. So, now that 2014’s gotten its feet wet, here are a few (of many) things I hope it brings.
1. Solidarity from white feminists, in the face of racism. 2013 was, by most accounts, dramatically painful for feminists of color. Not because of the predictable aggressions of misogyny and effects of hetero-normative patriarchal institutions, but because of the actions of those from whom we (rightly or wrongly) wanted or expected solidarity. Solidarity, importantly, is not only reactive. Sometimes, solidarity means acting BEFORE being called out, without being asked, without asking feminists of color to “tell you how.” Inevitably, 2014 will bring hard lessons on race and gender. Here’s to proactive solidarity from white feminists in 2014.
2. The collective will to hold our icons accountable – to hold ourselves accountable – in the face of our desire to see ourselves represented. Here, on this blog, we deal with the complexities at the intersection of feminism and popular culture. We call for a crunk politic. Last year, I wrote a piece about my complicated relationship with Mindy Kaling and her new show – and I haven’t really stopped thinking about Mindy and representations of South Asian American women in the US. It requires a mustering of strength and courage to call out our pop-culture icons, especially when there are things about them or their work that are truly revolutionary and transgressive. Especially when they also face critique from racists, sexists and homophobes, and we want desperately not to cast our lot in with that kind of hateful criticism. I hope that 2014 can be the year of loving ourselves well enough to contend with all the implications of Mindy or Beyonce, President Obama, Michelle Obama or anyone else we are grateful for, but whose complexity we cannot elide.
3. That we stop saying “women” when what we really mean is white, able-bodied, non-poor, cisgendered women. This is perhaps one of the greatest mythologies of “mainstream feminism,” that there is such a category as “all women” that we can use uncritically. Once, in a conversation with an anti-violence movement leader, a white cis woman, I made the case that we ought to start our anti-violence training by centering the experiences of violence of women of color. I was met with the response: “But don’t you think that fragments us, by naming women of color specifically?” She went on to ask, “What about women as women?” I said it then, and I’m saying it now, I refuse. If I have to silence particular truths about my identity for any political aim, it is not for me. And that is true for every queer, trans, differently-abled, poor, indigenous, gender variant, transnational, and immigrant person. This is true for every single person. The power of an intersectional analysis is that it allows us to be whole, to define ourselves, to self-determine. And we don’t lose power by being specific, by stating our truths, in fact, we create it.
Don’t get me wrong, the category of ‘woman’ is of great use: for fomenting a politic of solidarity across difference, for aggregating political power, and for giving us something to hold onto as we anchor against oppressive policies and institutions. But we can’t let that be the whole story. That political power is of no use to me if I have to make parts of myself invisible to be counted. And let me be clear: this is something I have been asked to do many, many times. Told to just wait till we have a more sympathetic Congress before we name racism in health care policy, or remain silent when immigrant women are excluded by policies that use citizenship as a measure for access, or told to support anti-violence strategies that assume that all intimate partner violence happens only in heterosexual relationships. So many times that it’s too many to name. This is true of racial categories, as well, of course. This is Intersectionality. Our identities aren’t made by us entirely, or by society entirely: we negotiate, we push the boundaries, we make our own meaning. Those of us who are marginalized within these identities do this in order to survive. No more should that work, of shaping and naming our own identities, be made invisible.
4. That we remember that those of us that live in the United States, particularly those of us who have American citizenship, are citizens of a country at war. Violent, ongoing war/s. Many of us benefit from American imperialism, despite the oppressive institutions within the country, so it is incumbent on us to remember that when we offer our political analyses, and think about what it means to be (however you define it) “American.” This includes knowing and naming the colonization and eradication of Native and First Nations peoples who live/d where we live, and the histories of the land on which we stand. It includes understanding the forces that push people to come here without papers, and pushes people out without warning, breaking apart families, lives and homes.
5. May we stop, finally, with body shaming each other. This includes fat-shaming, gender policing, telling thin people to “eat a sandwich,” and all the other ways in which we make others, and ourselves feel painful alienation from our very skin and bones. May our bodies be, instead, sites of radical self-acceptance, power, full-expression, and love.
Since I’m not following any of the rules of top-ten lists, I leave you with only five, even though there are many other things to wish for in 2014. Please add your own aspirations in the comments. May 2014 be the year that all your crunk dreams come true.