[Blackstudies-l] Homegrown Feminism in the Caribbean

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Mon Sep 26 06:45:16 EDT 2016


lisaparavisini posted: " An article by Amílcar Sanatan for TeleSur. For
women who built revolutions with their dreams and sewing machines.
“Feminism cannot be monolithic in its issues, goals and strategies, since
it constitutes the political expression of the concerns and int"
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New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Homegrown Feminism in
the Caribbean
<http://repeatingislands.com/2016/09/25/homegrown-feminism-in-the-caribbean/>
by
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 10.32.01 PM.png]

An article by Amílcar Sanatan for *TeleSur*.
<http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Homegrown-Feminism-in-the-Caribbean-20160920-0004.html>
For women who built revolutions with their dreams and sewing machines.

*“Feminism cannot be monolithic in its issues, goals and strategies, since
it constitutes the political expression of the concerns and interests of
women from different regions, classes, nationalities, and ethnic
backgrounds.*

*While gender subordination has universal elements, feminism cannot be
based on a rigid concept of universality that negates the wide variation of
women’s experience.*

*There is and must be a diversity of feminisms, responsive to the different
needs and concerns of different women, and define by them for themselves.”*

*— DAWN, 1987*

Caribbean feminism is not an ideological import. Our feminist theorizing is
grounded in analysis of the experiences and conditions of women from the
struggles for freedom since the establishment of the tyranny of the
plantation economy. Dr. Gabrielle Hosein, head of the Institute for Gender
and Development Studies, UWI St. Augustine Unit cautions against the
discursive stretching of the word “Indigenous” to make the case for a
“Homegrown Caribbean Feminism.” To continually use the word "Indigenous"
and not take into account the real lives of Indigenous people and their
material conditions is to displace them in thought and practice.

In the early phase of Trans Atlantic Slavery, there was preference for
black male labor from Africa. Later, it was seen as more propitious to
introduce women into colonies that reproduced the slavery system naturally.
>From the onset of the plantation enterprise, female reproductive
capabilities were central to the profitability of the plantation economy.
Black women would face the task of fighting against the racist
institutional and ideological order of slavery as well as the patriarchal
gender ideologies by both white males and black males.

In the post-emancipation period, immediately after 1838, planters
introduced a large-scale labor population of Indians as indentured to the
Caribbean. The notion that Indian indentured women operated exclusively in
the sphere of the household is false. Even when women’s wages in
indentureship were less than men, as was the case with their African female
counterparts, women were involved in agricultural labour.
<http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Homegrown-Feminism-in-the-Caribbean-20160920-0004.html#video0>As
a result of the disproportionate ratio of women to men on the plantations,
there was a drive to have "the right kind woman" in later stages of
indentureship. In addition, the early policy of indentureship was against
family emigration because the costs associated with maintaining non-worker
women and infants were seen as counterproductive. This changed in later
phases and set the ground for coinciding interests of the colonial state,
church and Indian men. The nuclear family with the non-earning housewife
was set up as the most appropriate model of family and economic unit within
a patriarchal logic.

Today, a number of young women and men are not aware of the history of
Caribbean women’s struggles and movement building. The gains made by the
movement are not only taken for granted but are sometimes denied or taken
away with little resistance since the long history behind these gains are
not well taught. During the anti-colonial and independence movements there
were deliberate efforts by Caribbean women writers to re-engage historical
arguments that either made women invisible and/or documented them
stereotypically. When all is said and done, to understand the complexity of
gender in Caribbean political economy and history a deep interrogation of
masculinities and femininities is required.

In secondary school text books—history, geography and social studies—while
there have emerged "gender modules" and increased references to
female-authored scholarship, the topics still peripheralized feminist
writing and critique and mainstream androcentric thought as the body of the
curriculum. The deeper problem of the issue is that there has been a
“historiography of neglect” (Beckles 2011).

>From the 1970s, there was an emergence of a more radical movement of women
in the region. Picking up on the mood of the times in the hemisphere and
wider developing word, self-determination and national liberation were
priority areas for the feminist movement. During this period, the Caribbean
was seen as a society that was made up of dependent capitalist economies
with a colonial condition. This unique experience of the political
geography of the Caribbean led to expressed distinctions from Euro-America
liberal feminism, Black feminism (based in the U.S.) and Soviet-based
conceptions of women’s movements.
<http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Homegrown-Feminism-in-the-Caribbean-20160920-0004.html#video1>
<http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Homegrown-Feminism-in-the-Caribbean-20160920-0004.html#video1>

While the Caribbean feminist movement drew upon the inspiration and strains
from extra-regional feminist conceptions, a Caribbean feminist perspective
was asserted. This period also witnessed powerful South-South
collaboration, perhaps best encapsulated in Development Alternatives with
Women for a New Era, DAWN, which advocated a Marxist-feminist critique of
the state while promoting the developmental state to improve the material
conditions and well-being of women in the Third World. Women’s arms of
political parties felt the radical feminist shock when the Women’s
Revolutionary Socialist Movement of the PNC was established in Guyana and
the Women’s Auxiliary of the PNP in Jamaica.

During the 1980s, there were a series of *encuentros* intra-regionally
building transnational feminist networks between Latin America and the
Caribbean. Accounting for inclusion and committing to ‘making politics
work’ in *encuentros, (*compared to the deep ideological contestations and
dogma that have characterized male-led Left and socialist international
conferences), the space offers an example to a younger generation of Left
movement builders that non-hierarchical, coalition-based, and inclusive
conferences, with all its hard work and hand wringing, sustain in the
long-run and build greater solidarity.

The ideological terrorism that ensued in the heightening of the Cold War,
CIA-backed military invasion that destabilized revolutionary governments in
the Caribbean and Latin America and the widespread economic crisis of the
1980s broke down civil society and social movements in ways that
retrospective papers and accounts could hardly describe.

By the 1990s, there was a shift from conferences on women to conferences
engaging women’s perspectives on globalization, environmental crisis,
development, etc. The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995 was a
significant moment in Caribbean feminist movement building where there was
both strong country representation and regional collaboration that built a
number of commitments that would shape discourses and practices nationally
for a decade throughout the Caribbean.

This decade also marked a shift in feminist organizing around professional
NGOs whose impact and policy measurements were valued over smaller,
identity-based, social movement organizations which grew very critical of
the finance and decision-making structures of international development
agencies. This led to some friction among some feminist networks,
especially on the Left, who felt that policy advocacy and donor finance
replaced social movement building and critiques of the state. While some
radicals of a previous decade found their voices legitimized in higher
international offices, the popular movement and conscientization that
defined the movement a decade before dwindled.

Today, feminism in the Caribbean has organized and built theory around
sexual identities, Indigenous, Afro and Indo-Caribbean feminisms, critical
masculinities work, women and climate change and more visibly, online blogs
that build dialogue within the region and the extra-regional diaspora.
Women have always been in the front seats of the Garveyite movement,
traveled as widely as any Communist Party organizer or socialist builder,
women knocked doors, made sandwiches and deliberated on party platforms for
independence parties and women picked up the slack of the debt-ridden state
in the face of IMF misery. These women in our history have been ignored,
not taken seriously, and erased by deliberate strokes of the pen. This
feminism is we own ting! Claim it!
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
September 25, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/?cat=103> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-r3G

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