What is feminism to you?

Defining feminism is always tricky. For a start, feminists don’t actually agree on a definition. Secondly, feminism is not a monolithic political or social movement, but a collection of different movements, activisms and political philosophies. Feminism is a catch-all term we use to define people (although some feminists would argue it is a label that can only be applied to women) who believe that women are historically and culturally disadvantaged in present society and want to reform society to change this. A more precise definition must take into account the following:

  1. Different feminist groups define the word “woman” in different and conflicting ways. (ie. “women as a biological sex class” or “woman as a gender identity”?)
  2. Different feminists group understand the causes of women’s historical and cultural differences in radically opposing ways. (ie. the liberal idea that women’s disadvantages are due to a lack of equal rights versus the materialist idea that all women are oppressed by a patriarchal, racial and class system).
  3. As a result, all these groups champion policies and ideas that some other group(s) oppose. (Witness the transgender, prostitution and abortion debates)
  4. Nearly all groups claim the label “feminist” for themselves exclusively and deny the other group’s claim to the name based on these opposing views.

This is why it has become more usual to hear about “feminisms” in the plural, rather than feminism in the singular.

I, of course, have my own feminist views. If you read my blog or Twitter with any regularity, you will have a pretty good idea of where I stand. But, as a teacher, my aim is always to present all the versions of feminism I have come across and present judgment of none. Nevertheless, I will always be clear in my classes which version is of my own particular leaning. In this post, I hope I am adopting this strategy. In the end, it doesn’t matter what “flavour” of feminist I am, or which “wave” I most identify with. It’s about giving a definition of feminism that contributes to a Twitter dialogue I recently read.

Feminism as word only came into existence at the end of the nineteenth century. However, the general idea of women leading disadvantageous lives in society had been around for many centuries indeed and was expressed globally in different contexts. Historians of women and gender have shown this repeatedly.  As a result, some historians, like Karen Offen for example, argue that we should expand any history of feminism to take these examples into account.

This suggests to me that my opening attempt at an explanation of feminism as “a collection of different movements, activisms and political philosophies […] who believe that women are historically and culturally disadvantaged in present society” points to the inescapable centrality of “women” to any definition of the term. Feminists want women not to be disadvantaged in society  (however they define this disadvantage) and their actions are defined by what they perceive women need to escape this position.

It also suggests that any activism who does not centre women cannot be feminism, even if the course of this activism might help women in some way. In the same way, many feminists who consider that a woman’s disadvantages cannot be understood without reference to multiple oppressive systems, may help non women in some way with their activism. This does not mean that the concerns of men are usually at the forefront of their policymaking. The Combahee River Collective said this best:

If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.

Finally, if we attempt to make feminism an “all inclusive” social justice movement, the end effect is to marginalise women and to gloss over the multiple ways women are disadvantaged in different places, cultures and times. The evidence of how women are derided and labeled “treacherous” for their insistence on the need for women-centred politics within political movements, whether Marxist, nationalist or any other, shows us very clearly that any notion of feminism that does not start from an uncompromising focus on women is on the first step to irrelevance.

Selected Bibliography:

Eisenstein, Zillah, and Barbara Smith, eds. ‘The Combahee River Collective Statement’. In Home Girls, A Black Feminist Anthology. Nueva York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, Inc., 1978. http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html.
Hewitt, Nancy A., ed. No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2010.
Lerner, Gerda. The Creation Of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-Seventy. New York: Oxford University Press, U.S.A., 1994.
Offen, Karen. ‘Defining Feminism: A Comparative Historical Approach’. Signs 14, no. 1 (1988): 119–57.
Miller, Francesca. Latin American Women and the Search for Social Justice. UPNE, 1991.
Riley, Denise. ‘Am I That Name?’: Feminism and the Category of ‘Women’ in History. Language, Discourse, Society. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Press, 1988.
Smith, Bonnie G., ed. Global Feminisms since 1945: A Survey of Issues and Controversies. Rewriting Histories. London ; New York: Routledge, 2000.

Publicado en Feminismo | Etiquetado , ,

Historiografía constitucional: de influencias, modelos y copias

Tradicionalmente la historiografía sobre el constitucionalismo mexicano, se ha empeñado en encontrar una influencia foránea directa de cada texto constitucional. En cambio, es raro encontrar autores interesados en identificar las aportaciones de la tradición constitucional autóctona a los varios documentos constitucionales. De modo que, al estudiar la Constitución Federal de 1824, por ejemplo, la pregunta recurrente es si los constituyentes adoptaron el modelo de la carta estadounidense de 1787 o el código apatzingangaditano de 1812; o bien, al abordar la cuestión de los orígenes del Cuarto Poder, presente en las Siete Leyes de 1836, se debate si dicha institución se deriva de las propuestas de Jeremy Bentham o Benjamin Constant. En años recientes, historiadores como Moisés Guzmán y Alfredo Ávila han demostrado la miopía de este enfoque al señalar las continuidades (y rupturas) en el debate constitucional mexicano después de 1808. No obstante, el hábito de analizar las constituciones mexicanas a partir de su deuda con los modelos extranjeros perdura y sigue obstaculizando el estudio del desarrollo de un pensamiento constitucional nacional.

Seguir leyendo

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Book Review: Will Fowler, Independent Mexico: The Pronunciamiento in the Age of Santa Anna, 1821-1858, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016.

This book review was published in Estudios de Historia Moderna y Contemporánea de México

Cite: Andrews, Catherine. ‘Will Fowler, Independent Mexico: The Pronunciamiento in the Age of Santa Anna, 1821–1858, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 2016’. Estudios de Historia Moderna y Contemporánea de México 53, (Jan 2017): 79–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehmcm.2017.01.001.

Will Fowler’s Independent Mexico: The Pronunciamiento in the Age of Santa Anna, 1821-1858, published by Nebraska Press last year,[1] is the fourth book deriving from his research project (2007-2010) The Pronunciamiento in Independent Mexico 1821–1876. Other products of this project are: Forceful Negotiations: The Origins of the Pronunciamiento in Nineteenth-Century Mexico, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010); Malcontents, Rebels, and Pronunciados: The Politics of Insurrection in Nineteenth-Century Mexico, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012); and, Celebrating Insurrection: The Commemoration and Representation of the Nineteenth-Century Mexican Pronunciamiento, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012). These three texts are edited volumes of collected essays in which a large number of historians have participated, including myself, Timothy E. Anna, Linda Arnold, Michael P. Costeloe, Erika Pani and Josefina Zoraida Vázquez, amongst many others. As part of this project, Fowler has also drawn up a searchable database of Mexican pronunciamientos issued between 1821 and 1871 complete with transcriptions of each document. This can be accessed via the University of St. Andrews’s webserver.[2]

fowlerIn other words, Fowler has spent the better part of ten years researching and writing about Mexican pronunciamientos.[3] His efforts have greatly advanced the study of the pronunciamiento as a political phenomenon and provided new perspectives for our understanding of Mexico’s complex nineteenth century. The subject of this review, Independent Mexico: The Pronunciamiento in the Age of Santa Anna, 1821-1858, brings together the divergent strands of the project in order to present a general analysis of the pronunciamiento in relation to the history of Independent Mexico. Here Fowler tries to explain “how and why” pronunciamientos became to be such a widespread political practise in nineteenth-century Mexico, via the study of what he describes as “the pronunciamiento constellations that impacted on national politics between 1821 and 1858”.[4]

According to the categories established by Fowler, pronunciamiento constellations were made up of a series of declarations which respond to an original or “start-up pronunciamiento.” They included the following types: “actas de adhesion” (which repeated the original’s stated objectives could often include additional clauses relating to local demands); counter-pronunciamientos or “pronunciamientos de rechazo” (which rejected the start-up’s petitions and offered a vote of confidence to the government being challenged); and “despronunciamientos”, or the public retraction of a previous pronunciamiento.[5]

Fowler demonstrates that the pronunciamiento took root in Mexico in the wake of Rafael Riego’s pronunciamiento against Fernando VII (1820) and Agustín de Iturbide’s Plan of Iguala (1821). The success of both these events provided an attractive model for the emerging political and military class to copy, giving rise to what he terms “mimetic insurrectionism” in the following decades. Emperor Agustín was crowned and later overthrown via a pronunciamiento, as were numerous presidents. Supporters of radical federalism in the states used pronunciamientos to pressure the second Constituent Congress to enact a Federal Constitution in 1824, while centralists organised the downfall of this very constitution in 1835 through much the same means. Initially a tool of the political classes, mimetic insurrectionism spread in the 1830s and 1840s to the subaltern population where it became “their preferred means of addressing local concerns and grievances”.[6] It is Fowler’s premise that pronunciamientos were, therefore, an indispensable part of political life in Independent Mexico. Indeed, he argues that they became “the way of doing politics” between 1821 and 1858.[7] Pronunciamientos were “accepted, used, and endorsed by everyone”,[8] offering “the most effective way of bringing about political change”.

Fowler also links the phenomenon of the pronunciamiento to the context of contested legitimacy in Mexican politics between 1821 and 1858. He argues that only “by understanding the transitory context of Mexico’s early national period and appreciating the extent to which no given set of laws or institutions enjoyed sufficient time to maintain their engendered or recently invented legitimacies, it is possible to see how the pronunciamiento, as a practice, became as much a curious constitutional stop-gap measure as a source of instability”.[10] Pronunciamientos tended to defend a constitution (but not always the constitution in force, it has to be said), or protested what the pronunciados considered to be unconstitutional or illegitimate actions by governors and other political actors. They enacted regime change more effectively than elections; but in general, their leaders sought ratify their victories via a congressional decree. Fowler defines the pronunciamiento as inhabiting the no-man’s-land between constitutional order and outright rebellion: it was a “relatively peaceful insurrectionary practice -part lobbying, part intimidating, with its acts of disobedience, circulating of petitioning plans and reliance on waves of aggressive copycat statements of support purporting to represent the voice of the national or popular will”.[11]

What brought about the end of the pronunciamiento as a political practice in Mexico, according to Fowler, was the polarisation of political life after the US invasion in 1847. At least at a national level, in the 1840s and 1850s pronunciamientos became less a means by which political actors engaged in “forceful negotiation”, and transformed into naked power grabs akin to coup d’états. In this context, unsuccessful pronunciados could and would be shot, rather than be exiled. At a local level, the use of pronunciamientos by subaltern groups and indigenous rebels, also made the pronunciamiento synonymous with rebellion. As a result, after the War of the Reform, the pronunciamiento had been clearly defined as an unconstitutional, illegitimate form of action, thus leaving Mexicans to choose between engaging “in the political life of the republic by constitutional means or through outright rebellion” since.[12]

Independent Mexico: The Pronunciamiento in the Age of Santa Anna, 1821-1858, then, offers perhaps the most complete interpretation of the pronunciamiento in Mexican politics to date. Through Fowler’s analysis of the different types of pronunciamiento and their multiples uses, it is possible to appreciate that this practice was not a static phenomenon, but evolved between 1820 and 1850 in a number of distinct ways. It is also possible to see that the pronunciamiento was not always used as a banner of revolt, but can better be understood as a means of pressuring authorities to act on certain matters. In that sense, the spread of the pronunciamiento in the 1830s is evidence of Mexican public participation in the political process. Thus, in many ways, non-violent pronunciamientos can be usefully compared to the British and US fashion for petitions which flourished from the eighteenth century onwards.

Even so, I think two of Fowler’s hypothesis need to be questioned. The idea that pronunciamientos were “the [ie. the only or best] way of doing politics” between 1821 and 1858 strikes me as difficult to sustain.[13] There were many ways of “doing politics” in Mexico’s early national period, most of them considerably less risky than launching a pronunciamiento. As the research project into electoral practices coordinated by Fausta Gantús and Alicia Salmerón shows,[14] the electoral process provided ample opportunity for similar rounds of negotiations and public participation. Their books show that elections were not the sham that historiography has assumed thus far. Indirect elections created small electoral assemblies or juntas, first at a district level and later at state level, in which elected voters decided upon choices for elected positions. José María Luis Mora describes how this process was subject to outside pressures and tensions quite well in an essay published in El Observador de la República Mexicana in 1830.[15] In fact, Fowler’s 2010 essay on the relation between the pronunciamiento and elections recognises the utility of the electoral system in Mexico. In this text, he offers a much more nuanced argument than the one he presents in the book, maintaining that “el pronunciamiento mexicano del siglo XIX fue, en cierto sentido, una extensión del sistema electoral de la época”.[16]

Secondly, I think the demise of the pronunciamiento cannot be explained purely with reference to the transformation of this practice from one of “forceful negotiation” to one of simple rebellion. The polarisation of politics which occurred after 1847 did not just impact the way pronunciamientos were organised and carried out. They also marked a clear rupture in the politics of contested legitimacy that, as Fowler so astutely notes, gave rise to the pronunciamiento in the first place. Before 1847, politicians contested the legitimacy or constitutionality of state actors but all parties were convinced of the legitimacy of the idea of liberal constitutionalism as the only way to build a stable nation. After 1847, conservative politicians began to actively challenge the idea of the legitimacy of the liberal constitutional project itself. This changed the dynamics of public debate, as Elías Palti has shown.[17]

The civil wars of the Reform period marked a second rupture: with the Liberals’ decisive win, the execution of Maximillian, Tomás Mejía and Miguel Miramón, there was no longer a contested legitimacy at all. After 1867, the Constitution of 1857 was the only arbiter of legitimacy permitted in the Republic. Moreover, it established the boundaries between the legitimate use of the right of petition and “forceful negotiation” in such a way as to definitively close the constitutional uncertainty in which the pronunciamiento culture had developed:

Art 8. Es inviolable el derecho de petición ejercido por escrito, de una manera pacífica y respetuosa; pero en materias políticas sólo pueden ejercerlo los ciudadanos de la República. A toda petición debe recaer un acuerdo escrito de la autoridad quien se haya dirigido, y ésta tiene obligación de hacer conocer el resultado al peticionario.

Art 9. A nadie se le puede coartar el derecho de asociarse o de reunirse pacíficamente con cualquier objeto lícito; pero solamente los ciudadanos de la República pueden hacerlo para tomar parte en los asuntos políticos del país. Ninguna reunión armada tiene derecho de deliberar.[18]

One of the reasons that pronunciamientos occupied a no-man’s land between illegitimacy and legitimacy in the early national period was because the constitutions of 1824, 1836 and 1843 had been silent on the question of the “right of petition”, widely believed to be a citizen’s natural rights. During the first government of Anastasio Bustamante (1830-32) attempted to legislate on this question with no success, for example.[19] New constitutional clarity was the reason why the plans issued after 1867 could only ever be rebel manifestos: now they explicitly contravened the constitution. As Fowler says, the plans issued by Díaz in 1874, Madero in 1910 and Zapata in 1911 may have adopted the language of the pronunciamiento, but their express aim was to overthrow the regime in power rather than list grievances.

Both these quibbles strengthen rather than weaken the arguments Fowler upholds. His explanation for the rise and fall of the pronunciamiento offers a new window through which to study this period of Mexican history. Thus, Independent Mexico: The Pronunciamiento in the Age of Santa Anna, 1821-1858, will be indispensable to those historians looking to understand Mexico’s political culture. It deserves a wide audience in Mexico than the current US version will allow, and I hope that a translation into Spanish will be forthcoming very soon.

[1] Will Fowler, Independent Mexico: The Pronunciamiento in the Age of Santa Anna, 1821-1858, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016.

[2] “The Pronunciamiento in Independent Mexico” <http://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/pronunciamientos/&gt; [accessed 17 January 2017].

[3] Also see: Will Fowler, “Entre la legalidad y la legitimidad: Elecciones, pronunciamientos y la voluntad general de la nación”, in José Antonio Aguilar Rivera (ed.), Las elecciones y el gobierno representativo en México (1810-1910), Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica/Conculta/Conacyt/IFE, 2010), pp. 95–120; and, Will Fowler, “El pronunciamiento mexicano del siglo XIX. Hacia una nueva tipología”, Estudios de Historia Moderna y Contemporánea de México, vol. 38, 2010, 5–34.

[4] Fowler, Independent Mexico… op. cit. pp. 34-35.

[5] Ibid., pp. 11-14.

[6] Ibid., p. 181.

[7] Ibid., p. 29.

[8] Ibid., p. 153.

[9] Ibid., p. 181.

[10] Ibid., p. 86.

[11] Ibid., p. 181.

[12] Ibid., p. 245.

[13] Ibid., p. 29.

[14] Fausta Gantús and Alicia Salmerón (coords.), Prensa y elecciones: Formas de hacer política en el México del siglo XIX, México, Instituto Mora/CONACYT/IFE, 2014); Fausta Gantús (coord..), Elecciones en el México del siglo XIX: Las fuentes, México, Instituto Mora/CONACYT, 2015; Fausta Gantús, Elecciones en el México del siglo XIX: las prácticas, México, Instituto Mora/CONACYT/TEDF, 2016.

[15] “Discurso sobre las elecciones directas”, El Observador de la República Mexicana, segunda época, miércoles 4 de agosto de 1830, vol. III, no. 1, pp. 3-17. Also see, Catherine Andrews, “Las ideas de José María Luis Mora para la reforma de la Constitución Federal de 1824. Un análisis de los ensayos publicados en El Observador de la República Mexicana (1830)”, en Rafael Estrada Michel y Mario Armando Téllez González (coords.), José María Luis Mora. Un hombre de su tiempo, México, INACIPE/UAM-Cuajimalpa, 2014, pp. 1-35.

[16] Fowler, “Entre la legalidad y la legitimidad…” op. cit., p. 100.

[17] La política del disenso: La ‘polémica en torno al monarquismo’ (México, 1848-1850) … Y las aporías del liberalismo, comp. and intro. by Elías José Palti, México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1998.

[18] Constitución de la República Mexicana de 1857, https://archivos.juridicas.unam.mx/www/legislacion-federal/historicos/1857.pdf [accessed January 18 2017]. My emphasis.

[19] Catherine Andrews, “Las sociedades secretas; el sistema de elecciones; el abuso del derecho de petición y la licencia de la imprenta. La administración de Anastasio Bustamante y su actitud hacia los partidos y la oposición política (1830-1832)”, en Alfredo Ávila y Alicia Salmerón (coords.), Partidos, facciones y otras calamidades. Debates y propuestas acerca de los partidos políticos en México, siglo XIX, México, Fondo de Cultura Económica/Conaculta/UNAM, 2012, pp. 51-75.

Publicado en Historia constitucional, Historia política, Reseñas | Etiquetado , ,

Marxismo y feminismo: Una perspectiva histórica

Siempre me ha fascinado la historia de Olive Schreiner, autora de uno de los textos clásicos feministas del siglo XX (Woman and labour, 1911). Schreiner nació en 1855 en una misión metodista de Cabo del Este (actualmente, República de Sudáfrica). Fue la

novena de doce hermanos. Su padre, Gottlob Schreiner, era un clérigo alemán; y su madre, Rebecca Lyndall, hija de un ministro protestante inglés. En la década de 1880 Olive vivió en Escocia y luego en Londres, donde se hizo amiga de la hija menor de Karl Marx, Eleanor, y de otras mujeres socialistas en el club londinense Nueva Mujer. En ese periodo empezó a investigar sobre lo que llamaría más tarde “el problema del trabajo femenil”; es decir, la cuestión de la idoneidad de las mujeres para trabajar fuera de la casa, muy debatida entre la intelectualidad europea del momento. Concluyó dicha tarea en 1899 cuando, tras el matrimonio y la muerte de su única hija, se encontró de nuevo en Sudáfrica. Obligada a refugiarse en su casa de manera repentina durante la guerra de los bóeres, tuvo que abandonar el manuscrito terminado. Ocho meses más tarde, cuando un amigo fue por el texto, descubrió que la casa de Schreiner había sido saqueada y quemada, y con ella, su libro. Profundamente decepcionada por la pérdida de veinte años de trabajo, Schreiner decidió reescribirlo. Pero la guerra, y luego su mala salud, le impidieron reconstruir el texto en su totalidad. Al final, optó por reelaborar solo los últimos capítulos, que fueron publicados en 1911 ………… Haga click aquí para seguir leyendo  (Letras Libres, núm. 232, abril de 2018, pp. 21-24).


Publicado en Feminismo, Historia política | Etiquetado , , , , ,

The Return of Idealism and the Erasure of Black Feminist Theory

Counterpoint magazine published an opinion piece today entitled “The return of idealism: identity and the politics of oppression” written by Elaine Graham-Leigh. It’s a (very) long explanation of an argument I have seen in various forms within current feminist debate about the fallacies of identity politics. As the title of the piece suggests, the crux of her argument is that identity politics is a product of postmodern theory and fundamentally opposed to a materialist socialist analysis of the politics of oppression. Thus she says:

It follows therefore [for identity politics] that the important identity is not the one to which you belong by virtue of your descent or your biology, but the one with which you identify. In this view, women, for example, are not oppressed because of any relation to their female sex, but because and to the extent that they identify as women and signify this through their performance of femininity. The reality of the sex of their bodies is as unimportant as all material reality. It therefore follows that the identification as a woman, which is important, does not have to proceed from having a female body, which is not. The identity has become unmoored from the physical reality.

As numerous white feminist thinkers have noted before her, the emphasis on identity rather than shared biological circumstances can make activism harder [1]. The common thread running through her lament and those of a similar nature is: why can’t all women pull together to overcome common oppression? Why must what separates us -identity in this case- undermine collective action?

And here we come to the reason why I am writing this reply to Graham-Leigh. Because, her essay provides us -unconsciously or not- the answer to this question.

In her historical analysis of the origins of socialist feminism and identity politics, Graham Leigh fails to include the contribution of black feminist thought on these subjects, and when she does she does not evidence the same breadth of knowledge she shows in the rest of her essay. This is important because black feminist thought is precisely the bridge which links (this is a deliberate analogy follow this link and read the book it leads to) the contemporary debate between socialist and postmodern feminists she is discussing [2].

Let me explain: in her essay, Graham- Leigh explicitly argues that “intersectional feminism” or “intersectionality” is a product of identity politics. She quotes from the foundational work on this subject by Black legal feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw [3] and says:

Crenshaw’s argument was that black women were minimised in feminist campaigns which saw white women’s experiences as the default, and by Black liberation struggles which focused on men. As she said, ‘discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens at an intersection, it can be caused by cars travelling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a black woman is harmed because she is at the intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination.’ Black women could experience discrimination as women, as black people, and sometimes specifically as black women, ‘not the sum of race and sex discrimination, but as black women.’

This is an important insight, but it does not amount to an entire systemic understanding of oppression [4]. To be fair to Crenshaw, it was not her intention to provide one. It is perhaps an indication of the difficulties of understanding oppression through identity politics that intersectionality theory is left to do all the heavy lifting here. The term intersectionality is commonplace in online discussions of oppression, as for example in the popular phrase ‘my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit’. In its least nuanced form, however, it can become little more than a ranking system, ordering people according to how many different axes of oppression they can claim.

This dismissal of intersectionality betrays Graham-Leigh’s lack of knowledge not only of the origins of this theory, but also, its historical development from the moment from which this text was published (1989) and the present [5]. Crenshaw is indeed the woman who coined the term “intersectionality”, but the analysis she proposes has been present in black feminist thinking for most of the twentieth-century as Angela Davis shows quite clearly in Women, Race and Class (1981).

Drawing on this history, during the eighties, black and “third-world” feminist scholars were instrumental in analysing the oppression of women within their local, cultural, religious and class circumstances using the Marxist tools of analysis Graham-Leigh assumes were only employed by (white) socialist feminists. Particularly, Patricia Hill Collins and Chandra Mohanty, to name just two, have been grappling with the question of how to organise collective action against oppression between women who despite sharing a common biology reality, resolutely do not face the same oppressions when the material circumstances of their lives are examined [6]. Indeed, Patricia Hill Collins’s theory of a “matrix of domination” in which race, class, and gender are understood as “interlocking systems of oppression” is grounded precisely on the materialist analysis Graham-Leigh champions. For example:

Adhering to a both/and conceptual stance does not mean that race, class, and gender oppression are interchangeable. For example, whereas race, class, and gender oppression operate on the social structural level of institutions, gender oppression seems better able to annex the basic power of the erotic and intrude in personal relationships via family dynamics and within individual consciousness. This may be because racial oppression has fostered historically concrete communities among African-Americans and other racial/ethnic groups. These communities have stimulated cultures of resistance. While these communities segregate Blacks from whites, they simultaneously provide counter-institutional buffers that subordinate groups such as African-Americans use to resist the ideas and institutions of dominant groups. Social class may be similarly structured. Traditionally conceptualized as a relationship of individual employees to their employers, social class might be better viewed as a relationship of communities to capitalist political economies. Moreover, significant overlap exists between racial and social class oppression when viewing them through the collective lens of family and community. Existing community structures provide a primary line of resistance against racial and class oppression. But because gender cross-cuts these structures, it finds fewer comparable institutional bases to foster resistance. [7]

Although, Black (and postcolonial) feminist thought developed what is now understood as “intersectionality” squarely within the Marxist tradition, this does not mean that all feminism which proports to be “intersectional” is necessarily materialist. There is -as Leigh Graham shows- a liberal version of this theory which does indeed replace structural materialist analysis for “personal identity” and “personal experience of oppression” as their defining factors. But as Nancy Fraser notes, the co-option and transformation of materialist analysis by (neo)liberal feminists has been a feature of third wave feminism and it is no surprise, therefore, that it continues today [8].

So, to return to the original question. Why can’t all women pull together to overcome common oppression? Why must what separates us -identity in this case- undermine collective action? I hope the answer is now clear. While the centrality of black and brown feminist thought is ignored, or misrepresented in white women’s analysis, there can be no real hope of pan-women solidarity. If we appropriate this work as our own, while simultaneously implying that this very thought is limited and the cause of conflict between us, we can find no common ground at all.


[Thanks to Louise Pennington who encouraged me to write this]

[1] For example, Linda Alcoff, “Cultural Feminism Versus Post-Structuralism: The Identity Crisis in Feminist Theory,” Signs. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, (1988) 13: 3, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3174166

[2] Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, 2. ed., New York, NY: Kitchen Table, 1983.

[3] Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum (1989) no. 1, http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/uclf/vol1989/iss1/8

[4] My italics.

[5] See, Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge, Intersectionality, Polity Press, 2016.

[6] An introduction to standpoint theory can be found here, Sandra G. Harding (ed.), The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies, Psychology Press, 2004.

Also see, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “‘Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28: 2 (2002): https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/342914

[7] Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Unwin Hyman, 1990, pp. 221–238, http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/252.html

[8] Nancy Fraser, “Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History,” New Left Review, 56 (Mar.-Apr. 2009), https://newleftreview.org/II/56/nancy-fraser-feminism-capitalism-and-the-cunning-of-history



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La elección general en el Reino Unido: Una explicación

Desde los tiempos de Margaret Thatcher y John Major el partido Conservador no puede ganar una mayoría contundente en las elecciones generales. Entre 2010 y 2015 David Cameron gobernaba en coalición con el partido de los Demócratas Liberales (Lib Dems), a partir de 2015 contaba con una mayoría absoluta de apenas cuatro escaños.

Uno de los principales problemas para los conservadores es la cuestión europea. El partido conservador siempre se dividía acerca de la conveniencia de la membresía británica de la Unión Europea. Desde 2010 la oposición de los anti-europeos dificultaba el trabajo del pro-europeo Cameron. Asimismo, en las últimas elecciones, los conservadores perdieron votos frente al Partido para la Independencia del Reino Unido (UKIP por sus siglas en inglés).

En 2015 el primer ministro David Cameron intentó resolver este problema al convocar el referéndum para el año subsiguiente. Confiaba que este voto terminaría el debate político dentro de su partido de una vez por todas y, de paso, minaría la legitimidad del UKIP. Estaba equivocado y, unos días después del voto renunció como líder del partido conservador.

El Reino Unido es una democracia parlamentaria. El jefe de gobierno (prime minister) es el jefe de la bancada del partido mayoritaria en la cámara de comunes. Los diputados conservadores eligieron a Theresa May como substituto de Cameron en el verano de 2016. La nueva administración enfrentaba dos problemas: 1) negociar el Brexit ; y 2) May carecía de legitimidad electoral como primer ministra, pues no había ganado una elección como líder de los conservadores.

El proceso por el que May inició la salida del Reino Unido de la Unión Europea (UE) resultó ser extremadamente desgastante. Era claro que no hay consenso en la cámara de los comunes acerca de lo que significaba el resultado del referéndum para las negociaciones. Asimismo, era evidente que la UE no tendría intención de ofrecer las concesiones que May y los conservadores prometían conseguir.

Al igual que Cameron, May intentó resolver sus dificultades a través de un voto popular. En este caso, una elección general al parlamento. No tenía obligación ninguna a convocar una elección, pues por ley no tocaba la renovación parlamentaria hasta 2020. No obstante, confiaba en las encuestas políticas que indicaban que el partido conservador gozaba una ventaja de 20 puntos porcentuales sobre el partido laborista. Esperaba incrementar la mayoría parlamentaria para facilitar las negociaciones de Brexit frente a la UE y fortalecerse frente al parlamento.

La campaña electoral de May fue desastrosa; su plataforma electoral no ofrecía detalles acerca de sus planes para las negociaciones con la UE pero sí incluía medidas que afectaría negativamente a su base electoral principal: la clase media jubilada. En cambio, los laboristas defendían una plataforma que prometía beneficios importantes a su propia base: la abolición de las cuotas para estudiar la educación superior; y la renacionalización de la red ferroviaria. Además, con esta plataforma, los laboristas realizaron una campaña exitosa entre los jóvenes universitarios para convencerles que votaran (es una demografía que no vota en grandes números de manera regular).

Los resultados de la elección no son los que esperaba May. No ha obtenido una mayoría absoluta en el parlamento; de modo que, para formar una administración, se verá obligada entrar en coalición con el partido ultra protestante (y anti católico) derechista de la Irlanda del Norte (el Partido Unionista Democrático o DUP).

Al respecto, los periodistas de Twitter sugieren que la jefa del partido Conservador en Escocia, Ruth Davidson, se opondrá a la coalición con el DUP. Dado que May no tendría mayoría efectivo en la cámara de comunes sin los trece diputados del partido Conservador electos ayer por circunscripciones escocesas, la oposición de Davidson bien podría obstaculizar cualquier gobierno de coalición.

Si la coalición no prospera, es posible que haya nuevas elecciones, pues el partido laborista no podría alcanzar una mayoría absoluta para formar un gobierno, incluso con la participación de los demás partidos (Lib Dems, el Partido Nacional Escocés o SNP y Verde).

En breve, la elección de ayer ha servido para empeorar la posición de May frente a los problemas que enfrenta. Ahora tiene menos legitimidad política frente al parlamento, y consiguientemente es más débil frente a la UE. Es muy probable que en las próximas semanas los ex aliados de Cameron, varios de sus propios ministros (sobre todo el secretario de Relaciones Exteriores, Boris Johnson), y hasta los conservadores leales a Davidson, busquen obligarla a dimitir.

Mientras tanto, las negociaciones acerca de la salida del Reino Unido de la UE deben iniciarse antes del fin del mes de junio. Todavía no sabemos quién estará allí para negociar en nombre del Reino Unido.

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Historia del Día Internacional de la Mujer y antecedentes del Paro Internacional de Mujeres 2017 #NosotrasParamos #8M


Paro de Mujeres Islandia 1975

Un día de descanso. Paro de mujeres en Islandia, el 24 de octubre de 1975


Les comparto el discurso que pronuncié el día de hoy en el marco del paro de mujeres en el CIDE.

La historia del Día Internacional de la Mujer tiene sus orígenes en la lucha de las mujeres socialistas en Europa, Estado Unidos y América Latina a favor de mejores condiciones sociales, económicas y laborales para las mujeres. La vasta mayoría de las mujeres socialistas del temprano siglo XX no se consideraban “feministas”, pues asociaban este término con el movimiento burgués a favor del sufragio.

En 1907 en la primera conferencia Internacional de Mujeres Socialistas en Stuttgart, Alemanía, se resolvió realizar acciones a favor de los derechos políticos femeninos y no permitir que las mujeres burguesas acaparan el tema.

El primer día de celebración y marcha se realizó el domingo 28 de febrero de 1909 en Nueva York, donde la activista y novelista Charlotte Perkins Gilman dio el discurso de inauguración. A partir de entonces, las socialistas norteamericanas resolvieron hacer un día para manifestar a favor de los derechos de las mujeres  el último domingo de febrero cada año.

En 1910, a propuesta de la socialista y periodista alemán, Clara Zetkin. la segunda Conferencia Internacional de Mujeres Socialista, reunida en Copenhague, Dinamarca acordó celebrar igualmente un día anual de lucha; pero no designaron una fecha exacta. Al organizar la primera marcha, las socialistas alemanas escogieron una fecha con significado histórico para el movimiento socialista: el 18 de marzo 1911, día del cuadragésimo aniversario del Comuna de París. De este modo, había dos fechas posibles para el día socialista de las mujeres, la de febrero y la de marzo. Los grupos en diferentes países observaron la fecha que mejor les pareciera.

Durante la primera guerra mundial, las celebraciones del día de la mujer también agitaban en contra de la guerra y a favor de la paz. Tal vez, la celebración más importante para la historia de este día, fue la marcha que hicieron las mujeres rusas en San Petersburgo el último domingo del mes de febrero de acuerdo al calendario juliano de la iglesia ortodoxa rusa (pero el día 8 de marzo de acuerdo al calendario occidental gregoriano). Como señala Trotsky, los bolcheviques luego consideraba que la protesta femenina de aquel día era el primer salvo en la revolución de febrero.

De modo que durante el régimen soviético, el día 8 de marzo se instaló como el día de la mujer y como festivo patriótico. Asimismo, las mujeres socialistas fuera de la URSS también adoptaron este día para su celebración. Después de la Revolución China, por ejemplo, el Partido Comunista estableció igualmente un festivo el 8 de marzo para el día de la mujer.

La idea de un día internacional de la mujer tal y como lo concebimos hoy, es decir, una celebración sin vínculo histórico explicita con el socialismo ni con la Revolución Rusa, provenía del nuevo despertar feminista en el mundo occidental en las décadas de 1960 y 1970.

En este proceso, era necesario reinventar los orígenes de la celebración para reacomodarlo en el contexto de la guerra fría. En consecuencia, las norteamericanas argumentaron que la primera celebración en EU de 1909 se había organizado para conmemorar una huelga por parte de tejedoras neoyorquinas el 8 de marzo de 1857. La presión feminista internacional logró que ONU declaró el 8 de marzo como el Día Internacional de la Mujer en el marco del Año Internacional de la Mujer de 1975.

Acto seguido, las feministas socialistas protestaron esta reinterpretación histórica; y una investigación documental por parte de las historiadoras francesas, Françoise Picq y Liliane Kandal a principios de 1980, comprobó que esta historia no tenía fundamento en la evidencia. No obstante, es todavía la historia más repetida acerca de los orígenes del día internacional de la mujer hasta el día de hoy.

La historia de los paros de mujeres también está vinculada a la historia del movimiento de mujeres de las décadas de 1960 y 1970. En 1970 la National Organization for Women-NOW de EU convocó un paro nacional a favor de la igualdad femenina. La presidenta de NOW en aquel entonces era Betty Friedan, autora del libro El místico femenino que argumentaba que las labores del quehacer doméstico y el aislamiento de la ama de casa, las llevaban a la depresión y a sufrir otras enfermedades mentales.

La NOW hacía campaña a favor de la inserción femenina a la fuerza de trabajo, y por ende, convocaba el paro el 26 de agosto de 1970, el  quincuagésimo aniversario de la enmienda 19 (que extendía el voto a las mujeres). Exigián la abolición de las leyes contra el aborto; la fundación de guarderías para niños pagados por el Estado; y, la igualdad de oportunidad para las mujeres en el ámbito laboral. La idea era demonstrar a la sociedad la importancia de las mujeres para la economía, el gobierno y sus instituciones. Pedía a las mujeres a no trabajar en la casa, ni afuera, ni hacer compras de ningún tipo.

Durante la segunda ola feminista, hubo una variedad de iniciativas de este tipo. Feministas socialistas y radicales agitaban a favor de reconocer el valor del trabajo doméstico y plantearon la necesidad de pagar a la ama de casa por realizar estas tareas. El paro más exitoso de mujeres del periodo era el que organizaban el colectiva feminista radical, Medias Rojas, en Islandia el 24 de octubre de 1975. Al igual que las paristas estadounidenses convocaron a las mujeres a no realizar trabajo fuera o dentro de la casa. Su objetivo declarado era promover una mejor participación de las mujeres en el gobierno y el trabajo. Llamaron el día: Un día de descanso, y lograron que 90% de las mujeres islandesas participaron.

Las feministas islandesas consideran que el paro de 1975 fue un momento clave: pues, dio impulso a un movimiento feminista importante en Islandia. Hace seis años las feministas revivieron la idea del paro, con un día anual el 24 de octubre en el que las mujeres salen del trabajo temprano para protestar a la diferencia salarial entre hombre y mujeres.

Los antecedentes inmediatos a la iniciativa del paro de hoy, son el paro que realizaron las mujeres en Polonia el 3 de octubre del año pasado para protestar en contra de la protesta del gobierno polaco para criminalizar el aborto en toda instancia y,  en el mismo mes, el paro de mujeres en Corea del Sur para oponerse a los intentos del gobierno coreano incrementar el castigo a médicos que pratican el aborto. Ambas protestas fueron multitunidinarias y en el caso de Polonia, lograron que el gobierno retirara su protesta.

También en octubre de 2016, el feminicidio de una jóven de 16 años en Argentina llevó a protestas masivas en contra de la violencia masculina. Desde entonces, el colectivo feminista argentino, NiUnaMenos se puso a planear un paro para el 8 de marzo de 2017. La confluencia de activismo feminismo desde esta fecha, incluyendo la Marcha de Mujeres de enero, ha llevado al paro a ser convocado en 54 países de manera conjunta entre grupos feministas locales. El fin del paro es protestar contra la violencia machista, las agresiones sexuales, el acoso y la brecha salarial.


“Acerca de”. International Women’s Strike / Paro Internacional de Mujeres, parodemujeres.com [6 de marzo de 2017].

Debuk, [Deborah Cameron]. “Strike!” Re-reading the Second Wave, el 7 de marzo de 2017. https://hyenainpetticoatsblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/strike/ [8 de marzo de 2o17].
Einarsdottir, Else Mia, y Steinhtorsdottir, Gerdur. “Kvennasögusafn Íslands – Women’s Day Off 1975”. Scandinavian Review, núm 3 (1977) http://kvennasogusafn.is/index.php?page=Women-s-Day-Off-1975 (6 de marzo de 2017).
Kandel, Liliane y Picq, Françoise. “Le mythe des origines, à propos de la journée internationale des femmes,”  La Revue d’En face, núm. 12 (otoño de 1982), www.archivesdufeminisme.fr/ressources-en-ligne/articles-et-comptes-rendus/articles-historiques/kandel-l-journee-des-femmes-le-mythe-des-origines/ [6 de marzo de 2017].
Kaplan, Temma. “On the Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day,” Feminist Studies 11, núm. 1 (1985).
Picq, Françoise. “Journée internationale des femmes : à la poursuite d’un mythe”. Travail, genre et sociétés 3, núm. 1 (2000). doi:10.3917/tgs.003.0161.
Publicado en Feminismo, Historia política | Etiquetado , , , , , ,