Having just watched Angela Davis’ recent public lecture at the University of Chicago, titled “Feminism and Abolition: Theories and Practices for the 21st Century”, I wanted to share a couple of quotes, which to me powerfully illustrate what social justice feminism – as activism and theory – should look like.
In her talk, Professor Davis speaks, among other things, about the significance of the work done by activists and scholars higlighting the experiences of trans women of colour within the prison industrial complex. We can learn so much more, Davis argues, by centring the experiences of those who by normative logic are seen as most ‘marginal’:
When we discover what appears to be one relatively small and marginal aspect of the category – of what is struggling to enter the category, so that it can basically bust up the category – this process can illuminate so much more than simply looking at the normative dimensions of the category.
Davis then goes on to outline her definition of feminism and what feminist methodologies have brought to movements for social justice. To me, this is such an inspiring feminist imaginary for our times:
I want to emphasise the importance of approaching both our theoretical explorations and our movement activism in ways that enlarge and expand and complicate and deepen our theories and practices of freedom. Feminism involves so much more than gender equality and it involves so much more than gender. Feminism must involve consciousness of capitalism (I mean the feminism that I relate to, and there are multiple feminisms, right). So it has to involve a consciousness of capitalism and racism and colonialism and post-colonialities, and ability and more genders than we can even imagine and more sexualities than we ever thought we could name. Feminism has helped us not only to recognise a range of connections among discourses and institutions and identities and ideologies, that we often tend to consider separately. But it has also helped us to develop epistemological and organising strategies that take us beyond the categories ‘women’ and ‘gender’. And feminist methodologies impel us to explore connections that are not always apparent. And they drive us to inhabit contradictions and discover what is productive in these contradictions. Feminism insists on methods of thought and action that urge us to think things together that appear to be separate and to disaggregrate things that appear to naturally belong together.