Today, March 8th, marks International Women’s Day – a day dedicated to raising awareness about women’s rights, highlighting women activists, heroes and changemakers, and reinvigorating our collective commitment to a post-patriarchal society.
As a proudly feminist consulting firm, and as a 2SLGBTQ+-owned and operated business, we greet IWD 2021 with a mix of excitement and apprehension. We are excited at the opportunity today presents to put the spotlight on those in our communities doing radical, feminist work. We are hesitant because we imagine IWD as what it can and should be—an intersectional celebration that centres those most impacted by oppression—and struggle with the yearly disappointment in our collective failure to deliver on a truly intersectional IWD.
Every year on March 8th, our social media is filled with profiles of successful women doing exciting work. Most of those stories feature cisgender, middle-class, heterosexual, white women. While our power and privilege does not mean we can’t do good work—and indeed, a feminist philosophy obligates us to use the power we are granted, based on our social location, to dismantle the very systems that grant us that unearned power—we nonetheless struggle with a day that is supposedly dedicated to all women but largely features the most privileged among us.
Every year, we also witness organizations and individuals misgendering non-binary and gender diverse people by including them in their IWD posts. While some non-binary people see themselves reflected within IWD, this is far from universal. The recurring trend where IWD posts misgender our trans, gender diverse and non-binary siblings is a clear example of our continued failure to do justice to trans inclusion within our feminist movement and spaces.
Racism and colonialism are alive and well within our feminist spaces too—and IWD is no exception. Time and again, white women are the most visible and the most supported across this annual celebration. It is our vehement belief that no IWD event, no IWD panel, should go forward without including BIPOC, 2SLGBTQ+ and trans voices at the forefront. It is our obligation, as feminists, to challenge the exclusion present without our own movement, organizations and spaces. We can and must present an intersectional response to systemic violence.
Of course, feminism exists above and beyond International Women’s Day, but IWD is nonetheless a significant annual event celebrated by feminist organizations and groups across Canada. IWD should be an opportunity for us to demonstrate the breadth and depth of our activism, and to embrace the diversity of our communities. Who is or isn’t included in IWD events and messages speaks volumes to the state of inclusion within the broader feminist movement in Canada.
This International Women’s Day, we are reflecting on what our feminism means to us, and we would encourage you to do the same. We have to ask ourselves hard questions—is our feminism about dismantling ALL systems of violence, or just a few? Are we committed to holding ourselves responsible for the violence and oppression we ourselves may be complicit in? As intersectional feminists, we must acknowledge the dual role many of us play as both people impacted by oppression, and people benefiting from privilege. We must acknowledge that we have been, and continue to be, complicit in the oppression of others. Most importantly, we must act—we, as feminists, must change how we work, by listening to what BIPOC communities, trans and 2SLGBTQ+ communities, and countless others impacted by oppression have been telling mainstream feminism for decades: that our feminism isn’t inclusive enough, that it needs to evolve in order to thrive, and that we must realize that our dream of a post-patriarchal society is interwoven with the dream of a decolonized society, a society free of transphobia, racism, ableism and other forms of oppression.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to embrace the power and potential of a truly intersectional feminism. COVID-19 has exacerbated the inequalities already embedded in our society. Moving forward, we can and must do better.