A Discussion on Establishing and Strengthening Strategic Sisterhood with Prof. Dr. Saskia Wieringa (University of Amsterdam)
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Discussion / Event
The development of the feminist movement is grounded on the idea that women are subjected to oppression. Women undergo similar experiences within the patriarchal system as victims of patriarchy. Thus all women are sisters and sisterhood is the first form of the feminist movement.
Oppression is experienced as we are all victims of patriarchy which capitalizes on women’s body and sexuality to exert the subjugation. Women live in the idea of the commonality of oppression, because patriarchy is ubiquitous. There is a similar feeling shared among women, relating to problems such as abortion, rape, domestic violence, and other psychological issues that may lead to low self-awareness. Therefore it is important to build women’s movement in that unity.
As women, it is imperative to discuss the similarities of our experiences. Historically, in 1950s-1960s Europe and the US, most women are housewives isolated within their own households. These women are commonly positioned as rivals due to the competition to find an eligible, rich man as a spouse, otherwise they would have nothing as they are discouraged to work and have careers. As a result, they become secluded.
The feeling of sisterhood is something new, and instead of competing against each other, it calls for a collaboration to work hand-in-hand to challenge the patriarchal system. Women share not only similar positions and views but also similar feelings. From such feelings spark similar struggles and resistance to oppression.
Vanguardism, the belief that one is the most knowing and righteous, no longer applies nor is it useful to build the feminist movement, because there is no single truth. Everything has its history and every history has its own version of truth; thus we need to accept others’ version of truth. We need to learn from each other as women have different experiences and ideas of struggle. Every group has its own truth and history, and there are always fragments to each truth, thus it needs to be discussed so that we can all respect each other’s truth.
The idea of sisterhood becomes very crucial to initiate a wider feminist movement. The idea of solidarity is built on a concrete struggle; in other words, not only because all women feel they share similar experiences regarding a certain issue, but because they believe it is a strategic and worthwhile issue to fight for. Therefore, the universal movement that should be built is not one based on the same experiences of oppression, but one based on the particular specificities of experiences.
Affinity is essential in fighting together. We have to love each other in order to be in solidarity. Struggles may also vary, thus it should be viewed in a wider context. Affinity is a criticism to sisterhood, particularly on one group’s attitude to another.
We fight because we share similar interests, not issues. The concept of ‘solidarity among strangers’ means that building solidarity is not only limited to one with colleagues but also with strangers. We are all fighting for change. Many share similar visions about an ideal society. The goal is the same, yet the ways to reach it may differ and that should not be an issue, because our goal is broad.
Women’s movement must unite because there is a lot of social issues that needs to be solved. Sisterhood must share one objective, one struggle (women’s essentialism). Justice is not a utopia; our fight is one to reduce injustice.
As women, we share the same enemy, which is patriarchy. Our positions as activists are articulated through shared interests. Our experiences may be different, yet our movement should be fair and ethical since the very beginning. Ethics is essential, as it also needs to be built, like the ethics of politics. We need to respect others and openly discuss what we consider important, as well as understand each other’s position.
We need to build a movement based on differences and grounded on pluralism. We can build a movement based on differences in identity. We are too strong to be defeated by differences, and we need to learn from each other through discussions and critical dialogues. Pick your enemy—patriarchy—and articulate your concerns as the basis of building common grounds, shifting platforms, embracing and learning from differences.
Pluralism is not fragmented when we respect and remain open to each other. We should always believe that others’ opinions matter as much as our own, and vice versa. Nothing is more incorrect than another, there is no single truth, and it should all be equal in status.***