Dear feminist,

Last summer we made a list of topics for the next editions of Feminist Mail. Of course Feminist Quarantine wasn’t on it. Intersectionality was, and we felt the need to address it this year. Still, it felt too broad when deciding on a topic for July. And suddenly, reality caught up with us. As a team we wanted to discuss the feminist movement in relation to the current anti-racist and Black Lives Matter movement. 

Our team consists mainly of young feminists; most of us are white, some are non-black women of colour. Are we the right team to make this edition? In the end we decided there is not one way to ‘do the right thing’ and that making your voice heard for such an urgent cause is always the right decision. We want to provide a platform for initiatives by Black women, stories relating to the BLM movement and reflect on our position as allies. Two new writers, Julha and Marie, joined our team and reflected in Feminist Intentions on the current debate from two perspectives. 

We hope this past month has changed a little something in you, we hope you have learned new things and we hope to contribute to that process. Even if it’s just a tiny bit. Let’s keep this flame lit, let’s keep marching (responsibly) and let’s keep educating ourselves. We will be back for the October edition, have a great summer!

Liang De Beer and Sophie Jansen
Team You've got Feminist Mail

Intersectionality, first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, states that people are disadvantaged by multiple systems of oppression. The intersectional approach allows us to look at the crossroads of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability etc., rather than seeing these as separate spheres of privilege and discrimination. 

Intersectionaliteit, geïntroduceerd door Kimberlé Crenshaw, laat zien dat mensen benadeeld kunnen worden door meerdere systemen van onderdrukking. Deze benadering kijkt naar de interactie tussen gender, ras, klasse, religie, geaardheid, ability etc., in plaats van deze als aparte systemen te zien die privilege en discriminatie creëren. 

The shift of consciousness: is anybody listening?

Julha Paiva and Marie Van Der Gaag

Julha: I was born a woman, Latin and Black. The position where I stand in a patriarchal, colonialist and racist society is political. In Brazil, where I grew up, a Black man is killed every 23 minutes and we have a white president who does not believe in human rights. The feminist movement goal of achieving equality in a world that devalues the humanity of Black people is a real challenge. Like feminist author bell hooks, I also feel that "the feminist movement fails if it cannot communicate to everyone’’. The movement needs to be for everybody.
Marie: I was born a woman, European and white. Growing up in the Netherlands, I truly believed that life was what you made it. I perceived myself as a feminist, because I felt that I could do whatever I pleased. However, I had not considered the fact that I enjoyed a huge advantage: the color of my white skin. Like Peggy McIntosh said: “I was carefully taught not to recognize white privilege.” I was so oblivious to my position, until Julha pointed this out to me.  

Julha: White people need to critically reflect on whiteness and view themselves in the context of a racial group. Recognize privilege. Discuss racism with white friends and family members. Commit to speaking out whenever there is a racist comment or a situation of injustice, get uncomfortable in your comfort zone. 

Marie: The diagnosis of my white privilege turned my world upside down. At first, I was reluctant. But then I started to pay attention. I noticed that for my entire life I had exclusively moved around in predominantly white social circles: my family, my friends, my colleagues, my classmates in preschool, primary school, high school, and university. Unintentionally and unknowingly, over 95 per cent of the people that I interacted with on a daily basis were white. Dr. Robin DiAngelo's point had been proven: “whites built and dominated all significant institutions.” It exemplifies the importance of intersectionality.

Julha: The urge for the engagement of white people in the anti-racism movement has always been there. After all, racism is structural and institutionalized. It is a system created by white people and continues to benefit them up until the present day. Portuguese writer Grada Kilomba mentioned in Plantation Memories: “being white is a metaphor for power”.

Continue reading Feminist Intentions on the FEL website

Rebecca Spruijt

In het nieuws zag ik deze maand twee lichtpuntjes voorbij komen. Deze acties van individuen maken het verschil voor met name kinderen en jongeren. De petitie voor het verplicht behandelen van racisme in het onderwijs is al door meer dan 60.000 mensen getekend. Hierdoor zal het burgerinitiatief door de Tweede Kamer behandeld worden. Racisme en het koloniale verleden van Nederland zullen dan hopelijk niet meer een paragraaf van De Gouden Eeuw zijn, maar als eigen onderdeel van de Nederlandse geschiedenis behandeld worden.   

Representatie tijdens de opvoeding is belangrijk om racisme structureel tegen te gaan. Om deze reden verkoopt Ellen Brudet in haar winkel ‘Coloured Goodies’ sinds 2012 onder andere poppen van kleur, poppen met een beperking en poppen met een huidaandoening. Op deze manier wil ze dat ieder kind een pop kan hebben waarin hij of zij zich kan herkennen en dat kinderen met meer kleur om hen heen opgevoed worden. Want, aldus Brudet, “beeldvorming begint thuis” (lees hier het interview met Brudet van Oneworld).

Still from Daughters of the Dust. Source: Trouw
Sophie Jansen

One of the industries in which lack of diversity is most visible, is the world of film and television. When I write the word ‘director’, chances are you picture a grey-haired, khaki-clad white man. Some may say ‘it’s just movies, what’s all the fuss about?’ but it is a big deal. Media images are powerful and what we see on screen influences us from a very young age.
Below I’ve listed a few recommendations for movies and tv shows that change the landscape and propel positive change. Broadening your perspective and supporting a diverse range of creatives is one of many ways to make a change. It might even be really enjoyable.
MUDBOUND (available on Netflix)
A historical film about racial issues in the US that was actually created by people of color. Seems obvious but this still rarely happens (looking at you GREEN BOOK, an absolutely terrible Best Picture Oscar winner made by white people – some of whom are vocal Trump supporters – that appears to say ‘Whoa racism was really bad, glad that’s all over now!’ See also: THE HELP and HIDDEN FIGURES). MUDBOUND was directed by the fascinating Dee Rees (Google her, she’s awesome). Rachel Morrison was nominated for a cinematography Oscar. As the first woman ever. In 2017!
DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (not currently available to stream in The Netherlands but it keeps popping up in arthouse cinemas, for example this summer in Rotterdam)
Julie Dash’s 1991 epic was the first film by a Black female director to receive a wide release in the United States. It beautifully captures a Black community around 1900, former slaves among them, who try to preserve their culture in a changing world. Does it look familiar? That might be because Beyoncé was heavily influenced by DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST when making her visual album Lemonade.
INSECURE (available on HBO/Ziggo)
‘It’s like GIRLS but Black,’ is one way to describe INSECURE, but that would be selling it short. Issa Rae’s comedy series is smart, fun, sometimes sad and a true breath of fresh air. As much as I loved GIRLS, it really is nice to see a comedy series in which the characters aren’t white people living in inexplicably huge apartments. Believe the hype: Issa Rae and many of her co-leads are set to become huge stars. Many of the episodes are directed by Melina Mantsoukas, whose excellent QUEEN & SLIM is in cinemas now. 
DO THE RIGHT THING (in cinemas now)
It might seem like an obvious choice, but I couldn’t make this list without including Spike Lee’s magnum opus from 1989. Do you see your Insta timeline going ‘back to normal’? Is your attention slowly fading? Watching DO THE RIGHT THING will surely reignite the flame. It’s an anti-racist masterpiece and it’s also a perfect summer movie with one of the best soundtracks ever. The digitally restored version is screening in cinemas all across the country. Fun fact: Barack and Michelle Obama saw DO THE RIGHT THING on their first date. If it’s good enough for them, it’s probably good enough for you. 
Willemijn Schmidt

De Nederlandse geschiedenis is onlosmakelijk verbonden met een geschiedenis van onderdrukking en kolonialisme. Dit verleden beïnvloedt ook na de dekolonisatie de vormgeving van normen en waarden die wij gebruiken om de wereld om ons heen te begrijpen en in te delen. Het koloniale verleden van Nederland vult, wat Gloria Wekker noemt, een cultureel archief. Dit archief stuurt de manier waarop we geschiedenis schrijven; koloniale geschiedenis is een geschiedenis van anderen, en werd een lange tijd niet gezien als kerndeel van ons nationale narratief. En zo ook de geschiedenis van 'onze' beweging: het Nederlandse feminisme.

Emancipatie is niet statisch, het is een reis die ons dwingt om terug te kijken. Feministische geschiedenis, op haar beurt, kan eigenlijk niet los gezien worden van dit koloniale verleden. In mijn masterscriptie, onderzocht ik in 2018 hoe feministische geschiedschrijving omging met het koloniale verleden. Specifiek het koloniale verleden van vrouwen die wij vaak aandragen als onze ‘feministische helden’. Kerndeel van mijn onderzoek vormde de Suffragettereis van Aletta Jacobs en haar  zus Charlotte Jacobs (die in Batavia woonde). Naast de zussen Jacobs analyseerde ik van nog 11 andere vrouwen hoe dit verleden werd onderzocht, met name wanneer de schrijver wil bijdragen aan een canon van feministische helden. In mijn conclusie vond ik een ongemak in het verklaren van koloniale invloeden en een onderliggende neiging om deze als niet belangrijk ofwel als niet invloedrijk af te doen. 

De geschreven en onderzochte geschiedenis van het Nederlands feminisme is niet alleen een verhaal waar witte vrouwen de boventoon voerden, maar ook de bijdrage van deze vrouwen aan een systeem van onderdrukking werd niet altijd erkend. Nederlands feminisme is hier niet alleen in. Historici zoals Antoinette Burton en Anne McClintock hebben veel onderzoek gedaan naar het Britse imperialisme en de suffragettebeweging. Burton noemde de invloed van kolonialisme zelfs een van de meest significante maar onderbelichte kenmerken van het Brits feminisme. 

Als Nederlands feminisme anti-racistisch wil zijn, moet het een kritische blik werpen op haar eigen verleden, en nieuwe vragen stellen bij het verhaal dat we over feminisme in dit land vertellen.
“We make them their crime. That’s how we introduced them. ‘That’s a rapist. That’s a murderer. That’s a robber. That’s a sex offender. That’s a burglar. That’s a gang leader.’ And through that lens, it becomes so much easier to accept that they’re guilty and that they should go to prison.”
– Bryan Stevenson in 13th.
Trailer of '13th' by Ava DuVernay

Simay Çetin

The first time I saw the documentary 13th, I was in a social theory class discussing W.E.B. DuBois’s contributions to sociology and analysing the aftermath of slavery in the United States. For this newsletter I immediately thought about revisiting this dark and enriching documentary as it sheds light on how the institution of slavery hasn’t been abolished. But rather, it has been transformed into a criminal justice system that denies civil rights to African Americans on the basis of criminal conviction. The 13th amendment states that “no involuntary servitude except for those who are duly convicted of a crime”, meaning if you are convicted of a felony, you are no longer able to exercise your right to vote and are excluded from the majority of jobs because those require a clean slate. You are essentially barred from any meaningful participation in society. 

In 13th director Ava DuVernay provides an overview of structural transformations that have led to the birth of the prison-industrial complex in the United States, including Jim Crow and the war on drugs. One of the most infuriating revelations is the moment when John Ehrlichman (advisor to president Nixon) publicly admits that introducing heavy sentences for the mere possession of drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine was a governmental strategy to legally disrupt Black communities. An ounce of crack cocaine would yield the same amount of sentence for a hundred ounces of powdered cocaine. Each time the word criminal is mentioned, the word appears in writing on screen throughout the documentary, further reinforcing the idea that Black communities have been increasingly seen from a criminalizing lens that denies humanity. In Stevenson’s words, you are your crime. 

I believe this is an opportunity for all of us to reconsider history as we know it and invest in resources that provide knowledge produced by communities that have been oppressed for hundreds of years. DuVernay’s 13th is deeply unsettling and uncomfortable to watch, as it should be. 

You've got Feminist Mail is made by FEL
Fatima Jarmohamed, Willemijn Schmidt, Liang de Beer, Rebecca Spruijt, Paula Breuning, Julha Paiva, Sophie Jansen, Rosa Koenders, Marie Van der Gaag, Simay Çetin, Lisanne van 't Riet and Rosanne Schot. 
Copyright © 2020 Feminist Evolution Leiden, All rights reserved.

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