What We’re Reading: Combahee River Collective, Brexit & the Handmaid’s Tale

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ offers a terrifying warning, but the hijacking of feminism is just as dangerous by Gail Dines

Last week, two new series were released which, at first sight, seem to tell very different stories about women.

Netflix’s Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On (HGWTO), produced by the same team as the 2015 documentary Hot Girls Wanted, was described by many media critics as taking a more nuanced approach to the porn industry than the earlier documentary, by showing how women can be empowered by both making and performing in porn.

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, on the other hand, is a terrifying “fictional” account of a patriarchal dystopia, where women cannot hold jobs or own property, and serve as either breeders, cleaners and cooks, or trophy wives. Those who resist are exiled to toxic waste dumps or worse. Atwood has asserted many times that her book, on which the series is based, is not really fiction — she drew inspiration from accounts of how women are actually treated around the world.

You can’t just cut and run from Europe, Theresa May – it’s illegal | Helena Kennedy

Leaders of Britain’s 27 EU partner countries have now thrown down the gauntlet: no discussions on a trade deal will take place until there’s progress on the UK’s divorce bill, the Ireland-UK border and the rights of EU citizens.

We are told there is a document on the table relating to UK citizens living in Europe and those of citizens from other EU countries who live in Britain, but the UK is not prepared to sign. No reason has been given as to why.

The problem for our prime minister is that at every turn her head hits the hard wall of law and the role of the European court of justice (ECJ). Theresa May has cornered herself by insisting that the UK withdraw totally from the court and its decisions. Nobody explained to her that if you have cross-border rights and contracts you have to have cross-border law and regulations. And if you have cross-border law you have to have supranational courts to deal with disputes. …

The Overlooked Black Women Who Altered the Course of Feminist Art by Yelena Keller  via @artsy

In 1977, the Combahee River Collective, a black feminist organization, gathered in New Jersey for their second retreat, where they worked together to formulate a collaborative letter.

The Heresies Collective, whose membership consisted predominately of white women, had just published its third feminist art journal, titled “Lesbian Art and Artists,” but had neglected to feature a single woman of color. The Combahee River Collective, which was formed to raise consciousness about race and gender issues, had assembled to craft a response.

“We find it appalling,” they wrote, “that a hundred years from now it will be possible for women to conclude that in 1977 there were no practicing Black and other Third World lesbian artists.”

The critical debate that it provoked was an expression of the complex and often tumultuous relationship between mainstream feminism and the black women who were so often excluded from it—a tension that continues today. The activities undertaken by black women to push back against their erasure, in the late ’60s through the early ’80s, effectively amounted to a desire for a revolution. …

When Motherhood Wasn’t in the Cards  by Stephanie Gates

Every day I look in the mirror and a caramel-colored woman with closely cropped hair stares back at me. I look at a smooth, relatively blemish-free face. I peer at the slightly dark circles under my eyes that I think are hereditary. One of my sisters has them as does my mother. I Iook like a normal middle-aged woman; I am a normal middle-aged woman. I see a neck that doesn’t have another head growing out of it. But sometimes I don’t know. Because as soon as I say I don’t have children, I can almost feel a head pushing up and out of the side of my neck. I know that it’s not really there, but the way people look at me makes me think that there’s another set of eyes looking right back at the person looking at me.

I am an anomaly because I am a woman and I am childless. I am a Black woman and I am childless, so that makes me all the more strange. How can this be? That’s what we do, right? That’s what we’ve been doing—having babies for the masters, having babies to stay on welfare. Having babies to have babies. We are baby making machines, right? So, what does that make me? I am supposed to be somebody’s biological mother and I am not. The fact that I have been instrumental in the rearing of other people’s children doesn’t count. So steeped is the stereotype that every woman is a mother or should be one—especially a Black woman, that when asked about my childbearing status, the question is always How many children do you have? and not Do you have children? …

The feminist classroom as ‘safe space’ after Brexit and Trump by @alisonphipps

Cross-posted from: Alison Phipps
Originally published: 10.11.16

So it’s happened. Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States. He ran on a white supremacist ticket, and multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault failed to stop him taking the White House. There were reports of racist, homophobic and misogynistic hate crimes within hours of the result being declared. David Duke called the night one of the ‘most exciting’ of his life, and the Vice-President of France’s Front National declared: ‘their world is collapsing – ours is being built’. The Israeli Right took the opportunity to announce that the era of a Palestinian state is over. This only months after the British public voted to leave the European Union, ushering in a hard right agenda which ensures that the US and UK will (in Sarah Palin’s words) be ‘hooking up’ during the Trump administration.

These events are not surprising, even as they are shocking. Both Brexit and the election of Trump are national outpourings of long-held resentments, and a validation of the racist violences on which both the UK and US are built. Voters want to ‘take their countries back’ from people of colour, migrants, and Muslims. Entwined with this is suspicion and hatred of other Others: trans people, queers, disabled people and feminists. This ‘whitelash’ against globalisation and the very meagre gains which have been made in race equality targets all other social justice movements along with it. Under the pretext of ‘anti-establishment’ sentiment and suspicion of liberal political elites, white supremacists are trying to wrest back full control. There is no greater sense of victimhood than when entitlements and privileges are perceived to have been lost. 
Read more The feminist classroom as ‘safe space’ after Brexit and Trump by @alisonphipps

Post-Brexit, time to question neocolonialism. via @MsAfropolitan

Cross-posted from: Ms Afropolitan
Originally published: 03.07.16

The arguments that Africa will be worse off post-Brexit are everywhere. To give just a few examples, Foreign Policy writes that “Brexit Is Bad News for Africa. Period.”  Newsweek explains “Why Brexit is bad for Africa.” Quartz is all doom and gloom in “Afrexit – Brexit will be terrible for Africa’s largest economies.

While the titles all imply that Brexit is bad for Africa, the articles’ content actually reveal that Brexit is mainly bad for the UK. As FP states, “Brexit will leave Britain with a fraction of the influence it currently wields in Africa”. It is a “damage to British interests in Africa.” What are those interests? Well, one example is the London Stock Exchange listed South African company, Lonmin, which fell 15.7% after Brexit. Yes, this is the same Lonmin behind the Marikana massacres. Bad for Africa? Hardly.  …

 

You can read the full article here.

 

Ms. AfropolitanA site about Africa and Diaspora in society from a feminist perspective.