Trouble in the Sisterhood by @EstellaMz

Cross-posted from: Uncultured Sisterhood
Originally published: 22.02.15

Two articles that were published over the last few days, and the reactions that followed in their wake, are proof of backlash against the progress made by the women’s liberation movement. Whereas one was an open letter calling out the no-platforming at universities in England of some feminists because of their “unpopular” opinions, the other, related to the first, highlighted the ongoing erasure of references to women at women’s colleges in America.

Anyone who was shocked by the anger directed at the signatories of the letter has not been following the on/offline application of nearly every weapon in the master’s toolbox to silence women into submitting to male interests. This really wasn’t news – but of course it was shameful; the offense taken and ageism that ensued stuck to the book.

The other story captured another shade of arrogance and male entitlement. Apparently, at one of the women’s colleges, the word sisterhood has been replaced by siblinghood because the former is “exclusionary” language. There even is (or was) a petition to the school’s administrators to cease referring to it as a women’s college… because that is not “gender inclusive language.” Colleges, established through vision and hard-won battles fought by women for women, are now in the bulls-eye of patriarchal backlash.

It is bad enough that there’s even need for feminism, but now women are… totally non-existent? Let’s brace ourselves for more petitions to erase all symbols of female progress, visibility and loving in society. All this while we are singing kumbaya #HeforShe. Unbelievable! How is this supposed to bring about liberation?

Feminists know well that female socialization makes women an easy target for those who have been trained to take by bullying: “Colonize. The world is your oyster Mr. White Male.” Personally, I endeavor to make some small but conscious efforts everyday to resist gendered socialization that thrives on division among women. I don’t think any feminist enjoys arguing against another. Debate, yes. Empathy for women, even those who seem to put all their energy into the thankless task of keeping females at the bottom of society, is sisterhood.

I struggle when it comes to criticizing women, as not only do those who are anti-feminism thrive on that kind of drama, but in my opinion, it often veers into its own strain of victim-blaming. It points to evidence of a mind that chooses not to remember that all women, regardless of any societal privileges they may enjoy, still face some level of sexist oppression. Some of us, to save ourselves, endeavor to throw this burden that we are born into under the bus, in the hope that doing so will keep us safe and fed in a male-dominated world. It is survival101.

But the stuff that is going on at the moment, not just in the U.K or U.S.A, makes me angry.

When female politicians join their male counterparts in making misogynistic statements, which happens more often than not, I despair because if girls/women are sold out by even those who should at least have a modicum of care for their predicament, then there are tougher times ahead. When laws that stump upon  women ever more ruthlessly are passed while our sisters watch on voting ‘aye!’, it is beyond heartbreaking. Yet I know that just having them in those chambers in the first place is a victory.

And so I’m tempted to let it go when the words spoken by daughters of the struggles that preceded us, those who have been raised because of their own hard-work and the sweat and tears of our foremothers; women who have the platform to appeal on behalf of the most downtrodden seem especially vested in massaging the male ego. Time and time again. I negotiate it mentally: ignore it, let it pass, my voice won’t make a difference.

Yet I won’t and this is why.

I will not count myself in the wave of the global feminist movement that cheered on while the battles fought and won by our fore-sisters were erased for “inclusion.” Inclusion into what? A class where the status of females is pushed even further below – meantime race and class continue pushing some further down? A class where women are expected to give and give, and even their giving is spat at because “women have enjoyed very privileged lives, it’s now our turn.” Because male violence against women is no longer an everyday issue, and all other systems of sexist oppression have been vanquished?

Inclusion into a feminism in which feminists cannot speak about the misogynistic burden that certain trans ideology selectively places on women? For goddess sake, we live in a time when feminists can hardly discuss FGM without being “called out” because they are excluding males. Inclusion into a non-existent class?

The historical exclusion of black women, lesbians, and other female minorities from mainstream (white) feminism in the west is no excuse to throw away a rich heritage of gains contributed to by women of all shades; a heritage that continues to empower girls/women world-over to this day. Wake up sisters. Surely, this spineless, one-dimensional, whatever-[insert preferred pronoun]-says feminism can’t be what was fought for by those who came before us. Inclusion that demands no-platforming and erasure of women is not feminist.

Well-played to all the feminists who are sitting by playing justice chief; throwing stones with the oppressor and attempting to silence their sisters while this bullshit is underway.

In the meantime, we third world feminists best await the arrival of the latest “gender inclusionary language” manual draped in donor funding coming to an NGO near you. We are in this together.


Uncultured Sisterhood:  I am a Ugandan feminist, based in Uganda. The blog, unculturedsisterhood, started out of extreme personal frustration with the state of affairs for women in my country, outside of it, in pretty much every area of life. From a feminist theory perspective, I critique topical, community, and cultural issues in Uganda (and the wider continent) as they relate to women. Hoping one or two sisters read/engage and join in as we work toward liberation. Category: Feminism; AfroFeminism; Radical Feminism Twitter: @EstellaMz