In a search for feminists who are making a difference in the world today, I was not surprised to see that the google search “feminists who matter” brought up more mainstream famous women that in my opinion aren’t the best ladies to represent any type of feminism. I bring to you in my humble opinion the 3 feminists who matter that mainstream media missed. It was a hard list to dwindle down, but here it goes…
“…to be a “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination and oppression.”
bell hooks came on to the feminist scene in the late 70s. Her work as a cultural critic and social activist primarily focuses on the cultural commodification of black women in America. hooks defines feminism as a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, violence and oppression. Her work looks at the ways in which patriarchy is the cause of institutionalized sexism (schools, prisons, churches, family and marriage). I find bell hooks views extreme at times, however, she offers us a solid assessment of what she calls double discrimination (cultural minority and that of woman in America). bell hooks includes an intersectional approach to the feminist politic. In fact, without intersectionality in feminist analysis we miss the necessary nuances to properly critique the social representation of women of colour. Accordingly, bell hooks when discussing black men, defines patriarchy as the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit of our nation. The fact that hooks includes men into her discussions is one reason why I get on board with bell hooks’ feminism. In her piece Wanted: Men Who Love (2004) hooks is not afraid to make bold statements that bring the feminism of the 2000s, and today into a different sphere such as “…. feminist writing did not tell us about the deep inner misery of men.” Albeit this statement is seen by some as controversial because patriarchy is mainly understood as driven by men of privilege. I wanted to share bell hooks because she is accessible feminist thinker – she writes poetry, books and presents her work using many social forums. Check out her blog or search youtube where many engaging videos exist.
“…to shed the colonized shackles which bind my mind, my spirit and my heart.”
Whereas bell hooks is the quintessential intersectional and anti-racist feminist hero of the US, Patricia Monture-Angus is that of Canada. Monture-Angus who died in 2010, was a Mohawk lawyer, activist and educator. Well known for her personal reflections as a Mohawk woman, growing up Mohawk and enrolling in institutions whereby white patriarchy ruled and systemic oppression and violence was abounding, I can get on board with Monture-Angus. The aboriginal activist asks Canadians (and the world) to reflect upon and remember the ways in which aboriginal nations continue to experience oppression and violence at the hands of our lawmakers in particular. In light of the inquest into the missing and murdered aboriginal women and the high rate of suicide amongst aboriginal communities, I believe it’s important to highlight Monture-Angus today. What makes Monture-Angus a feminist to know and read is that she does not make excuses or play the blame-game. Rather, to bring about change for aboriginal communities she writes and teaches inspiration and hope to her communities. Monture-Angus speaks to the necessity of governance and self-determination. In other words, she advocates for self-awareness through language, action and culture, in the hope that future aboriginal generations do not experience systemic erasure. I wanted to bring Monture-Angus to attention because, like hooks she is adamant that in order to successfully fight patriarchy and systemic racism, the fight has to be inclusive – meaning that fighting for women also includes fighting for men.
My personal bias is the ecofeminist approach. I toggled between three ecofeminists who best represent this movement. They are: Vandana Shiva, Maria Mies and Wangari Maatha. All of these women deserve a shout out because of their bravery, work and political activism. However, I will focus on Vandana Shiva. I’d like to first point out, that ecofeminism isn’t about worshiping gaya, although some right-wing ecofeminists accept this approach. Rather, the larger movement critiques the global structures in place worldwide, arousing environmental and human destruction through global, capitalistic practices. At the centre of such destruction are the oppressed women and the ‘third-world’ other. ‘Other’ encapsulates the ‘commons’ (men, children, natural resources, land etc.) Shiva leads the Navdanya movement, which has won legal battles against the appropriation of men, women and the third-world commons by multinational corporations (MNC) like, Monsanto. Monsanto is best known for single-handedly eliminating biodiversity in some of the poorest countries around the world by trademarking genetically modified organisms. Central to Shiva’s work and the ecofeminist movement is the fight against the implementation of international laws, like the World Trade Organization’s Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement (TRIPs). TRIPs, has close ties with the corporate sector by which corporations effectively rape the earth and displace the southern common through the practice of biopiracy. Shiva encourages men, women and communities to work together; teaching and fostering knowledge, sustainable biodiversity and micro-economic principles. What’s there not to like about her?
There are so many feminists who continually improve the movement, past and present. There are also many worthy types of movements- LGBTQ, disability, fat feminism to name a few. For the purpose of this blog, I focus on movements in which I study and engage with, within my own community in some form or another. I should mention that I found one link that shows representation other than ‘that what’s- her-name famous woman who gave that one speech at that one famous awards ceremony that really doesn’t deserve the accolades she’s given (no references required).
Who’s on your list?