As Women’s History Month wraps up today I want to express my deep gratitude for all of the support I have felt from readers over the past 31 days. I hope that you have enjoyed the discussions and have learned something. I also hope that you can see how interconnected every individual’s struggle for justice is with everyone else’s. I welcomed you all to Feminist Activism with this quote by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As I conclude my personal goal of writing everyday, I want to focus on the overarching ideas of justice and equality.
In the web of humanity everyone’s fate is intertwined with everyone else’s, so even if we personally are not facing injustice or persecution, we must stand up for those who are. Fighting to secure basic rights and freedoms for everyone will someday protect you, or someone you love. This statement by Pastor Martin Niemöller comes to mind.
Human rights covers a huge range of things, from women’s rights to access to education to the rights of the disabled to access to health care, etc. Merely fighting for each individual human being to have equal access and opportunity will not fix what is wrong with our world though. Environmental issues and the rights of other species to not only exist but to thrive need to be priorities as well, for even the most equal of societies will fall if the planet cannot sustain it.
A look into one individual’s life will clearly illustrate how dependent all living beings are on each other. Let’s look at an average white American woman: 30s-40s, two teenagers and a shelter rescue dog, one expensive abortion, Christian with no time for church, divorced because her alcoholic ex-husband broke too many of her ribs, high school graduate, working class–living paycheck to paycheck, no retirement fund to speak of, paying a mortgage, lives in the suburbs downwind from her job, tries to help take care of her disabled mother who lives in a run-down nursing home, health insurance only covers cervical cancer screenings every two years instead of the recommended annual screenings, her gay brother lives with her because he was forced out of his home when his partner passed away and their home was automatically given to the legal “next of kin,” her mid-90s car has tons of miles on it and is just as hard on her wallet as it is on the environment, and her best friend is the Mexican woman with whom she can barely communicate who is charged with her mother’s care. This story of “middle America” could go on and on.
Every aspect of an individual’s life–sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, education, class, religion, ability, language, environment, legal status, criminal record, and age–affects her/his reality. Each of these factors individually can be cause for discrimination but when more than one factor is “abnormal” the individual can feel hopeless. The norm for American society is male, white, straight, man, some college, middle-upper class, Christian, nondisabled, English-speaking, suburban, US citizen, non-convict, 30s-40s. Imagine how harsh someone’s reality is if these are the facts: female, Latino, bisexual, transgender FTM, some high school, working class, atheist, disabled, Spanish-speaking, urban, undocumented, ex-convict, 60s. Obviously this is an extreme case of being at the bottom of the food chain but this man does exist, many times over!
Let’s go back to our “average” American woman. Her Christian upbringing lead her to get married at age 20 and have children by age 22. After her youngest child went to school she tried to get back into receptionist work but found she had been out of the game too long and no one would hire her. The family couldn’t survive on her husband’s paycheck alone so she took an entry-level job at a manufacturing plant where she was often sexually harassed for being a woman and doing a “man’s job.” Despite missing work for three weeks because her husband put her in the hospital, she worked her way up in the union and, since she left her husband, luckily makes enough money to get by every month. Her brother helps with some of the bills but his employers give him just enough hours to qualify for health insurance, out of pity, because they know if he ever lost his health insurance his HIV status would make him “uninsurable.” Her children, whom she would sacrifice anything for, are in high school, sexually active, average students, mildly involved in extra-curricular activities. She’s straight but sometimes wonders what it would be like to be with a woman. Her mother’s illnesses are taking a toll on her and the Mexican caretaker at the nursing home is the only person she feels comfortable being honest with, partly because she believes the caretaker can’t understand her. She’s been having some pains in her stomach lately which could be attributed to cervical cancer or could be a result of years of inhaling pollution, but she can’t afford to take the time off work to see a doctor during normal business hours, and couldn’t afford her co-payment anyway.
We must all fight each other’s battles. My only word of caution is not to fight for what we think someone else wants, but to fight for what she says she wants, otherwise we’re repeating colonialism all over again. If you are interested in fighting injustice in any (or all) of its many forms, get involved in your community. The old feminist adage to “think globally and act locally” is still true. Always consider what effect your actions will have on the global community and start to make changes in your life and at the local level. This explanation may help.
Some organizations with whom you can explore the birdcage of oppression include The Connect the Dots Movement focused on human, animal and environmental well-being, The Connect the Dots Network which teaches green/sustainable environmental practices to social justice non-profits, 100% Renewable Energy that explains the folly in ageist discrimination in relation to the environmental movement, Counter Quo which examines how a multitude of factors compound oppression and sexual violence, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights that is a legal service that understands how race and security issues affect environmental issues, and L.O.V.E. Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation which explores the necessary links between veganism and feminism, and on combating speciesism, racism, sexism and rape culture.
Tomorrow is April 1st and the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I will not be writing everyday but hope to be able to post at least 2-3 times per week, so check back often for new discussions, or subscribe so you’ll automatically be notified when I post something new. As always, any ideas, links, information, etc. is more than welcome. Thanks y’all. Keep fighting the good fight!
May 16th, 2011 at 23:01
You sir are not my enemy. As long as you don’t vote for government intrusion into women’s bodies, vote against legitimate loving relationships or vote for war and against education, I don’t care what your politics are. I appreciate that we have the freedom and education to speak our minds and disagree, I only wish that everyone had the same choices and chances we did. The one issue I have with your comment is your support for waterboarding and racial profiling immediately followed by a statement that you do not judge others on “broad ‘identifiers.'” I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Your freedom is just as important as mine and everyone else’s on the planet. I believe being American makes us no worse or better than anyone else and what I am trying to do with my writing is give others the opportunities my white skin, good education, loving parents, and middle class upbringing have given me. I hope someone as articulate as you is also dedicating his life to fighting for justice and equality. Have a great day! Oh, and I love baseball.
May 16th, 2011 at 20:14
Since I am a white, straight, suburban, upper-middle class, catholic, college-educated, middle-aged male, I realize I am not qualified to post a legitimate comment here. Actually, it gets much worse…I drink beer, smoke an occasional cigar, drive an American-made large SUV, support our troops, don’t want illegal aliens in our country being supported with my tax money, think America was and still is great, give to charities of my own choice (not those mandated by my government through welfare handouts and entitlement programs), believe in God and prayer, coach a male-dominated sport like baseball and not soccer, watch football on Sundays, think I know a bit more than the government as to whats best for me and my family, respect the American flag and what it represents, think that the UN is largely corrupt and a joke, respect my president even though I didn’t vote for him, love animals but not at the expense of human lives, am a trained scientist who believes that so-called global warming is not totally anthropogenic in nature, hold the door open for people-even women, can laugh at myself, eat red meat and love it, support a citizen’s right to own firearms, refuse to let negative people bum me out, think racial profiling and water-boarding are to be thanked in large part for preventing another 911, treat people based on their individual qualities and not their sex, faith, race, nationality, orientation, income or other broad “identifiers”, want less government intrusion in my life, don’t feel personally responsible for slavery or preventing women from voting because I had nothing to do with these injustices, want the death penalty, think so-called 911 truthers are either really stupid or hate their own country, would die to protect my family or my country, which ironically includes people like you. Therefore I realize even more that I have no standing here to give my opinion.
April 1st, 2011 at 07:36
We all are connected. Just like the food chain. When one animal on the food chain dies out, it disrupts the whole chain.
There is a person I know who didn’t care about human rights/welfare until the past few years. She and her husband were in real estate and were making a lot of money. She lived in a 1-million-dollar home, drove nice cars, vacationed 3-4 times a year, gambled as a hobby and didn’t have to worry about losing money, bought designer clothing, etc. She felt she didn’t need to vote. Voting was for “middle-class people who needed to make changes.” Politicians worked to help the rich, so her lifestyle was never in jeopardy. Those were her beliefs. Then the real estate market crashed. She foreclosed her home and filed for bankruptcy. She and her husband both got 9-5 office jobs. Then she was laid off. She was on unemployment for a few weeks until the state decided they weren’t going to extend her unemployment benefits. That was when she decided she needed to be proactive and help out the middle class that she refused to before. She now understands that we are all connected and should help those less fortunate because you never know, you might just end up in their situation.