Why Our Feminism Must be Anti-Fascist

By Centre for Gender Studies|January 25, 2019|CGS Seminar Series, MA Students|0 comments

Why Our Feminism Must be Anti-Fascist

By Erin Quinn

SOAS’ Centre for Gender Studies concluded its seminar series for the term on Thursday, December 13th, with a discussion of the relationship between feminism and anti-fascism with activists from Sisters Uncut, a feminist direct action group fighting in solidarity with survivors of domestic, sexual, and state violence, and Brazilian Women Against Fascism UK.

The panel discussed the rise of fascism in the UK and around the globe, connected solidarity against oppression and state violence, and highlighted the challenges facing feminist activists. The rise of figures like new president-elect of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, Donald Trump, and Boris Johnson fuel normalize fascist discourse, expanding violence. Within this context, the panel was a poignant and timely reminder that feminism must be grounded in anti-fascism, and anti-fascism must be grounded in feminism.

As an activist from Sisters Uncut emphasized, austerity cuts that often accompany far-right governments are targeted at marginalized communities, and affect women of color disproportionately. Attacks on marginalized communities are a central tenet of fascism that grounds itself in a divisive and violent discourse of “us” versus “them”. The consequences of this discourse are played out transnationally. As one Brazilian panelist emphasized, this is playing out now In Brazil, where since the election in October attacks against LGBTQ persons have greatly intensified.

One of the commonalities highlighted between Brazil and the UK was the part that the liberal rights framework and liberal feminists play in the reproduction of far-right and state violence, and their role in the normalization of fascist discourse and “dialogue” between “equal sides”. As a one of the Brazilian activists highlighted, transnationally, the left has been disorganized; it has not done enough and has allowed fascism to flourish. In Brazil, the Black Indigenous movement has always had to fight for survival within liberal feminism. In a country where a Black youth is killed every 23 minutes, the priority is one of survival, not of rights. Liberal feminists see the value of structures and institutions, like for example the criminal justice system, which itself is founded on ideals of white supremacy and capitalism. However, as one of the activists from Sisters Uncut stressed, the entire state and economic system is built on oppression, especially the oppression of communities of color; these systems were designed to function on and profit off of inequality. Therefore, although liberal rights “gains” may provide greater access to resources and “equality” for some communities, alternative radical systematic change will be required to produce any type of real equality.

The panelists emphasized that persistence is necessary. Thinking beyond structures, imagining future alternatives by reflecting on past work, and being receptive to tensions within movements is necessary to continue to fight and resist state and fascist narratives. Ultimately, the panel underscored the role feminists have played in the resistance against power structures in the past and in the present, and challenged those in the audience to show up not just for panel discussions, but for the rallies, the protests, and the organizing meetings.

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