(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
The French author and activist (with a doctorate in political science) Françoise Vergès has written a strong and highly readable book about decolonizing feminism. Since its release in France in February this year, most nationwide newspapers and radio channels have reviewed it or interviewed the author. She has a clear and important message: Western feminists consume other women instead of fighting with them for better living. The other women she calls "racisée". The word is found in French, but is not easily reproduced in Norwegian. It is wrong to translate it with "ethnic", since we then miss the politically incorrect allusion to race. For the same reason, it cannot be translated "colored" either. "Racialized" is probably the best Norwegian translation, although this word has not been an active part of the vocabulary – until now.
Freedom of one, slavery of another. Françoise Vergès believes that white western women have won many of their freedoms by continuing to hold down racialized women. She writes provocatively nicely that "the comfortable lives of rich middle-class women are possible only because millions of racialized women are exploited when they produce the clothes the middle-class women wear, wash the homes they live in, and the offices they work in, care for their children, and meet the sexual needs of their spouses and brothers." . The rich middle-class women are more concerned about getting the same pay as their husbands than by allowing racialized women (and men) to have acceptable working conditions and wages to live off.
The racialized women are completely forgotten by the feminists. Vergès is outright pissed at privileged gender equality feminism, which she believes only perpetuates the inequalities and oppression in the world. The white rich women are fighting for themselves only without seeing that their struggle requires someone to take the crap jobs. And when well-behaved women on the political right side have begun to call themselves feminists, while making homophobic and Islamophobic statements, feminism loses credibility and relevance. That is why we have to change our point of view and take back feminism.
Today's western feminists' perspective is too narrow and egocentric; feminism must be decolonized, as academia must be decolonized in order for us to view the world from a standpoint other than the white west, the author claims.
The racialized women are completely forgotten by the feminists.
So, what does it mean to decolonize feminism? This implies two important changes in perspective, argues Vergès. One is to take on the worldwide oppression of racialized women (and men) and stop believing that gender equality for wealthy middle-class women constitutes anything more than a small proportion of feminism. The second change in perspective means that the (few) of today's feminists who are interested in the racialized women change their attitudes from wanting to help them to will giant together with them. The auxiliary attitude calls Françoise Vergès "civilization feminism", with a clear reference to French colonial politics. The main mantra of "mission mission civilization" was that the colonial objects should be the same as the French: learn the same language, wear the same clothes, believe in the same religion and have the same values.
This attitude, the author thinks, also characterizes today's feminists; they see themselves as helpers to free racialized women from the oppression of patriarchy. But what they really contribute to is similar to a suppression of civilization à la France during the colonial period. And she reminds us that even though colonial times are over, colonialism, colonial ideology continues.
When French feminists demonstrate to ban hijab in schools, Vergès calls it "femi-imperialism." The white Catholic women know what is best for the racialized Muslim women. They want to help them become free, that is, like themselves, says Vergès ironically, addressing the debate around the ban on burkini – a comprehensive swimsuit designed by and mainly for Muslim women – in 15 French cities in the summer of 2016. French feminists wanted so happy to help the racialized women force them to undress to be on the beach. She writes beautifully that 'in the summer mustn't the woman undresses, because that's just how she can show her freedom. " Although a French court later convicted the Burkini ban later that summer, it is, according to Vergès, a good example of femi-imperialism.
Only by decolonizing feminism can it still have any relevance in today's world. Feminism continues its Eurocentric gaze, it has lost. Middle-class feminists in Europe must stop believing that they can "help" racialized women in other, economically poorer countries. They must understand that help is provided. And they have to stop exploiting the largely racialized "caregiving" class that does the crap jobs so that they can equate themselves with their husbands. Joint struggle, nationally and globally, where women (and men) of all kinds come together for a common liberation from patriarchy, from sexism, liberalism and capitalism, is the only thing that can save feminism, concludes Françoise Vergès. Strong words from a strong writer.