Feminist International

Radio Endeavour

June 2007

By FIRE – Feminist International Radio Endeavour
Radio Internacional Feminista

Press Release July 7, 2007

Women at US Social Forum Name Feminism as Key to
Making Connections and Building Alliances


By Margaret Thompson

The “F” word made it to the US Social Forum by way of the Latina, African American, Native American, and lesbian women, and women with disabilities who recognize the urgency of connecting all issues and forms of discrimination and naming feminism as a critical approach to making these connections. 

“Feminism is about power and it is about the power to control your own life, your own body and resist what [has been called] hetero-patriarchy,” declared Loretta Ross, of longtime feminist and human rights activist and scholar of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.  “If you agree with that, then you’re a feminist.  Feminism is about the power to question what gender, race and class means to you, and to decide when and if you want to fit into the boxes others have prepared for you.” 

Loretta Ross talks about feminism as
power to control one's own life

Ruby Beth Buitekant, a young African American university student from Atlanta, echoed Ross’ perspective, noting that “feminism is changing by becoming more inclusive and real for all different kinds of women who are affected and identify in different ways.  That is why I use that identity (feminism) to talk about racism, about classism and all kinds of issues that are so interconnected.  What empowers me to speak about all these issues is being a woman.  Feminism is hopefully taking a new turn by becoming more transnational also... “

Throughout the USSF, women were a strong presence in most of the 960+ workshops and plenaries, which were organized around six main themes, including war and militarism, immigrants’ rights, Gulf Coast reconstruction, energy exploitation, women’s and GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered) rights, indigenous sovereignty, and workers’ rights. 

Other issues addressed by the 9,000 participants at the USSF included free trade and globalization, the criminal “injustice” system, and poverty including the human right to housing and food.  The event took place June 27-July 1, 2007 in Atlanta,  Georgia.

“For me it’s been interesting to be here to see so many women put themselves out there in workshops and conversations…on a broad array of issues including many that don’t get a lot of attention,” said Cindy Clark of Just Associates (JASS) of the Women’s Transformation Watch  (Observatorio de la  Transgresion Feminista). 

The Watch, organized by Just Associates (JASS) and FIRE (Feminist International Radio Endeavour) at the Forum, is an initiative created in 2006 by Meso-American feminists and US human rights activists, and was designed in this event to observe women’s participation and influence at the USSF, as it has in other events in Central America during the past year.  Based on a popular education approach, the Watch organizers hope to contribute to building and strengthening of feminist and women’s social and political movements in the Americas and around the world.

As part of the Women’s Transformative Watch, Clark reflected about the strong presence of young women at the Social Forum.  “I have attended lots of sessions organized by young women, young people, and to me it’s more than saying ‘aren’t these young women so capable to organize these sessions’, but the fact that they are where they should be by coming and participating actively at this event.”

FIRE – Feminist International Radio Endeavour – worked with the Watch to look at how women are “crossing the line” and what it means to them.  Buitekant told FIRE, “To me, crossing the line as feminists means playing the specific roles that women have in society but then using this politically to [achieve] positions of power.  I learned feminism from my mother and in school, but also building community with women in college.”

María Suárez of FIRE recalled, “One woman I interviewed said crossing the line in this moment for women and feminists is about looking for ways to integrate agendas and stop this dichotomous fragmentation of women’s rights on one side, and “stop the war” and so on with the other.  So that means making connections among different constituencies or groups to build social movements.  A migrant woman said that crossing the line for her was about crossing the borders, linking the borders, so she had a very concrete interpretation,” noted Suárez.

Mia Mingus, a disabled lesbian woman of color and longtime activist of Georgians for Choice spoke at the Gender & Sexuality Plenary about the importance of making connections and alliances:  “We cannot allow ourselves to be divided and conquered, we know that our liberation is tied up with other women including women of color, disabled women, [GLBT]  families…and the social justice movement.”

Andrea Smith of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence spoke of these connections when she described how “hetereo [sexual] patriarchy is fundamental to empire because patriarchy is what naturalizes social hierarchy, the idea that men naturally rule over women, that elites naturally rule over everyone else.  In the history of Indian genocide, the first task that colonists took on was to integrate patriarchy into native communities who wouldn’t accept colonial domination until native men started treating native women the way that white men treat women.”  Smith noted that sexual violence against native women served as a “primary tool” for colonialism and white supremacy “by rendering women inherently rapable, our land inherently invadable and our resources inherently extractable.” 

Andrea Smith of INCITE!
Women of Color Against Violence

Miriam Nobre of Brazil &, Sec-General
of the World March of Women

In an interview with FIRE, Miriam Nobre, an Afro-Brazilian feminist and Secretary-General of the World March of Women said she believes that “crossing the line in communications is everything that is outside the control and agenda of corporate power in media because they control most media to impose an agenda that is corporate.  That is why I like to see expression through art, alternative media and exchange.”

Cindy Domingo, a US immigrant, told FIRE that “crossing the line by women here means learning from women in other parts of the world.”  Nobre said that “in order to confront the power of the transnational corporations that use women’s bodies as terrain for experimentation, and also do the same with land and seeds, we need to develop further the relationship among us in Latin America and feminists in the USA that do not necessarily come from [middle class] liberal agendas, but are part of immigrant movements, indigenous, farmers, and workers, [among others]...”

Valerie Miller, also of JASS noted, “To me what is important in these observations of the WATCH are the processes and experiences that women are talking about that help build strong connections.”

Suárez noted that she had heard women comment about the theme of the USSF “One world is possible,” which is based on the World Social Forum theme of 2004.  “To say that one world is possible, we have to make sure that doesn’t mean substituting one world with one other single perspective, but a world where many perspectives can have a place.”

Sound files and photos:  Feminist International Radio Endeavour (FIRE)
You may use the information, sound files and photos from FIRE (www.radiofeminista.net ) citing FIRE as the source

For more information, contact María Suárez Toro of FIRE during the WSSF at maria@radiofeminista.net or call 720-333-9315 or Cindy Clark of Just Associates, Inc. at cac@justassociates.org.

To follow FIRE’s coverage of the USSF 2007, go to www.radiofeminista.org/ (Spanish) or www.radiofeminista.org/indexeng.htm (English).  

For more information about the WSSF go to: www.wssf.org