This is the question I hope we all take a moment to ask as we celebrate and engage with International Womxn’s Day. When International Womxn's Day was first celebrated in 1909 in New York, Black womxn in the United States were dealing with the violence of the Jim Crow South and segregation. Black and Brown womxn across Africa were facing the harshness of colonialism, watching the communities they had once known be exploited and erased. Today, we experience another March 8th marked by continued violence and exploitation of marginalized communities.
We say Happy International Womxn’s Day, as our Trans sisters are persecuted and murdered in the United States, as the queer community is attacked in Ghana, as authoritarian governments attack their citizens in Senegal, as womxn’s abortion rights are stripped in Poland, and as survivors of gendered violence continue to bear the burden of their traumas alone. The interconnections of systems such as capitalism, racism, and heteropatriarchy ensure that there is no freedom for womxn unless all womxn are free.
Though white cis feminists will have you believe that all is well, those on the margins know the truth. The womxn I remember today are those that remind me that the future is what we co-imagine together; that liberation requires collective work across borders and communities; and that radical solidarity is one born out of difference.
So, I ask, which womxn?
Who will you remember and celebrate today? At The Only Space, we turn to stories of Black and Brown activists, because it is their organizing that has brought liberation to countries around the world. Though they are often marginalized and written out of narratives, our ability to reach the feminist futures we desire rests on the knowledge their experiences hold.
I am reminded of a story I very rarely share. The story is not mine, but it is one that was etched into my mind many years ago. Liberia, one of two countries I call home, is the heartbeat of my maternal family. It is the country that gave birth to the womxn who have shaped my life. Many years ago, my Grand-aunt, my grandmother's sister, risked her own life to protect the safety of others. In the midst of a civil war, my grand aunt housed refugees and refused to turn them in to government officials. For her act of defiance, multiple soldiers r*ped her. Her story, her activism, her disruption is one that gets lost in the patriarchal and racist ways in which history is told. She is the woman I celebrate today and every day.
Globally countries saw increases in gender-based violence at the start of the pandemic in 2020. Lockdown measures forced womxn in already abusive situations to spend more time at home and the economic fallout of these measures added external pressures on men already struggling to live up to gendered expectations. The pandemic is exacerbating existing gendered, classed, and raced inequalities, showing us the urgency of the moment. In the wake of these compounding factors, a number of womxn led movements and protests in Liberia, Nigeria, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and South Africa emerged. Organizers mobilized against authoritarian governments, inadequate responses to gender-based violence, poor health services, capitalist exploitation, and state-sanctioned police violence. They articulated a need to drastically shift and transform communities.
We must do more than celebrate the work of Black and Brown womxn. We must turn to them for guidance, interrogating our ways of knowing. When we interrogate our ways of knowing, we are able to take seriously the dialogues in the margins that we often miss, while focusing and centering certain types of knowledge production. It is in this transnational dialogue about the world that we are able to situate ourselves and our communities shared experiences of violence. I believe that mobilizing against these systems will rest in our ability to create and sustain transnational solidarities and spaces that allow difference and tension to drive our activism and co-create feminist futures.