The First Annual “Young Bluestockings” Writing Challenge is part of our ongoing efforts to find new, dynamic voices for the magazine and to provide high schoolers the space to articulate their beliefs on feminism. We opened the contest to high school students across the world and were floored by the thoughtful responses we received. We are excited to announce Valerie Chu as our grand prize-winner. Hailing from British Columbia, Valerie is a student at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School.
Audre Lorde once said, “There’s no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” What does this quote mean to you?
As I grew older, it became more and more evident to me that everything—and I do mean everything—is interconnected. A choice or an action will, in turn, spark a new chain of events, exactly like the domino effect proposed by President Eisenhower more than 50 years ago. In my history class, we discussed the West’s fear of the world succumbing to communism, country by country. This concept could be argued as the same for everything else. Feminism is a true example, as other issues permeate it as well. It doesn’t stand alone, unblemished, and in its own vacuum of space. As Charles Eames, the American designer, once said: “Eventually, everything connects.”
Feminism ties into many other social issues of today, including (but definitely not limited to) racism, classism, homophobia, and queerphobia. Without understanding how these issues intertwine, feminism cannot thrive. I know there’s a lot of variations of the definition of “feminism” out there, but to me, feminism is about being there for each other. It’s about acquiring equality between all sexes, abilities, sexual orientations, classes, religions, and races. It’s about making the entire world a safe space for every single person. In short, feminism is ALL ABOUT INTERSECTIONALITY. Without the support of other women and men, how can feminism grow and be accepted? How can we create a movement, a cheese ball that never stops rolling, if we don’t support every person who is struggling under the oppressive patriarchal regime? Feminism cannot move forward if privileged feminists continue to push back and oppress the less privileged while berating and belittling their views and struggles. Ultimately, feminism needs to be about solidarity across the entire spectrum of feminists.
I remember recently there was a trending hashtag happening on Twitter called “#solidarityisforwhitewomen”, started by Mikki Kendall in August, where Twitter users pointed out the lack of intersectionality in feminism. The hashtag exploded across the internet, coming up not only in Twitter posts, but on other blog platforms as well. The extent of the popularity of #solidarityisforwhitewomen clarified how much further feminism still needs to go in terms of inclusion of POC and WOC. The hashtag also led the inception of other new hashtags like #solidarityisfortheablebodied, sparking conversation about disability.
I’m a WOC myself of Canadian nationality, and being a huge pop culture addict, it’s quite disappointing when I watch a new TV series or a highly anticipated movie and there is rarely an actor or actress of colour in the show or film. That’s why I honestly fell in love with the movie Pacific Rim (2 of the 3 protagonists as POC! No female dies for the advancement of the characterization of the white male! Female lead isn’t forced into the role of a love interest in the story! An actual FEMALE ASIAN PROTAGONIST!!). It was so incredibly refreshing to see non-white actors as part of the leads, and Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi absolutely nailed their roles. I stand firm in my belief that we need to have more POC and WOC in the media and cast more diverse people in interesting and important roles that don’t perpetuate racial or gendered stereotypes. There have been some fantastic new shows with well developed, three-dimensional WOC characters (such as Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and CBS’s Elementary) and it’s made me really happy to see that.
In terms of religion, a new charter has popped up that has pitted feminists against each other, once again showing the non-intersectionality of feminists today. The province of Québec’s proposed charter of values, revealed in August, would ban workers in certain occupations from wearing any religious wear or signs. This includes turbans, burqas, hijabs, crucifixes, and other religious symbols. This charter apparently seeks to establish religious neutrality and gender equality in the province, but in reality, it’s a thinly veiled example of white-washing an entire population, obliterating diversity, and stripping people of their religious rights. There have been some feminists who have agreed with this charter. For example, the feminist protest group, FEMEN, firmly believes that religious headdresses, such as the hijab, are a symbol of patriarchal oppression, and that they must fight for the liberation of these women. But in fact, the opposite is true: many of these women have chosen to wear headdresses and were not coerced. Freedom doesn’t lie in liberation, freedom lies in choice. The fact that there are feminists with similar views as FEMEN shows that there is a huge gap between feminists, and that we’re not listening or understanding one another.
I volunteer at my local women’s shelter, and it is very aware of intersectionality and inclusion. The shelter ensures that it creates a safe space for women of all nationalities, races, and sexual orientations by being inclusive and by being aware of the struggles women face due to those factors. There are many framed posters lining the staircases of the relief house, and a black and white photo of Audre Lorde, with a quote of hers superimposed on the background, is amid one of them. I can’t remember the exact quote on that poster, but I’m sure it’s just as prominent and relevant as her statement of single-issue struggle being impossible, since we don’t live single-issue lives. I hope that the message of intersectional feminism can reach around the globe and be inclusive of everybody; only then will feminism reach newer and greater heights.
by Valerie Chu, first annual Young Bluestockings winner