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The pain of years of silence is written on every line of this sign, displayed at a march in support of the #MeToo movement on International Women’s Day at Pliny Park in Brattleboro.

Voices / Viewpoint

Women’s liberation is human liberation

We need to do what the last three waves of mainstream feminism failed to do: see the oppression of poor people, people of color, and people from developing nations as inextricably linked to our own oppression.

Kelly Junno gave a version of this speech in her role as a member of Brattleboro Solidarity at the #MeToo rally in Brattleboro on International Women’s Day on March 8. Junno graduated from the M.A. in Teaching for Social Justice program at Marlboro Graduate School, a collaboration between that institution and the Spark Teacher Education Institute. She teaches third grade in Brattleboro.

Brattleboro

When I was a child, I was taught about women’s suffrage and women working for the ability to do the same things as men. I was told that things (by themselves, it seemed) were gradually getting better.

But here we are today, and patriarchy is as strong as ever. The feminist movement has some serious reflecting to do.

We need to stop putting our energy into small victories that benefit only a privileged few and that can be rolled back by the next right-wing backlash.

• Women’s suffrage. Because of voter ID laws and laws that bar people with convictions from voting, many women still can’t vote.

• Free birth control under Obamacare. That’s being taken away.

• The right for all women to choose. That’s being taken away.

• Almost-equal pay. That’s being taken away.

We need to do what the last three waves of mainstream feminism failed to do, which is see the oppression of poor people, people of color, and people from developing nations as inextricably linked to our own oppression. We need to see that our liberation as inseparable.

* * *

The feminist movement needs to become an anti-prison movement. How many women are held in cells away from their families for actions of survival that are deemed criminal, for inability to pay bail, or because of mental illness? How many women are single mothers because their partners are in jail? How many people are sexually abused daily in prisons? Or in prison as a result of sexual abuse?

The feminist movement needs to become a movement against displacement and forced migration. Every year, thousands of women from developing nations make dangerous journeys with no secure destination to escape somewhere even more dangerous. They are routinely killed and raped and disappeared into sex slavery.

The feminist movement needs to become an anti-deportation movement. The United States is responsible for the separation of families through deportation and indefinite detention where men and women are extra vulnerable to sexual abuse by guards for no other reason than lack of permission by the state itself to be here.

The feminist movement needs to become an anti-eugenics movement. In this country, programs have forcibly sterilized thousands of women and men because they are poor or disabled or black or brown or mentally ill. These programs were so effective that they inspired the Nazis.

Sterilizations continue today, sometimes under the guise of other procedures, or sometimes because people are given a choice between being sterilized or being sent to prison.

The feminist movement needs to become an anti-gun movement because teachers, 77 percent of whom are female, are literally dying for their students and are being told that they need to arm themselves if they want to live, because that is the solution that is most profitable for the NRA. Not to mention the fact that more intimate-partner homicides are committed with guns than all other weapons combined.

The feminist movement needs to become an anti-militarism movement. The military uses rape as a weapon against people in developing countries, and one in three female service members is sexually assaulted by other U.S. military members during her term of service. These atrocities are the natural consequences of an institution that itself rapes, oppresses, dehumanizes, and pillages developing countries.

In fact, the feminist movement needs to become a movement against all state violence that is used only to oppress and repress and is funded to the detriment of health care and education, housing and clean water.

And when black women in New York City are 12 times more likely than white women to die in childbirth, and parents have to choose between food and medicine, and children are taken from their mothers because they are homeless, and indigenous mothers have to wonder which of their children will succumb to suicide or to addiction or to murder by the police, a women’s movement needs to become an anti-poverty, anti-colonialism, and anti-racism movement.

* * *

The realities of the world are harsh, but we cannot turn away. We need to face them so that we are energized to act.

The most beautiful things in this world come from desperate places where people have refused to let one another die. Let’s find the hope and energy that we need for this fight in creating solidarity among us.

The movement for women’s liberation is the movement for human liberation. Courage to all who struggle.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #450 (Wednesday, March 14, 2018). This story appeared on page E1.

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