On the 4th of May, Leiden University Pride organised, together with Amnesty International Student Group Leiden, an inspiring lecture regarding the concept of Intersectionality and the Womanist movement within the LGBT community.
Our special guest was Joanna Yeboah, born in Uganda. She is currently a Master student of International Relations at the University of Groningen.
Joanna initially introduced the Feminist movement, explaining how it was born out of the need to achieve social, political and economic equity and justice for women. However, our speaker explained how Feminism focused on gender and class relations, hence disregarding those types of oppression linked to racism, religion, queerness and imperialism. For this reason, many women who did not fit in the feminist standard of a White, Christian, Middle Class, and Heterosexual woman counteracted to the former lack of inclusiveness and formed a reactionary movement, called Womanism.
Alice Walker, foundress of the womanist movement, explained that Womanism is a shade of the socio-political movements fighting sexism and its advancement is related to the distinct perspective on discrimination of race and gender, especially experienced by women of colour and women who love women. Furthermore, as Joanna described, Womanism’s broadness facilitates the inclusion of a higher number of women, compared to Feminism. Womanism embraces all women, regardless of their race, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or even the desire to be feminine. The right to femininity is in fact central to Womanism, since for centuries Black women had been denied expressing their own femininity, due to slavery and the resulting alienation.
Joanna linked her discourse on Womanism with Intersectionality, a descriptive notion advanced by the American activist Kimberlé Crenshaw, to facilitate the comprehension of the interdependence between various types of oppression that women of colour face in a daily basis. As Margaret Andersen and Patricia Collins wrote in their book Race, class and gender: an anthology:
“Fundamentally, race, class, and gender are intersecting categories of experience that affect all aspects of human life: thus, they simultaneously structure the experiences of all people in this society. At any moment, race, class, or gender may feel more salient or meaningful in each person’s life, but they are overlapping and cumulative in their effect on people’s experience.”
Moreover, Joanna invited the audience to decolonize their minds, while mentioning various examples of powerful African women of the pre-colonial period and their great political and military skills; thus, breaking common prejudices regarding Black women and pre-colonial times.
Another very interesting moment of the lecture was when Joanna showed a video interview of Germaine Greer, well known Australian feminist scholar, who claims that transgender women are not women and, consequently, their social and economic issues are not relevant matters for Feminism.
Finally, Joanna invited all the audience to consider the importance of all women standing united, along with men. Only by supporting one another, regardless of our gender, race, religion, class, sexual orientation and age, only by then we will be able to truly see each other grow and shine in equity, liberty and respect.