Feminism is synonymous with human rights and democracy. Whoever declares themselves a non-feminist is saying I am anti-human rights and anti-democracy. Then there are the surnames, I identify myself more with this or that current, but the basis is the same: the human rights of women and the democratic quality of society.
On the one hand, feminism has emphasized that women are also human beings, and therefore they are entitled to those rights, on an equal footing with other human beings, and in many cases with all living beings. On the other hand, it has widened the field of vision, by saying, in every situation, let us also look at the margins, at those who do not have the title to govern, but are also here, the part of those that have no part, as Rancière says, in relation to democracy.
But this is the minimum floor. The interesting thing about feminism is that it has defined the content of these human rights and of this democracy in a very demanding way. It has elaborated a whole catalog of actions or behaviors in human relations that violate these rights, and has proposed a whole other range that protects the integrity of people and their full development. It has achieved this by doing something that had not been done before: listening to human beings. Taking them out of the margins, and putting them at the center. Breaking down stereotypes, giving voice and visibility to people in all their complexity and intersection of identities. Access to multiplicity and plurality were key to realize the following: despite the differences, me too. # Me too. Unity is everything.
Feminism has installed the following concepts: systematic solidarity, the duty of empathy, responsibility even for the actions of others, and reparation based on justice. That is why we cannot pass by, in a world that is disintegrating, we had better broaden our vision and act together. Resistance is survival. This has been proposed in a revolutionary way, not based on moral systems or social control of any kind, it has been proposed from freedom and autonomy. These actions have become political, in the sense of participation in the creation of the world. That activity whose purpose is to ensure life in the broadest sense, as Arendt understood it.
With the name of sisterhood, a practice of systematic solidarity has been established. The emphasis was placed on the relationship of solidarity between women, because this is what was revolutionary, fraternity was already an installed concept. It was necessary for women to unite and work together because installing new concepts when one is on the side of the oppressed requires coordination. But feminism goes beyond sisterhood, by developing this concept, what it tries to do is to install a systematic practice of solidarity. This practice consists of looking at the big picture. The obligation to look beyond what appears in the picture. The interdependence of systems and the idea that if someone is on top, make sure that there is not someone below, who is being passed over. The idea of not leaving people out of the picture. What is created over dead bodies, is stillborn, is worthless. This concept goes hand in hand with horizontality. Feminism takes a close look at hierarchies. Why is there someone above and someone below? Why should I be told what to do? In this boat, we all have the same value. This is also linked to intersectionality, which is about observing when it is more difficult for someone to get on the same bow of the ship, for whatever reason or reasons. Valuing this intersection of factors fairly, in order to remain horizontal.
As for the duty of empathy, it arises from feminism's total reformulation of human relations. Which does not arise whimsically, rather because many people were being left down. Half of humanity? This has been done specifically by agreeing on a list of actions and situations that cause pain, being oppressive. Pain is important here. For example when a person wants to end a bond, they have at least two options, state it clearly, or say nothing and start behaving in a jerkish way so that the other person ends up doing it. What feminism has done is to say, in an assertive way, this is, saying, when you do this I feel this way: bad, for example. It has not said men are like this or like that, or they are worse or better, how stupid that would be, it has said, for example, if somebody says, everything will be carried out as I want or the relationship is finished, it is an unfair and oppressive treatment. It's a bad treatment. What feminism has done is to describe in great detail all the interactions that hurt, voluntary or forced. It has indicated all the situations in which there is mistreatment, with great clarity. Abuse is violence. In any of its degrees. Feminism has emphasized two issues that avoid this type of situation: communication and the notion that people have emotions and feelings. It seems obvious but the idea was not sufficiently installed. For example, making the point that if someone starts yelling or avoiding what is not working, not only is that not going to help at all, but it is also a form of mistreatment, hence violence. And when it is exercised against someone who moreover cannot for some reason freely end that bond, it puts her in an impossible situation and violates her integrity. Feminism urges us, at all times, to consider on every occasion the notion of empathy, to evaluate whether our actions are imbecilic or not, whether we are causing pain or allowing others to flourish. Sure, when the right thing to do has always been dictated by a group as a universal rule this can be difficult to identify, but this is no longer the case. The mistreatment is clearly itemized and you can no longer indicate that you were unaware of it. If you don't want to behave like a jerk, get your act together. If you want to end a relationship, you can talk about it. And the conditions must be fair when it ends. The notion that we are all on the same bow of the ship and have equal value should always be kept in mind. And the distribution of what has been formulated as privileges, which are quite obvious. The existence of a so-called meritocracy is a bad joke.
The concept of responsibility for one's own actions and even those of others is also interesting. It tries to put an end to complicity. Imbecilic actions have the characteristic of repeating themselves if the person who commits them is not stopped. They have an impressive persistence. Impunity is also a definite incentive for these repetitions. Many times they take the form of actions typified as crimes. Faced with this, there are at least two options: to remain silent when we become aware of them, or to prevent them in some way. In the case of the imbeciles or the criminal ones, who are also imbeciles, there is an almost inexplicable tendency of the male guild to let them pass. One only has to observe to realize it. But the good news is that thanks to the concepts installed by feminism, complicity is in retreat. Without going any further, I learned last week, for example, that a certain person denounced for violence was no longer welcome where he used to be. A great joy. I do not know if the notion of responsibility is installed, but it is on its way, and that of denunciation is already in place. Silence seems more and more a thing of the past.
Finally, I would like to emphasize another notion that has been developed, that of reparation based on justice. The male guild is very reluctant to ask for forgiveness or to apologize when it is due. It was an unknown notion. Along with the misconception of blame. Of who is to blame about something. First to say that the blame in a two-person interaction is shared, and when it is a crime, it is on the one who commits it. If something doesn’t work in a voluntary interaction, it is a consequence of what someone does and the reception of the interlocutor and his own characteristics, the statement, you put me this way, is stupid. On the other hand, if someone is forced to perform or suffer something, without her consent therefore, in no case the responsibility lies with the victim. In the whole range of everyday or criminal actions that undermine someone's integrity, feminism has very clearly installed the notion of the need for reparation, which is based on the concept of justice. What has been fractured must be repaired. The importance of the obligation to repair has been installed. Here it is no longer, I don't care, they can manage on their own, there is a responsibility to observe, to recognize, to sanction, to fix what has been broken. Like realizing that it is not to consume plastic and throw it into the sea, and forget it, the planet is drowned and the plastic arrives back one day or the other, it is necessary to recycle or to stop consuming plastic. In any case, to stop breaking the planet and to repair everything that is already broken.
In other words, we are so much better off with feminism and ecology that what's left to be done is to continue getting to the bottom and be thankful they are here. So much remains to be done. And also another thing, it is not enough just to say or look like something, you also have to do. For example, if you say that you defend human rights but you are confused about what they are, it is useless. You can perfectly well know now what they mean and what they imply. What needs to be done. As Ani DiFranco says, you can talk a great philosophy, but if you can't be kind to people every day, it doesn't mean that much to me, it's the little things you do, the little things you say, it's the love you give along the way. And here we arrive to a key issue: love. Let's remember that feminism is synonymous with human rights and democracy. The fantastic thing is that feminism has indicated something radical: love and its manifestations are a human right. Therefore a responsibility. The most important thing is that feminism will not end until the world has been definitively changed. Women who today cannot go to school or who fear for their lives because of a badly worn veil need all of us.
* Andrea Balart is a writer and human rights lawyer. She holds a Master's degree from the Faculty of Philosophy at the Universitat de Barcelona. Feminist activist, co-founder, director and editor of Simone // Revista / Revue / Journal, and translator (fr-eng-esp). French-Chilean, she was born in Santiago de Chile and lives in Lyon, France.
© Fiorenza Menini. Dessin de rêve / DreamDraw
© Andrea Balart.