What Feminism Means to Me: CLC Women’s Forum
“The fire in our bones, the fight in our blood” were the opening words of the first poem of the night at the CLC Convention women’s forum featuring three artists, each talking about her relationship with feminism and what it means to them.
As racialized women of Indigenous, South Asian, and Sudanese descent respectively, all three talked about the fight to represent themselves fairly in mainstream feminism that often ignores the voices of women of colour.
Mahlikah Awe:re aka MC AngelHeart started with a drum song. She spoke of rematriation: rebuilding, reclaiming, reawakening, reimagining, and regenerating Indigenous culture and identity.
“The word feminism doesn’t resonate with my current frequency,” she told the crowd. “What does is “rematriation” restoring a culture to its rightful place without external interference. Feminism still applies some assumptions of patriarchy.”
Jesse Kaur spoke about the Kaur project and her exploration of exposing diversity in a community considered monolithic by the mainstream.
“What is feminism to me? It is an extension of my being and my curiosity to tell untold stories,” said Kaur.
“Reclaiming the name Kaur as an equalizer that reclaims this middle name,” she said. “Kaurs make up 48 percent of our community but they are never heard. Women are never seen and they’re never heard of. It was important for us to create a history, a legacy for our own community.”
She said that the labour movement and the Kaur project have much in common: “As I see it, the labour movement is much like the Kaur collective. A living, breathing collective that works hard. The labour movement sees much more in a worker than a mechanized entity.”
Anti-oppression educator and multi-disciplinary educator Rania El Mugammar spoke of a complicated relationship with feminism.
“I am a reluctant feminist at best. We’ve had a few break-ups and reunions like all great love stories,” she said, speaking about the exclusion that she experienced from mainstream, white feminism and the struggle to understand her role as a settler when “colonialism is not a past tense, or a footnote” for her own community and Indigenous communities.
Bilan Arte, the host of the evening then spoke about being disconnected from feminism until she attended a meeting of the CFS and saw “rock star” Muslim and racialized women leaders. She urged the women in the crowd to remember that doors were forced open to make room for them, and encouraged them to keep opening doors.
The evening concluded with a tribute to a woman who is retiring from the labour movement, CLC Secretary-Treasurer Barb Byers. Women from across the country shared their memories of Byer’s strength, activism, encouragement and femtorship.
Barb Byers finished the evening by talking about her work and encouraging us all to forgive mistakes and “give each other space to learn.”