Over at Racialicious, Latoya Peterson has a great post and discussion on whether feminism has to address race. I was thinking about this in the case of the Philippines, where I grew up and where first identified as a feminist as a teenager, almost two decades ago.
My feminism initially aimed to tackle issues like the gender gap in health and education. But since then, my feminism has branched out, to include concepts like colonialism and globalization. I learned much by listening to women like Zenaida Soriano and Teresita Vistro of AMIHAN (the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines), who explain here why globalization is a feminist issue:
We comprise the majority of the landless poor, 51% of the total female population in the region are employed in agriculture and we produce 60% of the food for the Asian region, yet our right to land continue to be denied.
As our right to land is continuously denied, so is our right to decent lives. As our rights are denied, so is our children’s right to a healthy lives and therefore of the lives of future generations.
Globalization is a social justice issue, it’s a feminist issue. To be a feminist in the Philippines means that one also has to take part in the struggle against export-oriented economic policies that deny peasant women their land.
But I had never considered the role of feminism and race in the Philippines.
I like to think that I was unaware of the intersections of racism and sexism in the Philippines because race was not as big an issue there compared to here in the United States. After all, most of us were various shades of brown, and many still view the Philippines as largely homogenous.
But now, I know my ignorance of this important link was due to two factors. First, in Manila, racism did not affect me directly. And second, when the women who were directly affected did speak, I wasn’t listening.
Back then, my feminist advocacy meant working with non-profits in areas like microcredit, skills training seminars, and other “capacity building” projects. Good stuff, most of it, but I did not realize how little they mattered to Moro women who were fighting against the continued militarization in their provinces. And I did not know, because I wasn’t listening to women like Amirah Ali Lidasan, the national president of Suara Bangsamoro, an umbrella organization of Muslim human rights groups. In addressing how the current “borderless War Against Terror” has caused massive displacement of Moros in the Southern Philippines, she notes:
Years of war and sanctions have already created an extremely vulnerable population. There are many casualties already and communities have been displaced. Women and children suffer the most.
Neither was I listening to women like Vernie Yocogan-Diano of Innabuyog, an organization of indigenous women based in the Philippine Cordilleras, who describes how mining in indigenous lands is:
a concrete form of development aggression [that] imposes greater violence against indigenous women. We are displaced from our major role in sustainable agricultural production, conservation of resources and subsistence food production. We are displaced from our role as holders of traditional or indigenous knowledge including medicine and passers of that knowledge to the future generation. . . . Mining as development aggression disintegrates our indigenous sociopolitical systems that enable mutual support and pursue community integrity, which includes the protection of women and children from various forms of violence.
Looking back, I see how my concept of what constituted feminist issues in the Philippines, arguably the dominant strain of feminism over there, was very exclusionary.
One of the themes I hope to explore in this blog is how globalization rests on very gendered foundations, especially as it is being implemented in developing countries. Should feminism include analysis that looks at racial and ethnic differences? Even in a country as supposedly homogenous as the Philippines? YES.
Because, as women like Amirah Ali Lidasan and Vernie Yocogan-Diano have shown, it would be impossible to identify and address feminist issues like mining, militarization, and globalization, without listening to the voices of all Filipinas.