March 8th is International Women’s Day by Sobia Ali-Faisal

March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD). For me, and for many other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) women I know we celebrate it as International BIPOC Women’s Day, and here’s why.

First, A Little History

Ever since the beginning of the Western feminist movement white women have only fought for themselves. Indeed, this movement began with white women demanding voting rights for white women. They explicitly did not want others, including Black and Indigenous men, to have voting rights. Both this first wave of feminism and the following second wave were always by and for white women, and have always existed at the expense of BIPOC peoples of all genders.

Womanhood as we know it today is defined through whiteness and white supremacy, thanks to European colonization. In her book White Tears/Brown Scars journalist Ruby Hamad lays out, in detail, the history of how white women and their femininity have been violently oppressive of BIPOC peoples of all genders, but especially BIPOC women. Here’s a very quick summary:

In their empire building quest, and their insistence on their own supremacy, white colonial society decided that only two genders could, and must, exist – men and women – as demonstration of a highly evolved society and as a necessity to build empire. While men, who were supposedly rational, logical, and scientific expanded the empire, women, who were emotional and irrational, were to tend to the home and home front. To maintain the supremacy of the white race, therefore, white women had to be kept from procreating with non-white men, and such the need to “protect” white women – by keeping them in the home – became paramount for white men. In other words, to maintain white supremacy white women were placed on the pedestal on which they remain to this day. Colonized and/or enslaved BIPOC peoples, including women, were depicted as hypersexual, barbaric, dangerous, emotional, irrational, and ugly. In other words, we were, and continue to be, demonized to maintain the supremacy of white women.

Selling Us Out

However, it is not only white people who demonize us. There’s a sad reality that our own racialized brothers will often join in the violence, placing white women on a pedestal while hurling insults at us. As a Brown woman, I often hear Brown men describe us as overly dramatic, high maintenance, and bossy.

As a Brown woman I also hear Brown men tell white women how dramatic, high maintenance, and bossy women of their own ethnic and racial background are. The misogyny of our men is celebrated by those white women. There is no solidarity from either groups.

Our willingness to be open and honest with our emotions with those we love, our high behavioural standards for our own and others’ integrity, and our courage are invalidated by being called “dramatic, high maintenance, and bossy.”

But No More

All of the above is why, for me, IWD is about celebrating BIPOC women. After all, if we don’t celebrate ourselves, we know no one else will.

March 8th should serve as a reminder that BIPOC women must be celebrated and loved every day of the year if we are to get justice and heal from white supremacist, patriarchal violence. That Black women, whom the world demonizes and harms the most, that Indigenous women, who continue to be targets of white supremacist, patriarchal genocide, and that Women of Colour, who continue to face violent oppression, must be celebrated and loved.

Today I celebrate our courage, our brilliance, our resilience, our high standards, our natural ability to lead, our ability to create and shape humans, our beauty, our sexuality and sexiness, our sensuality, our bodies, our minds, the way we treat others, our self-respect, our self-love, our ability to get things done and get them done brilliantly, our ability to make people laugh, our joy, our spirits and our spirituality, and everything else about us. I celebrate my mother, my grandmother, and all my great-(great, great) grandmothers who have resisted patriarchy, white supremacy, and colonization.

I celebrate all the courageous BIPOC women who have stood up, and continue to stand up, against oppression of all kinds to build a better society for all, putting their safety, and even their lives, in danger.

And YES, I also celebrate our drama, our high maintenance, and our bossiness!

Written by Sobia Ali-Faisal. Sobia has her PhD in Applied Social Psychology. She is currently a lecturer at UPEI where her research focuses on the sexual health of Muslims.

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