Neoliberalism and the extinction of the feminist movement

 By Sonia Soans

Over the last few years India has seen a growth in the economy which has had an effect on our lifestyles. This newfound wealth is not equally distributed which is a matter of contention however this article will not look at that those conflicts. I am interested in way neoliberalism has been absorbed into the feminist movement and presented in the language of ‘choice’ ‘freedom’ and ‘empowerment’. Open the cover of any popular women’s magazine and it conflates lifestyle choices with feminism. Taking a bath with a new soap is presented as an act of revolution, buying clothes from a certain brand are reflective not only of personality but thought to make a profound social statement.

Choice has become a deciding factor in one’s decisions. This unhistorical, asocial idea of the individual presents itself as liberation, freeing people from past oppressions. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the way neoliberal language is used to talk about women’s issues. Contentious issues have been replaced with the notion of choice. Women’s choice is thought to be the deciding factor in their lives. They are presented as autonomous and in sole control of making decisions. While absolute autonomy would be ideal at the moment it does not exist and cannot exist. Indian women’s choices largely are dictated by their families, social, cultural and national norms. Some of these norms are oppressive some of them necessary in a civil society. The oppressive exist with the mundane but the mundane have subsumed the oppressive making them seem non-existent. For some women in India living a free life without answering to patriarchal power is a reality, sadly they are a minority.

FeminismChoice has the effect of producing neutrality, a false sense of it at least. Making normal anything that can be contentious into an issue of taste acquired in a free market economy. Modern neoliberal feminism does exactly that it tells women their decisions are a matter of choice with no ethical or political entanglements. Enhancing one’s body aesthetically is presented as a purely personal indulgent being both narcissistic and in denial of the male gaze at the same time. Narcissistic because it is inward looking, self obsessed. In denial of the male gaze because even though these modifications are presented as there is a sense of being seen as attractive, creating presentations of pure femininity to an ever present male gaze. Cosmetic surgery is now no longer taboo it is normalised as being an economic and personal choice. Yes women can have their bodies enhanced cosmetically but it is a pseudo argument of choice undermines the larger question of why do women have to look a certain way. Interestingly the cosmetic norm is dependent on elitist women, fair skin, slender bodies perfect in shape and size. High caste women, white women, women who have had adequate health care are the norms. Further investigations into these choices reveals they are connected to more than one kind of oppression, class caste, race and even disability.

The hyper aesthetic nature of this new feminism makes it seem less credible and elitist. For most women in India the grim reality of looking fairer with blemish free skin is not a choice but a form of oppression. Their bodies becoming a source of voyeuristic interest. This trend is reflected in films and the way Bollywood film stars have become brand ambassadors  of social causes. Promoting skin lightening cream alongside supporting education of the girl child, obvious contradictions.

What is presented as choice for the new economically privileged classes is not a choice for those who work to produce these ‘choices’ for them. Women who work in garment factories did not have a choice. These material acts of empowerment and choice come at a price and are only a mask to hide exploitation using the language of liberation. The issue is not so much that women have a choice in wearing make up or dressing in a certain way but that the power is still in the hands of the oppressors and women are now willing participants in this oppression. Some of these choices have been available to women for a long time, however now they are treated as personal expressions without consequences. Morality and debate have been treated as dirty words as if the personal was only personal. Even the feminist slogan of the personal as political has been usurped while the personal is indeed political every choice is not worthy of being politicised. The effect of these new freedoms instead of producing equality has polarised groups who see themselves as being usurped by an all neutralising economy. Women in cities and villages are presented as opposites with different interests.

In short one must be suspicious of any movement that speaks the language of those in power. Words such as ‘freedom’ and ‘empowerment’ mean nothing on their own but in conjunction with other things become powerful. Feminism is needed now as much as it was before. Women’s bodies are not playing fields of economic elitist powers.


Sonia Soans – is currently pursuing a PhD in Psychology in Manchester (UK). Her work focuses on the intersections of mental illness, gender, sexuality and culture and how they produce narratives which are tied to nationalism. Twitter id -@SoniaSoanspsy


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Yarl’s Wood is a detention centre in Bedfordshire where women fleeing for their lives from oppressive governments and authorities around the world can be detained indefinitely despite committing no crime. Detainees have reported alleged psychological, physical and sexual abuse by Yarl’s Wood staff.

Shutdown Yarl’s Wood campaigners at the first demonstration held in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens on 21st June 2014, told Black Feminists Manchester why they came out to support the campaign.

Aderonke Apata of MiSol and WAST said she was here‘… to demonstrate against Yarl’s Wood, we want to get Yarl’s Wood shut down because it’s not fit for purpose. That’s why Safety for Sisters, WAST and MISOL have rallied around and put together this amazing demonstration, in support of women who have been to Yarl’s Wood before, who are in Yarl’s Wood now and who UKBA are thinking and planning to take into Yarl’s Wood – we want Yarl’s Wood shutdown.’

Aderonke Apata at the Shut Down Yarl's Wood Demo Manchester. Photo courtesy of Kat MiSol

Aderonke Apata at the Shut Down Yarl’s Wood Demo Manchester.
Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)

Aderonke has been a driving force in this campaign, you can read more about her experience as an asylum seeker, detainee of Yarl’s Wood and campaigner in her interview for Black Feminists Manchester.

Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)

Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)

Rossella of Manchester Feminist Network spoke in solidarity to the 200 strong crowd of supporters, she later told us she is protesting against Yarl’s Wood…’because as a woman and a feminist I find it unacceptable that women are suffering all sorts of violence and are not helped and supported.’

Vicky Marsh - Safety for Sisters North West Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)

Vicky Marsh – Safety for Sisters North West  Photo courtesy of Kat (MiSol)


Vicky Marsh of Safety for Sisters Northwest told us she was here ‘…with WAST and MISOL in solidarity protesting about Yarl’s Wood. S4S was set up to try and get some proper services for women fleeing domestic abuse , that had immigration issues or were European and couldn’t get housing benefit and they had been denied access because of their status, so refuges were turning them away and they couldn’t get support.

We decided we need to be here to represent S4S because what’s happening is these very same women that are very vulnerable and open to further exploitation are now actually being locked up like criminals. But not only that, they are facing abuse and further sexual violence actually in the prison. We think that this is unacceptable as when they are free in Manchester and being refused services, it’s the extreme end, so it was important for S4S to have a presence here and recognize how brave it has been for the WAST women to come out and talk about Yarl’s Wood. We are right behind them. Those women who have talked about Yarl’s Wood when they are in the prison, some of them have been deported because of doing so, some have been sent to women’s prisons and some of them are here today with us.

It’s really important to help them have a voice because the next thing the government want to do is stop them getting civil legal aid so they can’t tackle the government about unlawful detention, about sexual abuse that’s going on and about the police not investigating it properly, which has been happening. We have a woman who is in WAST, who has successfully sued SERCO for the abuse, successfully sued the Home Office for wrongful detention and is also suing the police for not investigating the abuse she reported while she was in there. Now these voices are going to get silenced, so it’s important lots of women’s groups get together and fight to get Yarl’s Wood shutdown as soon as possible and all the other detention centres that are doing the same.’

Kat of MiSol stated she was ‘… not just here as an organiser but as someone who wholeheartedly supports the women who have been through Yarl’s Wood been through any detention centre, the women that are in there right now and any other people that are in a detention centre, because it really is a rotten system and Yarl’s Wood is the tip of the iceberg.

I think it’s worse because it’s violence against women and also children are in there. So I’m here out of complete disgust at what the government think is acceptable and how people keep telling us about it and I think it’s really good to have this kind of event to raise awareness, because if people really knew what happens in Yarl’s Wood, how people treat asylum seekers in general, as not part of the community but something less than, they should get angry and close Yarl’s Wood down.’

Throughout the demonstration, organisers from various activist groups joined on stage in solidarity and spoke about the need to end the unfair treatment of asylum seekers and to shut down Yarl’s Wood.  Aderonke told us, this was the first of many demonstrations to come, she urges people to support the campaign and keep raising awareness until Yarl’s Wood is finally shut down.


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The Death of Stuart Hall – Why Blackness is Best When it is Dead

By Sonia Soans

The recent death of Stuart Hall was promptly met with furious social media activity. It was a sad event. However it’s ironic how we mourn the death of well known black academic and forget racism is still alive and kicking in British society. We all know the statistics we know we still bear the brunt of white supremacy. Black men are likely to end up in jail we know this all too well.

Where is the racism you might ask Britain is an ‘equal opportunities’ nation, on paper- yes. The no dogs no blacks signs are gone, no one has ever called me rude names in public. Racism is still around. Week after week my British –Asian flatmate returns home from lectures about race and post colonialism taught by white men and women. Now there is nothing wrong with white men and women many of whom have worked hard to get to that position but where are the people of colour in academia? Why aren’t we the ones teaching people about our  issues around race and culture? The same university my flatmate goes to has lots of Asian students in the business school very few in the social sciences out of that number very few are ones in charge of teaching. So things are not bad we are not intentionally excluded or are they?

Things have changed since the days of Stuart Hall the ‘blacks not allowed’ signs have been taken down invisible signs exist in these places.  There are unwritten rules about race segregation, a city like Manchester is still divided into ghettos. The nicer areas tend to be all white and we have a politically correct word for it – gentrification. The word has come to be associated with white affluent classes. Walk outside and university students seem to divide themselves into convenient racially segregated groups. It seems to be an unwritten rule move in your racial, ethnic, national circle. Diversity bubbles burst soon and everyone seems to sink into automatic segregation.

The same thing happens in class the few undergraduate classes I have been to I have felt what it means to be brown. These were not the subtle comments but blatant ‘what is she saying? I can’t understand you.’ No one has ever complained of that before. I manage to make myself understood everywhere else except in university. I am lucky to work with people who are older than the average undergraduate I never seem to face that problem there.

Our absence in academia is obvious, we are spoken about with a sense of nostalgia as if we are abstract things not people. Often I feel like my opinion in these matters is not needed, when I correct people and present facts I am whitewashed or over thinking. There seems to be a discomfort when it comes to discussing issues that matter. The Delhi Gang Rape Case of 2012 made international headlines most of my friends expressed their grief after that died down there were calls not to talk about the perpetrators nationality or not to bring up the condition under which they committed the crime. While I can see why this is an issue what about the victim? This was about her why did it turn to an issue of race? I have been to events where when black men challenge stereotypes they are shouted down or worse still silence follows. It’s the silence which is the most disturbing, because it seems deliberate and yet it is polite.

The subtle racism that exists in society seems harder to fight because it benign and takes us up our concerns, but flips them around in a nasty way. Take for example films and television. We now see black people on screen but we all know the black guy dies first. He is expendable almost like we are. While we are represented on screen we are represented badly on the margins, making quick appearances. Stuart Hall seems to fit into the same category he is dead now and glorified, we can now make him big in death and forget what he stood for. While some of people who mourned did so for genuine reasons most of us did it in the heat of the moment.

Stuart Hall is dead may he rest in peace. His work taught us a lot but the battle is not over our society needs to keep the debates alive, slip into complacency and our hard fought achievements might be lost. Now more than ever we need to address racism not in the language of a generation before us. Their oppressions were different from ours but they are oppression nonetheless.

Sonia Soans is a PhD scholar at MMU. An adopted Mancunian she is an Indian psychologist who has only just discovered her brand of feminism is coloured.  Her work focuses on how nationality and addiction intersect to produce discourses of women who transgress these boundaries. Twitter @SoniaSoanspsy

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Sentenced To Death For Being A Lesbian

New Missive

I recently received an email from All Out with the story of Aderonke from Nigeria. Aderonke is a lesbian. She’s been sentenced to death for being a lesbian. She managed to flee to the UK, where her case is still being decided, but three members of her family have already been killed because of her sexuality. The law in Nigeria is harsh and ruthless, yet they are still considering deporting her. Although there will be no shortage of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK who are fleeing the punishment for their sexuality, this could become a landmark case.Should Britain deport Aderonke because of who she loves?

Theresa May’s already said that some people have been forced to submit video of themselves having sex or answer humiliating questions during hours of interrogation. And, many people who provide evidence to the Home Office that they will be jailed or killed for who they love have been deported back into…

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Aderonke Apata: On Movement for Justice, Immigration, Asylum, Refuge and LGBT

By Sam

Aderonke Apata, a lesbian asylum seeker fleeing death threats and or imprisonment under anti gay laws in Nigeria is currently under threat of deportation from the UK back to Nigeria. She set up Movement for Justice campaigning group in Manchester and speaks to Black Feminists Manchester about her personal case and calls for change of the current immigration, refugee and asylum system.

Aderonke article photo z

 Interviewer: ‘Why did you set up Movement for Justice in Manchester?’

Aderonke: ‘I set up Movement for Justice (MfJ)  in Manchester because there is so many injustices going on in the asylum seeking and immigration system that I think people should be aware of, and so that immigrants and asylum seekers here can have support from MfJ who has been solely London based, I thought it was something worthwhile as I have been and still being supported by them. MfJ do a lot of campaigning for immigrants and asylum seekers, LGBT groups and they have been at the forefront for quite a number of years now and have always been successful in their fights.

I was detained in Yarl’s Wood that was when I first came into contact with MfJ. I first started working with them in 2012; I formed a MFJ Group in Yarl’s Wood which is still waxing strong there; that led to so much publicity about the ‘rotten culture’ of Yarl’s Wood management being exposed. All the injustices and unfair treatments of detained immigrants and asylum seekers fleeing all sorts of abuse women routinely face around the world such as rape, female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual abuse, forced marriage, anti-gay persecution, trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, ‘honour’ killing etc being exposed to the public following the peaceful demonstration that I led inside the centre and MfJ were able to help with that publicity.

So I thought setting up an MfJ where I live will allow me to give more support to people like me in the asylum system and who really need their voices to be heard and need so much support from people and challenging all this bureaucracy and hypocrisy of policies around immigration and asylum seeking. These are the reasons why I set it up in Manchester.

Right now nearly every organisation and groups supporting asylum seekers and immigrants are joining in to campaign to shut down detention centres, which makes me glad as MFJ has been able to expose the psychological, mental, emotional effects detention is having on asylum detainees and the illegality of detention centres.’

I: ‘How does MfJ campaign and how can people support?’

A: ‘We have several ways we campaign in MfJ, because as a movement it involves everybody. Not a particular sector of the community or society whatever you are British, non British, asylum seeker or not.

We advocate on people’s behalf if given the authority, with their solicitors, different support agencies that could assist in their asylum claims. Support people at their appeal hearings in court etc.

We go out, we do demonstrations in Home Office buildings, we go to reporting centres to campaign, we have leaflets all over the place, we have public hearings, people come and give testimonies about what they have witnessed as their treatment of the asylum seeking process – awareness raising.

If anyone was under imminent threat of deportation, we contact the airline not to collude with the UKBA, ask people to do so, go to airport to speak to other passengers on the flight and raise awareness of the person’s plight for their support in influencing the pilot not to fly the person etc.

Also we have campaigns like online petitions where people’s stories are being told to the whole world. We believe that anybody that is bold enough to publish what they are going through, I’m not saying that the other people that cannot publish their petition or cases are not telling the truth, don’t get me wrong, because there are some people who are not bold enough, they don’t have that courage to go public about what is happening to them , for some people who are bold enough and can go public, MfJ does support such people to launch petitions online, call for support of their situation, then we take the signatures forward to the Home Office. The ones that aren’t bold enough to launch online petitions are equally supported in whatever way they are comfortable with.

We hold rallies, meetings, talks, we raise awareness, there are several ways people can support us, one is to attend weekly meetings in Manchester, which is usually on Tuesdays at 1.30pm at St. James’ Church in Higher Broughton, Salford.

You can share your own experiences, we encourage people to come to rallies, sign petitions, donate because MfJ does not take money from the government because it is a political organisation that stands up to the government, so we rely on what people can give us or what we can raise ourselves.

If people want to donate they can see how to donate on the MfJ website. Come to our meetings and spread the news, talk about it in your churches, in your mosques, in the school, your universities, be aware of what is wrong and what we want to right. Infact that is the most important way to support a movement really, being part of a movement and being able to fight a good cause.’

I: ‘You’re currently part of the asylum seeking system; tell us more about your personal journey.’

A: ‘ It’s a very very long journey, it’s not been an easy journey, it started about 10 years ago, but lately it’s been quite inundated with refusals, if you have seen my own online petition, where I have to cry out to the world about what I am going through; which I do not have to, because being a lesbian is not what I ever wanted to talk about with anyone … in fact even if you’re not a lesbian I don’t think sexuality is what we should publicise, as I think it’s a private thing to anybody. But for me to go the length of doing an online petition that everybody in the whole world is able to read and talking about what is private in my life. That tells you how desperate point I am at being faced with deportation and for whoever to take the decision to NOT believe what and who I say I am, being a lesbian, other people have the right to their privacy, heterosexual people, they don’t have to prove they are heterosexuals.

It’s nerve wracking to have to prove you are a lesbian or gay person to the UK government. When it comes to claiming asylum based on your sexuality it is a very ,very big war, because they won’t believe you to start with, that’s not just particular to anyone claiming homosexuality, the unbelief culture is across the board for anybody claiming asylum, anybody who is an immigrant, they just don’t believe us, so then when claiming homosexuality it’s another big problem because there is no way you can prove your sexuality to anybody who is not your partner or has the prior knowledge of your sexuality but it’s made so nerve wracking, that now have you video record what you do with your partner, in privacy, and send it to the Home Office as evidence for your sexuality.

It makes me so sad we have to go to this length, it’s like you’re producing pornography, that is the way it looks to me because you have to make love to your partner and you have to record it and send it to whoever is going to make a decision on your case, it is that serious.

So I have been through so much, even though it’s not been very easy for me to come out at the beginning, because where I was born I was never out and nobody was out or out now, I’ve been in the closet for maybe over 20 yrs of my life that I could remember, could not talk about my sexuality to anybody. The only girlfriend I had knew and just one other close friend of ours so I could not talk about it, even when I came to the UK I could not come out and say I’m a gay person, it took me a very long time to have the confidence to come out and even talk about it and claim asylum based on my sexuality and that to me is quite harrowing and horrific what I have to go through, not only that I’ve been locked up in prison locked up in detention centre, just because I am claiming asylum.

When I was back home (Nigeria) I was locked up because I was a lesbian, I was arrested by the police and had to pay a bribe so I didn’t go to court for that but in the UK I have been detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre for nearly a year just because I am claiming asylum in this country.

I have worked illegally because I had no recourse to public funds, no house or support in any form from the government and I have to eat. I can’t peddle drugs, claim benefits that I am not entitled to and do all sorts so I went to work, I was sent to prison for working. I was paying tax and NI when I was working, I wasn’t evading tax.

My experience of the asylum system is so mixed, it’s giving me this thought that coming to seek asylum in this country is like you have signed yourself off to go to jail, which is what I don’t think it should be, because so many policies are set up for people to fail and nothing more than that.

I was with my partner for 20yrs in Nigeria before I flee to the UK in 2004, but I was informed in 2012 that my partner in Nigeria was killed brutally by vigilantes who found out she was a lesbian and she was going out with me and they killed her.

I’ve had several death threat letters from them, and some other individuals calling me all sorts of names, being sodomised, ready to set me ablaze if I come to Nigeria, so it’s heartbreaking and terrifying if I have to return to Nigeria, it’s not an option for me anyway, because I am out in the UK, even in the UK I’ve had homophobic attacks from Nigerian women in Yarl’s Wood for a period of almost a year were physically and verbally always attacking me, calling me names.

Even in Manchester I was physically  attacked by a woman I didn’t even know, I presume she was Nigerian, who said ‘ I don’t know if you are a man or a woman but I know what you are, you are one of them that suck women’s pussy’ which I reported to the police. If I was in Nigeria I would not be able to report to the police because it would mean going to the government and report myself for homosexuality! So who would I have gone to call to come to my rescue?’

I: ‘It’s essential we address the political and historical root causes relating to immigration, refuge and asylum systems, hearing about your experience of seeking asylum and reasons for setting up MfJ, how can we best examine the underpinnings of the systems to build further momentum to make positive change?

A: ‘ We need to be aware of the fact that, changes to the asylum system in the UK predate the colonial era, looking at the fact that the door was opened for people to come to this country, for instance from India, Nigeria where I come from, Africa, even Jamaica for them to be used as workers to develop this country.

At that point in time there was no restriction saying you cannot live in this country, but I think now, we’ve been made to develop this country, which I am proud of and want to be a part of this country, but looking at what is happening to me and looking inwards I’m beginning to think ok though it’s a case of we’ve been used and we’ve been dumped and because we don’t need you again, you don’t need to be here again, but above all there is a political aspect to it, wanting to use the immigrants and asylum seekers as scapegoats for any political party to score goals, so they are seen as a party that is in control of bringing down immigration numbers, but that’s not the real thing.

Why do we have all this political scoring to start with? Because I can’t see any need for it, I’ve listened to the news; I’ve read in the newspapers there are so many people talking about the fact that there is no evidence to show that asylum seekers and immigrants add any strain to this country in terms of NHS or benefits.

There is so much documented evidence showing that we do not strain this country , we come into the UK we want to be a part of it and want to build a UK that is prosperous and accommodating, we want to make it a good community to live because we are fleeing our country. It’s not because we just want to come here and start claiming benefits.

We have good skills we are educated and we can contribute positively to this country, and they know this, but because of political reasons they have to make us scapegoats in the name of wanting to control the immigration numbers, which I think is very sad.

Looking at the fact that most people, when you trace your roots, most people were immigrants to this country, why is it becoming so difficult for them to embrace immigrants or asylum seekers now? So it makes me think, one, it’s political, secondly it is racism, and when I talk about sexuality claims I want to say it is homophobic what they are doing to anybody of my sexual orientation.

Look at people who are fleeing to this country because they are victims of human trafficking. A lady was detained in Yarl’s Wood said to me she went to claim asylum because she was raped, she was a victim of torture in an area in the Congo or something where there is war, and she said the immigration officer said to her’ no you were not raped I’m sure those soldiers were having fun sleeping with you’ and I was like goodness me how can an officer representing this country say that to somebody who was fleeing torture and telling you they were a subject of rape, gang raping, and then you say ‘ no I’m sure you enjoyed it and those guys were having fun’. How does that translate to any human feelings?

There is so much embedded in this system that you cannot unstrand. The minute you start to unstrand one you are entangled into another one, it’s so complicated, there is so much racism and homophobia in it, and this is why even when their own agents are being abusive to immigrants and asylum seekers, it doesn’t mean anything to them, that’s what they want anyway, to frustrate you and send you back to whoever is torturing you, I don’t think that is fair and proper.

Looking at the petition I would say the support has been very high and I would encourage people to keep supporting and keep signing for us to gather the signatures and take it to the Home Office in support of my asylum claim.’

You can sign Aderonke’s petition here

Movement for Justice meetings are held at:

St James Rectory, Great Cheetham St,Salford M7 4UH

Movement for Justice contact details:




Tel: 07448 483914

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Caribbean Feminists Exist & Some of Them Do Not Yet Know That They Are Feminists

By Cherise Charleswell


When ah leggo mih cock yuh betta tie up yuh hen

Caribbean women located at home and those abroad in the Diaspora have heard and readily understand the implications behind such warnings issued by generations of Caribbean parents to their daughters. Within this warning there is the familiarity of male privilege and a culture steeped in patriarchy, and thus dismisses the actions and behavior of men, as something that is innate and expected, while placing the burden of social order and the fault of rape and sexual harassment and molestation on women. See, it is the hen (women) who must be responsible for how they may dress, dance, speak, and walk, because they may temp and arouse the Cocks (men), and will have to rightfully deal with the consequences of doing so. Thus, good Caribbean parents raise their daughters and sons within this context, and sons grow to believe that any unattended women in their paths are available to them, and at the least should be receptive to their advances. The acceptance of these misogynistic, outdated, and openly sexist gender roles form the basis for Caribbean Rape Culture, and helps to understand the epidemic of rape and intimate partner abuse in the region and throughout the Caribbean Diaspora. Central to this culture is the notion that women are the temptresses, and that their colonized bodies are not their own. They are not free to adorn and clothe their bodies as they choose, without being told that they are inviting sexual violence, or deserving of domestic violence, if their partners find their actions disrespectful. They are not free to travel without fear of objectification, molestation, and violence.

Caribbean women throughout the Diaspora understand that there are socio-cultural double standards involved in the assignment of gender roles. However, only a small, but increasing number of Caribbean women have openly challenged, denounce, and work to combat these double standards and inequities, and a growing number of them now self-identify as feminists or Womanists. The term, feminist, although it still remains taboo, is actually being embraced by more Caribbean women. Within the Caribbean Diaspora, feminist is still viewed as an inflammatory, divisive, and foreign bad word. Yet, a number of Caribbean women have looked beyond the many misconceptions of the term, and in looking at its most simplistic definition,which is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, realize that they are indeed a feminist. While some Caribbean feminists find it more feasible to carry out their work without openly wearing the label or using the word feminists; as described by the Barbadian blogger at The Mongoose Chronicles “If advancing the ideology without using the F word is going to improve women’s access to economic goods, then I’m prepared to use other words.”

Finally, there are Caribbean women (and men) who share the belief of gender equality, and thus have not yet realized that they are indeed a feminist. For those of you, who may be part of this group, I offer the following to prove that you may actually be a feminist:
If you believe that women deserve equal pay as men, especially when considering the many households that are headed by single mothers
If you believe that girls have a right to education, particularly post-secondary education, which is an opportunity that our mothers, grandmothers, and ancestors did not have just a few years ago
If you believe that women must be allowed to have a voice and representation in the political process
If you expect a man to help out, and actually pick up and push a broom across the floor at home, the same way he would use his legs to “do di sweep” in the middle of a dancehall jam
If you believe that you should be able to go to a fete, dance and enjoy yourself without molestation, and certainly without a random stranger believing that it is perfectly acceptable for him to rub his erect genitalia along your backside.
If the familiar and annoying pppsstt sound makes you vex as you attempt to walk along the government streets
If you are angered by the fact that men believe that  you are obligated to entertain their sexual advances, and even worst approach them when they yell out such comments as, “yea…di one in di red”.
If you believe in family planning and would appreciate being viewed as livestock, who are meant to be constantly breed
If you are proud of your liberated womanly body, which you happily adorn in the most colorful and festive carnival costumes
If you have a problem with pedophilia — the open courting of young girls by grown men   within the Caribbean culture
If you do not believe that traveling to a certain place, being seen casually drinking, or wearing a certain type of clothing can justify raping you.
If you are not willing to tolerate any form of intimate partner violence or abuse, despite the legacy of our foremothers who lived lives without many options, and thus felt compelled to endure the abuse.

Cherise Charleswell, MPH is a Bio-cultural anthropologist, self-proclaimed Womanist, author/writer, poet, public health researcher/practitioner, founder, host & producer of Wombanist Views radio, as well a contributing producer for Feminist Magazine 90.7FM KPFK broadcasting live in Los Angeles, and globally online. She is the Chair of the Women’s Issues department of the Hampton Institute, and is currently working on the book projects: “Walking in the Feminine: A Stepping Into Our Shoes Anthology” and “The Link Between Food, Culture, & Health Inequities in the African Diaspora”.

(Published with author’s permission, original source Redforgender)

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On football and identity: what does it mean to be a female Muslim football fan?



By Sanaa Qureshi

I’ve been an Everton fan for as long as I can remember. I watched us win the FA cup in 1995, survive relegation on goal difference at the end of the 1997 season and finish 4th in 2005. The current season has exceeded my expectations and I can’t imagine ever not feeling those butterflies in the pit of my stomach just before kick-off.

I’m used to having to prove my football credentials, not just because I’m a woman but also because I’m Pakistani. A culture that is widely perceived as oppressive and unforgiving for women, it always seems to come as a surprise to people that orientalist stereotypes may not actually be true. Not only was I encouraged to take an interest in watching football, I played the beautiful game throughout my childhood and teenage years, eventually giving up playing competitively for personal reasons.

Born and raised in Birmingham, I’m also used to being asked why I’m an Everton fan, with people bemusedly searching for any hint of a scouse accent. I’ve never lived in Liverpool and I have no physical connection to Everton. I’ve only ever been to Goodison Park once and have seen Everton on the road around eight or nine times. For a working class Pakistani Muslim woman, the lack of physical closeness and connection to Everton is arbitrary.

Football is widely considered a universal language, a useful tool to break down boundaries, something that brought me to the work of Football Beyond Borders. However, it wasn’t until a conversation I had recently that I really began to assess the role football has played in creating a safe imagined space for my own belonging and, more specifically, why my connection to Everton remains so deep.

For working class Pakistani immigrants, the search for a place to belong is a tireless one. ‘Fitting in’ is an ongoing conflict that doesn’t just end when you speak English like all the other white kids at school and let them bastardize your name until it’s unrecognizable. I was born here. I’ve only ever really known what living feels like here in England but I have had to navigate an environment where my community is seen as a threat to national security and unwilling to assimilate. The continuously touted failure of multiculturalism feels like I am being repeatedly told to try harder, be less brown, be less muslim and ultimately, go home.

There are a number of ways immigrants try to overcome feeling like outsiders. Moulding and hiding parts of their lives in order to create an identity that is ‘acceptable’. I’ve seen brown men twist and contort their accent as though that’s going to disguise the colour of their skin, aunties embarrassed to wear shalwaar kameez (traditional Pakistani clothes) in public, kids that refuse kebabs for their lunch – the constant fear that people will remember the hyphen after the British in their identity.

Until recently, I felt I had negotiated the complexities of being British-Pakistani and Muslim without shrinking and apologising. A result of the struggles of the generation that came before, I had been taught to wear my brownness and muslimness with pride (we can talk about how problematic ‘pride’ as a facet of identity is another day). It was only when questioned about my relationship to Everton that I began to take apart what exactly football means to me in practice. I have been using football as a tool of temporary assimilation and acceptance. I’ve sat at awkward dinner parties with people whose realities will never come close to my own and have switched the conversation to football because I’m almost certain there will be some common ground. In uneasy situations, I have asked potentially hostile white men whether they think Baines is the best left-back in Britain or if Defoe really is capable of leading the line for England. I have drawn attention to one part of myself in order to deflect from the other – being a Pakistani woman.

For me, it’s uncomfortable to have to come to terms with my own complicity in creating and perpetuating a respectable or safe identity, even if it is to survive in a sea of whiteness and mythical Britishness. Despite this unsettling realisation, football remains more than just a tool for navigating disconnect in social situations and is an important part of my identity. It has been a useful avenue to better explore and understand values that are important to me in practice, none more so than through being an Everton fan.

Although I remember the reigns of Joe Royle and Walter Smith, the tenure of David Moyes during my formative years was perhaps the most instrumental in cementing my personal connection with Everton. He embodied the intense work ethic and determination that became a mainstay for the current squad – the ability to achieve more as the sum of its parts. He fostered unity and brotherhood, each player working hard for the others. These themes are mirrored in the narrative of working class immigrants who use the collective power of a community to navigate unfamiliar systems and survive the expectations of two continents, cultures and identities. The idea of a loyal, tight-knit group of people without an embarrassment of riches scraping together to build something resonated strongly with my own realities.

Nevertheless, despite my deepening connection to Moyes’ Everton, this could only manifest itself in a subscription to Sky Sports and occasionally buying some kit. Even if I had lived in Liverpool, it’s unlikely I would have attended more than a handful of games. For a Muslim woman of colour, finding safe spaces is a continuous and necessary activity but as a football fan, this means avoiding stadiums full of intoxicated white men involved in the kind of tribalism that won’t get you bombed. I’ve been in stadiums alongside Everton fans, the kind of people I shared highs and lows with every weekend, and overheard racial slurs, misogynistic insults, casual banter about the threat of muslims and immigrants destroying the country they hold so dear. What is this imagined connection worth if my existence is so violently dismissed? What does the temporary and arguably superficial bonding of backing the same team actually amount to?

These are not the types of incidents that make the back pages and evoke public outrage but they certainly alienate people that identify as football fans from supporting their team in the same way as others. I happily watch football at home because no atmosphere will ever be good enough for me to give up my safe space. It’s also important to note that these attitudes are also not just contained to stadiums and football pubs; these fans exist in the real world too, opening their newspapers to find their thoughts echoed by wider society.

While I am far too invested in the beautiful game to be driven away, it is becoming increasingly important for me to continuously interrogate my relationship with football and Everton within the constructs of white supremacy and patriarchy.

(Article republished with author’s permission.Source:

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