October 15th, 2017
Can Separatism Strengthen the Feminism Movement?
The word and concept of separatism has garnered quite a bit of undeserved hate in the past half-millennium. Maybe it has to do with the idea of separation, which many people outright believe to be “bad,” or maybe it has to do with the fact that some of the bad guys in the Star Wars movies were known as the Separatists. I myself had no idea what that even meant when I was first watching the movies as a kid--even though the word separate is in it--and even to this day it’s hard for me to say the word, ‘separatism’, without remembering that it’s “bad.” Only after taking a hard look at the relationship between separatism and intersectionality, have I come to a much different conclusion of my own opinion on the viability of separatism within the fight against oppressive institutes in our society. Separatism of issues within feminism can lead to a much stronger movement because looking at each institution of oppression separately gives way for much more focused submovements. Focusing in on every single subsection of oppression can cause an argument to become very unfocused when claims become more and more broad in an attempt to cover all bases. This has been the motivation for separation in the past.
If I were to imagine separatism as an object, I would see it as a tightrope. A balancing act between racism and acceptance being performed by a personified separatism and intersectionality, each on opposite sides of the tightrope. In order for either performers to reach the other side safely, a great deal of cooperation in the middle of the rope is going to be required. Such is the case in the real world that lacks personified versions of words walking around. Men and women of all racial and economic backgrounds can work together to solve oppressive issues in society, but that does not mean that working a little on their own is a bad thing. A prime example of a separatist activist group without malicious intent is the Combahee River Collective, a black lesbian feminist organization. The CRC’s reason for forming at all was the lack of support within the mainstream feminist movement of the time, which, although advocating for all women, failed to equally address issues that only women of color can relate to. Of course, this is before the emergence of the concept of intersectionality which didn’t come to fruition until 1989, so it makes sense why the much more powerful feminist movement wasn’t nearly as concerned with such specific issues even though they are just as important as all others facing women. In “The Combahee River Collective Statement,” released in 1977, the CRC makes quite a few very important comments that reveal what they actually believe; a fair bit of their reasonings actually lining up with some aspects of the intersectionality we know today. They state that they, “...have in many ways gone beyond white women’s...