Charlie Hebdo, #Blacklivesmatter and Feminism: A Lesson in Activism
On January 11th, 2015, the world witnessed a global protest to the violent attacks against a satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 staff members were killed. Millions gathered in Paris, France peacefully demonstrating the importance of freedom of expression. The protests in Paris are a wonderful example of how people across the world can come together and stand against the ugly spot of oppression. By showing up in peaceful numbers, people demonstrate to oppressors the importance of their inherent rights.
Photo via Kunirosawa
Well before the Hebdo incident America was experiencing its own protests for a neglected and oppressed community. #Blacklivesmatter called attention to the almost militaristic force of our police, particularly towards the black community. It was heard not only in America, but around the world. People in London and across the globe laid down with #Icantbreathe signs showing their support for victims of unnecessary police brutality.
What’s more astounding are the quiet voices behind the movement, many of them women. In These Times featured an article in which it is mentioned
‘black lives matter’ so quickly get’s mentally translated as ‘black men matter.’
Even within the fight for racism we see a disparity in the representation of women. Black women also suffer at the hands of mislead police violence, yet their cases are unreported. Despite the lack of credit, women have helped bring the movement forward peacefully.
The tragedies at Charlie Hebdo and the force of the #Blacklivesmatter movement remind us that oppression comes in all forms, but ultimately it is the same whether oppressing freedom of expression, freedom to justice or freedom for women. But what we as a global community choose to do to overcome such atrocities will survive, in spite of continued violence and hatred.
So, with protests about civil rights echoing across the globe, why don’t we hear and/or see more directly related to feminism? Three hundred Nigerian school girls went missing and the majority of the response was seen on social networks, as #Bringbackourgirls, in which people could “share” their support and then forget about it. There were no enormous city protests. The protesting and demands were left behind with Nigerians. The lack of global attention is not only an example of racism, but also an example of ignoring feminism. Did people give less attention to the event because they were African and girls? How is it any less important than the Hebdo event?
Women in India, known as the Pink Vigilantes, are pushing back against the grotesque rape culture that has been plaguing the country, yet their voices also go largely unheard. There are no world leaders standing behind these brave women. Is it because, unlike #Blacklivesmatter and the Hebdo massacre, the feminism movement is too disconnected and spread across the globe? Is it because of how feminism is defined? Often feminism is related to humanism, which adds to people’s confusion. Or perhaps feminist issue is more complex than the Hebdo and #Blacklivesmatter movements? And what about the women who claim they are not feminists? Is it because no “brand” of feminism appeals to their needs? Or is it because the word ‘feminism’ is surrounded by slander?
What can the feminist movement learn from the two major protests above? That it has to be local, local, local.
We can’t all fly around the world to every protest and support every movement. But we can put on demonstrations and events in our areas to show our support of global issues. There are a growing number of events, including where I live in the Twin Cities, to call attention to women’s rights. Perhaps one of the most well-known is the annual Slut Walk, which has taken place in major cities such as Toronto, Buenos Aires, Minneapolis, and many others. The title itself is satirical in that we often use “slut” to refer to women who dress “inappropriately” and end up in violent situations. The event calls attention to this shaming game to demonstrate support for the many victims and the rights every woman should have regardless of how she is dressed.
If you missed the walk, you still have time to catch V-Day which is a popular event that includes the play, “Vagina Monologues” that, for sixteen years, has been helping many women worldwide take control of their bodies. It should be noted, however, that The Mary Sue featured an article in which some groups are moving away from the main monologues in order to be more inclusive. One upcoming event near me in Minneapolis is hosted by Women’s Empowerment at WORC (Worldwide Orphanage Relief Coalition) to bring attention to underprivileged women in the workforce.
If you know of supportive events for women in your area, feel free to share. By starting local and spreading the word, we can gain a better foothold in showing the world what feminism really means.
Editor’s Note: Lindsay Nelson also wrote a piece on Yoga as a tool for Advocacy
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