Editor's Note: The following excerpt was taken from the Resolution for the African Internationalist Conference on African women. This section destroys the notion of women as a general term, which is often used to classify all women's struggles into one struggle. Sister, Yejide plainly lays out the basis of why the Struggle for African women cannot be one that is tied to the idea that all women are the same. She explains that there is a difference in the experiences of women of the oppressor nation and women of the oppressed nation which determine how African women must struggle to free themselves from exploitation and oppression.
Join the African Internationalist Women's Conference – Washington, D.C., March 21-22, 2015
The African People’s Socialist Party calls on Africans all over the world to attend the African Internationalist Conferences on African Women in Washington, DC (March 21-22) and London, England (March 28-29).
These conferences are being held during a month designated as Women’s History Month, which serves to highlight the contributions of women to events in history. All over the world conversations on the forward progression of women will take place. However, most of these discussions will happen without recognizing how imperialism and colonial domination have distorted the role of women and impacted the progress of African and other oppressed people, who have historically borne the brunt of attacks by these systems of oppression.
There Is No Such Thing As Women “In General”
There is an ideological struggle being waged that has sought to single out African women’s oppression as a gender issue rather than a colonial one. We recognize that, no matter how vile they may be, the contradictions that occur between men and women within the oppressed African nation can be “resolved through education and persuasion, unlike the contradictions between African women and our whole nation and imperialist white power, which can only be resolved by the defeat of imperialism and the total emancipation of our whole people,” as stated in Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s political report to the 5th Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party.
We also recognize that there is no such thing as women “in general.” There is a difference between the women of the oppressor nation and women of the oppressed nation. The former often reconciles differences with the men of their nation as a way to further exploit the women and men of the oppressed nation. In many cases oppressor nation women use the contradictions present in the oppressed nation to deepen the colonial agenda by dividing the African nation up along gender and class lines.
One strategy to do this is Feminism.
Much of feminist theory can be linked to Johann Jakob Bachofen’s work, Mother Right, which compiles documented examples of the role of women in the ancient world. In it, Bachofen attempts to provide evidence of how all society transitioned from matrilineal to patrilineal system of inheritance through religious edicts, political declarations and societal reconstruction, which essentially rendered women the property of men as a means to secure inheritance rights, which previously could only be determined through the mother.
However, Cheik Anta Diop, examining the work of Bachofen in The Cultural Unity of Black Africa, determines that there is no definable evidence which supports the hypothesis of matriarchy as a phenomenon in Europe. In fact, Diop separates the world into two cradles of civilizations – The Northern Cradle (patriarchal) and the Southern Cradle (matriarchal)- and provides evidence that refutes the basis of Bachofen’s thesis that sexual promiscuity, which led to uncertainty about paternity, is what rendered a society matrilineal.
Diop determined that the woman who enjoyed a sedentary life typical of the Southern cradle “owes her social rank and her esteem exclusively to the structure of the society which allows her to play a leading economic role”, not promiscuity.
This conclusion made by Diop helps us to understand what was taken away from African people at the time when Europeans began their encroachment on the Continent.
When Europeans began implementing colonial rule over Africa, African women had rights to land, and inheritance was determined through the mother. It was colonial policies that reshaped African social norms, as explained in W.O. Maloba’s book African Women in Revolution when he states that “unlike the precolonial period, where ‘in many parts of Africa, women who farmed had rights over land,’ under colonialism the imposition of private ownership of land left most women without their ‘customary right’ to land.”
In the Americas, African people had been held as slaves for over 200 years and had no right to land, money, property or our own bodies. We could be bought and sold at a moment's whim and it was white women along with white men who enjoyed the fruits of our free labor.
As white women grappled with gaining rights in white society, they still had African women in their kitchens and as wet nurses for their babies. Their call for a women’s liberation really meant the liberation of white women on the pedestal of the oppression of the entire African nation.
This is the foundation for modern day feminism which focuses on patriarchy as the main opposition to white women’s liberation. The liberation of African women and of the entire African nation as a whole cannot be summed up in the same way. Ours has always been a struggle against colonial domination. Besides having the same biological functions as white women, African women share hardly any similarities in the struggle to be free of oppression.
However, certain sectors of our population have taken feminism on as their own. Black feminism developed as a way to align the white bourgeoisie with the black petty bourgeoisie. It is essentially an integrationist solution that allows the black petty bourgeoisie access to resources previously inaccessible to them. When black feminists conclude that patriarchy is the main contradiction for African women, they liquidate the role that the entire white nation has had in our oppression.
Within black feminism, conversations about oppression are often led by bourgeois intellectuals who take the discussion out of the realm of poor and working class women. In fact, the activism of black feminism is centered around confirming the value of African women within a capitalist society, instead of destroying the system of exploitation. And while black feminism claims to understand the effects of imperialism and colonialism on African women, patriarchy is still viewed as the ultimate contradiction that African women need to struggle against. This is in direct opposition to the African Internationalist perspective which believes that in order for women to be liberated we must be full participants in the revolutionary struggle against colonialism and imperialism. In order for African women to be full participants, the entire African nation must work together to overturn the system that oppresses us – imperialism.
What We Must Do
All of what’s been said provides the ideological basis for this conference. It is the duty of all those who love African freedom to champion this attempt to bring African women into political life. We cannot have liberation for our people with half our nation obscured in mundane tasks that prevent us from participating in our own liberation. We have to assess the conditions that keep women from entering the revolutionary struggle, problems such as childcare, economics, mass incarceration, extrajudicial killings and other social and political elements that result in African women carrying the brunt of the responsibility for sustaining the African family at the same time that white power beastializes us.
This conference will attempt to gather African women and men from all over with the intent purpose of establishing the African National Women’s Organization. We will have forums that focus on the issues of the poor and oppressed African woman and will provide avenues for these women to join the African liberation struggle.
Join with us, register for the conferences and give your financial support. Contact us anytime by emailing email@example.com or call U.S. 202.642.4672 and in Europe 07723 067 486.
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