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Thoughts on Feminism for the 99% talk

It would be a challenge to summarize the ‌Feminism for the 99% and the New Feminist Wave conference (link to video) organized at the New School on February 5th, 2019—in a few paragraphs. Topics of numerous and various kinds were mentioned and discussed during the talks, including forms of oppression towards women that exist in Latin America and all over the world along with more general organizational challenges that feminist movements come to face including identity politics, hegemony of neoliberal capitalism and the rise of far-right politics in the past couple years.

But on a more abstract level, the 4 hour conference made a few points quite apparent and clear. If one wants to find the origin from where the revolutionary subject can arise, one should look at the masses who experience exploitation and repression as an inherent part of the production, accumulation and most importantly, the reproduction of capital. If the first part of the conference led by Ximena Bustamante, Julia Cámara, Luci Cavallero and Mayra Cotta De Souza, outlined how this revolutionary subject is arising and struggling in Latin America, then the second part of the conference led by Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser and Barbara Smith, outlined this subject as woman and queer. Indeed, if one looks at US, one must look concretely at movements that gain the most amount of traction and mobilization. These unfortunately do not consist of worker strikes, occupation of government buildings and other types of mass mobilizations that surround working class issues that we frequently dream to see. While the issues that actually gain mobilizing traction—at unprecedented scales and numbers even—concern gender equality, abortion rights, sexual harassment and other issues. If previously, gender issues tailed movements surrounding worker struggles and were therefore deemed only derivative and secondary to them, today we might be seeing a reversal: where gender issues take the center stage in opening the space for establishing other revolutionary struggles and other class issues. Leaders seeking to carry out revolutionary politics and move the wheel of history should therefore not be blind to this concrete fact. One should therefore not ignore this if one seriously considers leading the masses and liberate from from capital and explotation.

If the lack of revolutionary politics in US is analogous to a Saharian desert and the advent of far-right and neoliberal ideologies is analogous to looming droughts and sand storms, then struggles concerning women and gender issues might be the only thing that resembles an oasis in our present historical conjuncture. However, one should be careful not to confuse a real oasis with an apparition of an oasis–and this was precisely the theme of the presentation on the book Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto which clarified a few points regarding the questions that feminist movements must take up while avoiding reactionary tendencies that undermine these very movements. A point worth the mention concerned the importance of not separating class issues with gender issues; the derivative would otherwise be a feminist movement ‘for the 1%’ such as the renown ‘CEO feminism’ that need not further explanation beyond the T-shirt phrase: “My Favorite Position? CEO”. Other points concerned not turning gender issues into an individualist demands that cause whole movements to dissolve the very moment they encounter partial satisfaction of these very demands or are met with compromises with a reactionary character. Along with many other points, the most important emphasis was on expanding the feminist struggle and forming coalitions and solidarity with the struggles that working people, immigrants, religious minorities and victims of imperialism all over the planet live through on a perpetual basis: a feminism for the 99% entails a grander vision that entails a liberation of humanity from all forms of oppression.