There should not be a need to reiterate the importance of women's rights and self-determination to those of us who consider ourselves progressives. When actual incidents of sexual harassment and both blatant and subtle sexism occur close to home, we must have a principled response. It is a contradiction for us to ignore the existence of sexism in the movement, while we continue to work on "women's issues" in our organizations (e.g. Workers' rights are women's rights! Immigrant rights are women's rights!).
In light of this, we have recently been both saddened and angered by our knowledge of sexual harassment incidents in "progressive" organizations working for social change. We also find disturbing the general community response around these incidents - which has been minimal at most. Actions that may have been taken have not been acknowledged openly. Rather than pointing fingers at particular organizations, we would like to emphasize the need to address the issue of overall sexism in the movement for social justice and change.
Sexual harassment is a violent act that denies women their freedom, respect and dignity. It is an expression of power, not of affection. Keeping incidents of sexual harassment within organizations hidden is unprincipled and objectionable. Whether or not organizations themselves take a stance against the incidents, by saying nothing openly, they allow for the actions to occur again. For the rest of us who hear about incidents but do nothing and say nothing, we also perpetuate the tolerance of sexism. We allow for sexist behavior and sexist attitudes to be continued. We cannot fight sexism if we cannot openly acknowledge its existence amongst ourselves. We should use our knowledge of incidents in the movement as a force for generating more discussions and solutions, not secrecy and denial. Sexual harassment is not something that should be whispered about after meetings. These incidents should be dealt with in an open and timely manner. Having a political consciousness does not make us immune to sexism, heterosexism, classism or racism. Smaller community organizations must be held accountable for their oppression of women, just as larger, more established organizations should be. We cannot hold different standards for sexism inside of our movement. Sexism is sexism wherever it occurs, and should be called out as such. If anything, because we consider ourselves progressives, we must be extra aware of our own contradictions. The movement for social change is not about winning a one-time, short-term victory against one person or organization. It is about building a community based on human rights and dignity. We cannot continue to ignore the interconnectedness of the oppressions we are fighting against.
Women's rights cannot be put on the back burner while we fight everything else. If the movement we are creating does not include women's liberation, then women do not have a reason to participate. The lack of any real, formal mechanism for dealing with incidents of sexual harassment allows us to excuse a perpetrator's behavior, and worse, leaves the women who have experienced sexual harassment and sexism to deal with the experience on their own. Addressing sexual harassment is the responsibility of the whole community, not only the women who face it. Often, women's dedication to an organization and to the entire movement is questioned and they are put "on trial" rather than the perpetrator of the incident. If we alienate, isolate and fail to support people already active in the movement, we show a weak commitment to social change to the rest of the community. And we show a movement filled with hypocrisy. Weak and uncommitted responses against sexist behavior will not only make it difficult to attract women to our organizations in the short run, it will hurt the movement in the long run. As this is an issue relevant to more than a few organizations, it is important that progressive people and organizations define formal processes and policies, and develop mechanisms where we can hold ourselves accountable to the values we are fighting for. By doing this, organizations can have a timely response that allows women to be supported and gives a message to the entire community that there is no room in our movement for sexism. We can also begin to take steps for a proactive response against sexism versus a reactive one after incidents have occurred.
In order to begin talking about sexism in the movement in an open and honest manner and to continue struggling for women's liberation and justice, we demand that the progressive community adhere to certain principles in our organizations, in our work and in our lives:
Initiated by: Asians and Pacific Islanders for Community Empowerment (API FORCE), Bay Area, California. Endorsed by: Asian Americans United (AAU),Philadelphia, Pennsylvania * Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA),Oakland and San Jose, California * Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) San Jose Chapter, San Jose, California * API Collective To Initiate Opportunities Now (ACTION), Los Angeles, California * Asian Women's Shelter, San Francisco, California * Asians and Pacific Islanders for Reproductive Health, Los Angeles and Oakland, California * Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV), New York, New York * Kilusan ng Progesibong Kabataan (KPK), Los Angeles, California * Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NCCIR), San Francisco, California * People's Community Organization for Reform and Empowerment (PEOPLE'S CORE), Los Angeles,California * Pilipino Worker's Center, Los Angeles, California * Teatro Ng Tanan (TNT), San Francisco, California * Women of Color Resource Center, Berkeley, California * Women's Organization Reaching Koreans (WORK), Los Angeles, California
Buddhahead Productions at email@example.com
Copyright © 2002 Buddhahead Productions