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Writing a feminist manifesto

posters of feminists i rebels
Sep 15 2021

This summer, in addition to conducting their own gender research, our Susan Heck Summer Interns participated in a weekly class called Gender 101, led by Clayman Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Lin Li. As one of their exercises in class earlier in the summer, the participants discussed some well-known feminist/queer manifestos. In addition, each intern wrote a feminist/queer manifesto in which they responded to a gender and/or sexuality related issue of concern to them. We were really impressed and touched by their manifestos and asked to share them. Please enjoy the selections below. 

On ‘Do not come’ and family separations 

by Gina Sanchez
 
In the wake of the 2020 election, President-elect Joseph Biden promised a reversal of Trump-era immigration policies. Among the most compelling was an end to family separations. And yet, this administration has failed in its objectives in favor of a preservation of status quo sentiment. Today, many children and families are still separated. Three weeks ago, Vice President Kamala Harris proclaimed in response to a surge in migration from Guatemala, “Do not come.” Such a response negates the immediate necessity for a feminist framework on the issue of migration. 
 
 First, the process of familial separation has intergenerational effects on group preservation and individual well-being. By radically altering individual pre-existing family units, men’s and women’s autonomy are threatened by the patriarchal structures of border patrol. 
Second, the militarization of the border has unique and adverse effects on migrant women. Subject to the threat of sexual violence and exploitation, and limited to non-existent access to legal services, migration across borders proves to be perilous. 

Increased militarization in response to gang violence has increased women’s vulnerability and sexual assault cases from all angles. U.S. anti-immigrant sentiment negates these compelling reasons for asylum and migration.  

Third, current U.S. positions negate past involvement in countries such as Guatemala operating under colonialist, hegemonic, masculine, capitalist tendencies which further destabilized pre-existing market economies. U.S. immigration policies, historically and currently, are characterized by preserving U.S. domestic and foreign interests; civilian men and women have suffered greatly as a result of such actions.
Fourth, women are among the greatest sufferers of gang violence and armed forces’ response to the Narco-state. Increased militarization in response to gang violence has increased women’s vulnerability and sexual assault cases from all angles. U.S. anti-immigrant sentiment negates these compelling reasons for asylum and migration.  
Fifth, gender nonconforming individuals are subject to similar violence in traditional patriarchal societies that prioritize the preservation of gender norms. Those seeking asylum ought not be turned away by a society such as the U.S. that is a supposed champion of LGBTQIA+ rights. 
Anti-immigrant sentiment and historical and current U.S. policy must adopt a feminist lens for the prevention of further violence, the prevention of further regress, and the prevention of further death.

Refuse to grow up!

by Mikah Sanchez
 
What does it mean to grow up? 
 
I often think about the ways that we are taught to kill our children. We extinguish the vibrancy of the child’s imagination and convince them and ourselves that there is limited space in our world, and that they must shrink themselves to fit in it. We revoke their natural freedom and wholeness, replacing it with fear and shame. 
 

Children enter this world as truth. They enter willing to give love, be loved, they enter simultaneously as our ancestors and projections of who we can be. 

A child dies when we tell them what their name is.
When we tell them what clothes they can’t wear.
When we don’t answer their questions.
When we don’t listen to their needs.
When we don't let them define their own successes.
A child dies when we tell them who they are. 
 
We are in a constant process of colonizing the child’s mind. 
 
We corrupt the wholeness of the child in the same way that colonizers invade our lands. In attempts to eradicate our ways of life, colonizers shame and violate our truths, but the child is proof of resilience. Children enter this world as truth. They enter willing to give love, be loved, they enter simultaneously as our ancestors and projections of who we can be. 
 
We refuse to consider the possibility that children can be our teachers too, because often we are too loud to listen. We violate their trust and teach them fear and shame. They learn to fear those of different races and ethnicities, to be ashamed of their own sexuality and bodies, to fear healing. We force children to aspire to an individual existence instead of a collective one, where they have no choice but to reproduce the same harm done to them. 
 
I like to imagine a future where the minds and souls of children are nurtured instead of erased. Where growing up doesn’t exist. Where the lens through which we navigate life is vibrant and not colored by shame and fear. In this world, we are taught to celebrate our differences instead of pretending that they do not exist because “it is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” 
 
Let kids color pictures of apples purple. 
Let kids abandon gender.
Let kids be whatever they want for Halloween.
Let kids choose their own names. 
Let kids ask questions and let us answer them honestly. 
Let them know about the world that they belong to so that they can create the realities that they want to be a part of.
 

Soft violence: Manifesto for the “modern” woman

by Enshia Li

You were born without fear. You were born into the 21st Century, perhaps even later, into stable conditions, into a world where there are female leaders of countries and corporations. You were born into a world where equality has been achieved, where there exists no more division between the traditional sexes. 

The world has a number of ways of exerting soft violence on you, violence that builds in the back of your mind and eats away at your sanity, constraining you with choices you were made to believe you had freely chosen.

Do not be fooled. The world has a number of ways of exerting soft violence on you, violence that builds in the back of your mind and eats away at your sanity, constraining you with choices you were made to believe you had freely chosen. Under the guise of love, they fool you into marriage, into childrearing. Under the guise of romance, they fool you into sacrificing your body, into demeaning yourself, into the crudest forms of self-objectification.

In this new age, love is the cruelest exertion of violence. The way they had always kept you caged was making you desire your own oppression.

Manifestos, they will say, have gone out of fashion. They are too “political”; they will say they restrict your freedom through polemic.

But sometimes polemic is necessary, to act as a countervailing force against the norms that rope you into making choices that bind you for the rest of your life.

To guard against future despair, listen to what we have to say:

First, never cut yourself off from the rest of society. 

Even if motherhood is a choice, even if foregoing your career is momentarily interpreted to be an exercise of your personal freedom, unfortunately we live in a world not devoid of media influence. We are made to believe having children is the natural pathway for individuals to pursue, even if that comes at the expense of one’s career and ability to socialize. Families retreat into the suburbs, and the four walls of the suburban home serve as the barrier between the nuclear family and the rest of the world. Left to its own devices, without the ability to form large networks of support, the nuclear family often turns in on itself. The reason is simple: it is structurally impossible for you to find every social fulfillment in a confined space of 3 other people.

Second, monogamy is not a given.

Even in 2021, Constance Chatterly would still be a scandal—but why? The natural desires of human beings may very well be circumvented by the structures of monogamy society reinforces, and such structures are always disproportionately applied. Husbands may cheat, and be forgiven. Wives stay home to look after the children. When her desires arise, she is shamed. Why have we taken it for granted that one other person must satisfy us sexually, emotionally, and romantically for the rest of our lives?

Third, even if you think you are straight, you may be queer.

Not only does internalized homophobia plague society writ large, its effects are felt particularly on women, albeit in more covert ways: The female body is denigrated and attacked, and always made to be a problem, such that finding attraction even in yourself becomes difficult. The female friendship knows no bounds and never breaches the barrier of romance. In short, many discover they are queer later in their lives—this fact is often used to denigrate their experiences—but you know in your heart who you are.

 

Photo by Red Dot on Unsplash

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