Welcome to issue 4 of the African Feminist Standpoint: Concerning Violence
A bit of history
During #16daysofactivism2020, the Coalition of African Lesbians ran a campaign titled In Plain Sight: Discussing Violence, Power and Wellbeing. The Campaign endeavoured to make feminist contributions and expansions to the discourse on violence; support and participate in existing and emerging online communities of activists that can enrich the public discourse on VAWG, Well-being and, Advocacy; and center the voices of (queer) feminist activists, WHRDs, academics, artists, and organisers in the Violence Against Women and Girls narrative. We were inspired by feminists, activists and women human rights defenders who continued, in the face of a global pandemic, to agitate, to name and to challenge systemic and institutional oppression. Using the global context of the covid 19 pandemic they further illuminated feminist analyses of power, highlighting the covid 19 pandemic as yet another symptom of capitalist oppression, and not the random health crisis that the rest of the world would have us believe. Feminists, again, called us to locate and speak to violence, even as it hides in plain sight. This issue of the AFS was born of the need to continue to create, make space for and house these conversations.
And so what?
In issue #3 of the AFS we spoke about wellbeing – we wanted to decipher and to understand for ourselves as Black people, women, queers, gay – what do we mean when we say we are unwell? And what and who do we need to get well? Issue 3 covered topics from African Spirituality to community; to mental health and forgiveness. Perhaps the most poignant thing to come out of issue #3 was understanding and naming quite clearly and eloquently that wellbeing is not something that should solely be placed on individuals to achieve because it is not through individual circumstances that wellbeing is destroyed or unreachable.
Enter issue 4! If issue #3 of the AFS was to help us to understand what wellbeing is, issue #4 is a direct study of the ideas, values and institutions that make us unable to be well – and to see and name quite clearly how institutions of oppression are designed to keep us from freedom, autonomy and the feminist futures we dream of.
Here is a little bit of what we have in store for you in this issue.
‘The panopticon is a mental structure and at the centre [is] a guard made of generations of cis-gender heteronormative moral prescriptions’
Shinta Jennifer Ayebazibwe and Ndaundika Shefeni walk us through the violence that is meted out in order to uphold what they have come to understand as the fallacy of gender. Shefeni invites us to think about gender, and the policing of such, as a panopticon: “Structurally, it was a ring-shaped building that held prison cells along its entire width and had a singular tower in the centre. In the tower, a guard would be able to sit and see every inmate in the prison, but they would not be able to see him… In our case, the panopticon is a mental structure. An annular building which represents the mind where our consciousness, identity and self-awareness lies and the tower at the centre, holding a guard made up of generations of the cis-gender heteronormative moral prescriptions”
‘Our bodies, minds and spirits are the building blocks of industry and communities which disconnect us from ourselves’
It’s not often that one hears the workplace, or even the idea of work, mentioned in the discourse of GBV. Matala Matala and Thato Angela Chuma use the workplace to name the ways in which capitalism and the values of entrepreneurship and professionalism disproportionately subject women to burnout, bullying and unfair labour practice.
‘Sometimes, I think that love is pain too, but you haven’t broken the skin yet so I must only kind of love you’
Aïda Kheireddine and Kare explore ideas of love and the violence women are subjected to when they uphold heteronormative ideals of a woman’s role in a romantic relationship and the violence they are subjected to when they rebel against this role.
‘The work of imagination is incomplete without artists…the group of people who particularly specialise in imagination’
In the essay Concerning Violence, with which this issue shares its name, Franz Fanon speaks to the plight and struggle of the colonized as one that exists beyond seeking to be equal to the colonizer. The struggle for decolonization is not one which seeks for the colonized, the marginalized and the dehumanized to seek assimilation, humanity and freedom within the confines of the western world – these ideals cannot exist there. Decolonization, freedom and autonomy can only exist in the world that we create from ourselves, for ourselves, necessarily outside of the west and capitalist, heteronotmative and anti-Black values and institutions.
Varyanne Sika speaks to these sentiments when she tells us that imagining and then building a future where women and gender non-conforming people are free from violence necessitates that we tell narratives beyond one’s of violence. “Imagination is however stifled when we keep seeing more of the same narratives that portray African women solely in frameworks where they’re suffering the consequences of living in patriarchal oppressive society. Exploring the different frameworks of articulating the full dimensions of African women, is an important active rejection of oppression which should be included in our activist toolboxes”
‘Can you hear the sound of your heart trampling through your body? Reminding us to remember’
We also have some wonderful offerings of poetry, photoessays and podcasts:
Read these and other wonderful contributions in this issue of The African Feminist Standpoint