A structural inequality to the detriment of women

By Audrey SomnardMike ZenariLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

The French political scientist Françoise Vergès was in Luxembourg last Saturday to give a conference and explain what she means by decolonial feminism. According to her, there is a clear divide with liberal feminism, which has not taken sufficient account of the multiplicity of struggles for racialised and exploited women. A conversation is needed to move forward together in a common struggle.

Françoise Vergès has a French passport and now lives in Paris. But it is not the metropolis that she holds in her heart. The daughter of communist militants from the island of Reunion, it was there that the young Françoise grew up and experienced the consequences of colonisation, with, for example, a school modelled on the curricula of metropolitan France, without taking into account the specificities of her island. "We learned about the extinct volcanoes of Auvergne and not a word about the Piton de la Fournaise in Reunion Island, which is still active", she explains. She gained her political awareness during her studies in Algeria, then in the United States and the United Kingdom, where she continued her studies and taught. A few days ago, she was in Luxembourg, invited by the association Lëtz Rise Up, to explain what she means by decolonial feminism.

Lëtzebuerger Journal: What do you mean by decolonial feminism and why should it be distinguished?

Françoise Vergès: The so-called liberal feminism, which we think is uniform but is in fact predominantly white, is different from other forms of feminism. We ended up realising that we did not share the same analyses, the same struggles, the same objectives and, above all, the same experiences. Today we have new generations of feminists, with Afro-feminists, Muslim women who were not present in the 1970s, who are questioning being Muslim and feminist. There is once again a ferment that seems much more accentuated, simply because there are more young women who are involved, through social networks where debates are perhaps more fragmented. The real distinction is in practice. These feminists criticise liberal feminism for thinking that all women are the same, that there is a universal condition for women, whereas this is not the case, the struggles are not the same. Representation in politics, for example, is already present in the countries of the South, where feminists focus more on social conflicts.

It is a fact that women are dominated throughout the world. They are paid less and the pandemic has accentuated this, especially in the low-paid sectors where women are over-represented. But once you've made that point, there's a big difference. And the major difference is that white universalist feminism does not put all other women on an equal footing. They continue to feel superior when they need to make their own history, including how they have benefited, even indirectly, from colonialism. The victories were at the expense of the condition of women in the South. As long as there is no such recognition, the work will not be done.

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