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Pre-2008 Posts

To My White Sisters Serving the Longest Revolution

Radical Women Symbol, Seattle, Washington

The following quote, from Germaine Greer, has been posted on the discussion boards at Women's Space for some time now:

"The second wave of feminism, rather than having crashed onto the shore, is still far out to sea, slowly and inexorably gathering momentum. None of us who are alive today will witness more than the first rumbles of the coming social upheaval. Middle-class western women have the privilege of serving the longest revolution, not of directing it. The ideological battles that feminists are engaged in are necessary, but they are preliminary to the emergence of female power, which will not flow decorously out from the universities or from the consumerist women's press. Female power will rush upon us in the persons of women who have nothing to lose, having lost everything already. It could surge up in China where so many women divorced for bearing girl children are living and working together, or in Thailand, where prostitution and AIDS are destroying a generation, in Iran or anywhere else where women are on a collision course with Islamic fundamentalism, or anywhere the famished laborer sees luxury foods for the western market grown on the land which used to provide for her and her children. And the women of the rich world had better hope that when female energy ignites they do not find themselves on the wrong side."

As I read the strikingly insightful, incredibly powerful writings of feminist women of color from all over the world — their books, essays, articles, blogs — I am repeatedly reminded of this quote.  I think female power has ignited and is igniting throughout the world, amongst women of color, in particular.  If, as white feminists, we can keep it in the forefront of our minds that all we did was set some of the wheels of the women's revolution in motion, if we can view our movement as the "longest revolution" and ourselves as its servants, rather than as its leaders, then we will not be on the wrong side in the movement's next phase.  What I see in white American feminism, including radical feminism, troubles me.  I want us to fully participate in and serve — and enjoy — the movement as it grows and changes and fully emerges throughout the world.  In my old world when a movement or work had lost its power, lost its way, gone to seed, we'd say, "write 'Ichabod' over it,", "Ichabod" being a Hebrew name meaning literally, "the glory has departed."  I don't want "Ichabod" to ever be written over what remains of white Western feminism, just because we didn't correctly understand it, or our place in it, or what this next phase will require of us.

In sisterhood and solidarity,




One thought on “To My White Sisters Serving the Longest Revolution

  1. I read that quote and think: I wish…if only. But then I think is it really going to happen like this ? Look around the world and you see pockets of women’s resistance and solidarity, but where is the larger scale impact ? And if you look through history for steps forward in women’s freedoms what you tend to find is educated, not so impoverished women who are in situation where they have enough power to start to leverage for change – and that change is only taken on board if the ruling male elite are convinced of the benefits (usually economic) to them. Bit more depressing, but nearer to reality than GGs vision I reckon.

    Posted by anon99 | May 1, 2006, 8:49 am

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