High anxiety is one of my biggest individual struggles as an entrepreneur and a writer. I can explain most of these feelings away and remind myself that anxiety is something created from my own mind. I remind myself that what I’m creating is worthwhile. I remind myself of the hard work that I’ve put into my business as a 22-year-old self-sufficient entrepreneur. But no matter how much I remind myself of what I know to be true, anxiety can still creep in. It’s the fear that you’ll never be “successful”. It’s the fear that you’ll never be “recognized”. It’s the fear that whatever you’re building will crumble to the ground if you look away even for a moment. Anxiety is a common motif amongst young black creatives — especially young black women. I see brilliant women every day questioning their worth constantly.
Anxiety is a common motif amongst young black creatives — especially young black women. I see brilliant women every day questioning their worth constantly. I’m not immune to this. This week, I wanted to write about reassurance and how to remind yourself that you don’t need the world to validate you, especially when it’s slated to invalidate you at every turn and diminish your accomplishments.
When asked to define feminist, it can be tricky to figure out what exactly I’m supposed to say. After all, the word feminist has different meanings depending on your audience. Famous black American author bell hooks offers a definition for feminism that I think applies wonderfully in a Caribbean context and will open the floor for more dialogue and acknowledgement of our successes and failures with regards to feminism and its place in our every day lives.
“Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. This was a definition of feminism I offered in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center more than 10 years ago. It was my hope at the time that it would become a common definition everyone would use. I liked this definition because it did not imply that men were the enemy. By naming sexism as the problem it went directly to the heart of the matter. Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.”
– bell hooks.
This definition is important because of the author and the context in which she is writing this. Mainstream “feminism” such as the type you may read about on Jezebel or other web sources tends to focus on the experience of the white American or British woman. Their definition of feminism tends to be exclusionary and ignores the different racial, class or cultural contexts that exist in other places around the world and even around the United States.
In the Caribbean, we operate differently. Our relationship to “patriarchy” is different, and we need to conceive of feminism and our feminist movement as something that is not reliant on ideals from white American culture. We must carve out our own space within the movement, however, in the beginning it will be helpful for us to educate ourselves on the work of our predecessors who may share our racial, class or cultural background.
How can we find feminist meaning or significance in our lives as Caribbean women? What would need to change for feminism to be not just a concept, but something that influences our culture as a whole. In the Caribbean, we are accomplished in some of our philosophies towards family, women, work and sexual agency. Unfortunately, our problems do outweigh our accomplishments and it is our responsibility as Caribbean women to recognize these problems and work to the best of our abilities and within our range of these abilities to create change within our region. Of course our issues and problems are probably far more expansive than the ones that I shall list but the list below will encompass what I see as our most glaring and pressing problems.
- Homophobia and Transphobia; denial of rights and equal treatment of non-cis and non-hetereosexual individuals.
- Economic disadvantages that women suffer across the Caribbean
- Poor access to educational resources (which really boils down to education reform)
- Rape, incest, sexual assault and all forms of sexual violence
- High levels of domestic violence and improper support groups
- Problems with alcoholism and addiction (can affect women in a number of ways!)
I may definitely be missing a few and I would encourage anyone reading to add what they think in the comments. I think the major themes of our region’s feminist issues are economic disadvantages, high rates of violent behavior and high levels of intolerance (at best and violence at worst) towards non-cissexual and non-heterosexual individuals. We must begin working and taking steps within our communities to educate people of the issues we are facing and to implement solutions that will effectively assist us in improving our different communities and our society.