There’s no rest for us in this world.
I know what I am. And I know what I’m not.
The 8th of March is an exhilarating day. It could be considered as a feminist new year, just like male cultures have their own calendar: as much as we feminists go on about safe spaces, which of course are essential, we need to develop a feminist understanding of time. Indeed, the first specificity of women’s condition, compared to that of other male and female oppressed groups, is that the atrocities men commit against us are not historicised. We hear ‘prostitution has always existed’, ‘rape has always existed’. We are made to understand that male violence is like God: it never began so it can never end. Obviously, that’s a lie.
Because of this lack of historicisation, we face a unique difficulty as a feminist movement. Can you imagine survivors of death camps building a political movement against the camps, as the camps are still in place and as the structures that keep them standing are still there? It is impossible. As brothels rise in towers in the middle of Europe and as survivors of those contemporary slaughterhouses speak up against them, feminists are achieving the impossible. The difficulty reveals the tenacity.
How does time translate at the individual level, especially for young women? Youth is a bit overrated: it’s evanescent, it withers aways. You get old waiting for change. I feel like I’m at a bus stop and I meet those women that have been waiting far longer than I have for the liberation bus, at least since the 1995 Beijing Conference. When I ask when the next bus is going to be, I am told — you know what I am told? — 2030. 2030? 2030. UN Sustainable Development Goals. Everything will be achieved by then. And if it’s the UN that says it, of course, it must be true. How could the United Nations of Patriarchy ever deceive women?
Here comes the second specificity of women’s condition: the in bed with the enemy factor. Just like there are no ghettos for women, there is also no promised land. We know, as Carla Lonzi taught us, that while man has seen it all, is bored to death and has left for Space, our life on this planet has yet to begin.
Women who have migrated know this better than anyone else. We’ve been North, we’ve been South, we’ve been East, we’ve been West, and we’ve seen this patriarchal business all over. Any new trick it’s going to play, we saw it coming way back in time and space.
In a world like this, where you are required to love the one that hates you, we also know that any women-only space has the potential for liberation.
Given men’s systematic crushing of women time and time again and their parasiting of women all over the world, we women have lost a sense of Self. We don’t know we are women.
This is why, we identify with every other cause but our own.
This is why, we say ‘women, they’, instead of ‘we, women’.
This is why, when we see a man humiliate and degrade a woman in pornography, we do not see him humiliating and degrading every single one of us. How can I recognise the woman in front of me if I don’t recognise the woman in me?
This is why, we accept expressions like ‘non-man’, because we haven’t understood that in patriarchal terms, ‘non-man’ does not mean ‘woman’, it means ‘non-being’.
This is why, we have come to accept the greatest insult of all and have come to believe that men can be women.
We decry the loss of the word ‘woman’, and rightly so, because we don’t have a name for our sex, but it was predictable, wasn’t it? Again, returning at the individual level: we women don’t even have a name of our own. We carry the name of our fathers or the name of the father of our daughters. Hence, by the way, the central importance of surrogacy under patriarchy: you have to be a father to be able to rule.
Given this unique situation we are facing, one of the resolutions we can take is to define ourselves positively.
Perhaps, instead of calling ourselves separatists, we might want to call ourselves unionists, as Marina Terragni urges us, to insist on the fact that we want to reconnect with every woman on the planet.
We should no longer say we are against pornography, prostitution, veiling, female genital and sexual mutilation (the clitoris is not a genital organ), no, we are for women and anyone defending those misogynist practices is against women. We are for women, by women, with women — we need a bit of femocracy.
We will no longer say ‘we will not be silenced’ because that is not enough, but we will say, ‘we will speak up’ because we know the central important of speech as social beings.
We will no longer contend ourselves with demeaning expressions such as ‘half of humanity’ — do I look half to you? I Yağmur, daughter of Uygar, daughter of Özcan, daughter of Behiye, unravelling all the way up to the beginning of my universe, am a full representative of womanity and so is every single woman. Those are Liliana Ricci’s expressions and I am forever grateful to her for instilling that sense of Self to me.
And most importantly, women, let’s please commit to this one, we will do the most controversial thing of all: we will be happy.
- Lonzi, Carla and Rivolta Femminile (1971). Sputiamo su Hegel e La Donna Clitoridea e la Donna Vaginale. Milano: Scritti di Rivolta Femminile.
- Madonna (2019). ‘I Don’t Search I Find’ [song] in Madame X [album]. Interscope.
- Madonna (2019). ‘Killers Who Are Partying’ [song] in Madame X [album]. Interscope.
- Ricci, Liliana (figlia di Domenica) (2008). ‘Stellette Militari e Stelline Cinematografiche…Ed Altre Umane Porcherie Assai Poco Stellari’. Available online: http://bimu.comune.bologna.it/bikhaoula/archivio/2015/Stellette%20militari.pdf.
- Terragni, Marina (2018). Gli Uomini ci Rubano Tutto — Riprendersi il Corpo, il Femminismo, il Mondo: Un Manifesto. Milano: Sonzogno.
This article is an approximate transcript of the speech delivered at the Irish Women’s Lobby launch on the 8th of March 2021. You can find it in the ‘talks’ session of this website or here.