Published on March 7th, 2014 | by Jen McClellan0
Every Generation Pushes Back
Every generation pushes back. Babies are born. They grow up. Adults tell them how to behave and all the things they must do. They become teenagers. They reach the age where they’ll go out into the world on their own.
Aaaaaand they push back.
Our parent’s generation cut their hair short, put on ties (some put on punk jackets), and helped grow corporations. One generation’s rebels grew their hair long, played their music loud, and smoked a whole lot of dope. We tattooed ourselves (in such ways even sailors hadn’t dreamed up), stuck metal into parts of our body we didn’t even know the name of until we pierced it, and gave being a television addict a whole new meaning.
Everywhere we look now technology is infused with our everyday lives. A majority of us are kept alive by it! Two generations ago, if you had told that to the dope smokers, they’d have laughed at you.
But then you could’ve said, “Hey man, I know that’s crazy. But you wanna hear something groovy?” And your acquaintance from the past would’ve said, “Go on, time traveling friend, tell me.”
And you could have said, “You know how all those college-educated housewives banned together and started a movement?”
He’d say, “Of course, maaaaan. (inhale) Those feminists are really radical!” (blows out smoke)
And your magnificent response could’ve been, “Yeah! Well now we’ve got feminists, civil rights activists, class-conscious workers, and gay rights activists, aaaall working together! And we call it intersectionality.” And his eyes would’ve gotten all huge (cough, cough) and he would’ve said, “Far out!”
Take him, put him in the time machine, and bring him to an ISO Marxist Day School and let him hear Zakiya Khabir speak about being a black woman fighting for rights and equality in today’s world, and he would ask, “Who are you?!” “Zakiya Khabir.” She replied, “Socialist & Activist,” with style and ready to take care of business-ness. I, suddenly enthralled, set the time traveler aside, and asked, “Who are your heroes/heroines?” Zakiya answered, “The first person who comes to mind is a fellow activist named Sandra who’s raising three daughters on her own, has trouble finding steady work, but is always looking for ways to shed light on empower poor and undocumented workers. I also admire my parents, Dr. Grace Hopper (one of the first female programmers), and so many of the International Socialist Organizations’s worker-academic-activists who’ve inspired and educated countless others.”
After Saturday’s Marxist Day School event in December 2013, a group of us went out to dinner. The troopers proceeded to The Black Cat bar, where I took out Maggie Phair’s Feminist Process document to pass around. I told Zakiya, “The Feminist Process document I shared with you is from an older generation of activists.” I asked, “Is intersectionality our generation’s feminism?” She gave a powerful answer: “My first reaction is that while the term ‘intersectionality’ is relatively new, I doubt there’s a black woman in the history of the US who hasn’t understood that her life is affected by racism and sexism. On the other hand, it does seem to be true that today any feminist discourse that doesn’t consider race, gender identity, and/or national origin is immediately and rightly dismissed as inadequate.”
Still trying to get a hold of this idea, I inquired, “How does feminism and intersectionality differ (from your perspective)?” Zakiya replied, “This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many feminisms and people’s understanding of that word can vary greatly. If I go by the popular ‘Feminism is the radical notion that women are people’ then I would say intersectionality is just well-rounded, theoretically comprehensive feminism.” I am excited to know more. I asked, “How are they the same?” She gave a simple and profound answer: “Feminist and intersectionality theories have the goal of understanding and eliminating discrimination based on difference.”
I think about the appearance of the hyoid bone in humans and how it allowed speech to evolve. I think about how that led to brain development and growth. I think how incredibly important it is that we encourage each other to speak, not only because oppression is unacceptable, but because this ability to speak has moved us forward as a species.”
I asked, “Why did you participate in the Marxist Day School event?” She answered, “I’ve been in the San Diego Branch of the International Socialist Organization for nearly a decade. We sponsor educational events to prepare us for activism. The first part of the day school was about the role of the working class. This is hugely important because a large portion of our members and allies are working to fight for $15/hour minimum wage. The session on intersectionality was designed to put aside old manufactured distinctions between feminists and Marxists, which have impeded our ability to work together to fight the common enemy of sexism.”
Curious as to what this amazing woman is up to on the day to day, I wondered aloud, “What are your short-term goals for yourself?” “I’m moving to the Bay Area for work in a few months so I suppose my short term goal is to make it there in one sane piece,” she said. I wonder about the big picture too. “What are your long-term goals for the work you’re doing?” She said, “The ultimate goal is a worker-led socialist revolution.”
I wish her a smooth moving experience, and we parted ways. The last thing Zakiya told me was, “I could write a book about the many many things that would need to happen successfully, but tons of people already have!” I hope the Bay Area finds her well. I hope she finds time, one day, to write that book (because I know I would read it), and I know she will be a welcome addition to Northern California’s radical movements.