"Four decades ago, Audre Lorde (1980) (with many others) called for a rebellion against binaries: to deconstruct them. Her generation of critical feminist and decolonial thinkers saw the power of how instituted, socialised thoughts and attitudes are regimented, transmitted, and acted upon in society.
For me, this International Women’s Day is not about statistics on gender inequality. We have the numbers (here’s a starting point). A central underlying problem is the heteronormative representations which have, in the history of our species, helped to maintain a system of patriarchy. WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic) societies continue to be at the centre of these representations and the effects of these have for centuries spilled over to the world.
If the pandemic truly is a chance to re-build, there needs to be a discussion about how to disrupt heteronormative representations and enable women and mothers to grow and occupy any sphere they can imagine. This means acknowledging a kaleidoscope of possible pathways because no one stands from one mutually exclusive place.
I call for us all to be more reflexive in our views and assumptions and explore the internalised oppression that we have been subjected to (and by “we” I mean a very inclusive one that we must all own, not just women). In social psychology, the challenge lies in questioning our very taken-for granted worldviews, what we term social representations.
Representations are powerful because they were instilled in us throughout our socialization by our referents and role models, many who were maternal caring giants in our eyes but who were subjected to the same system of binary divisions. Hence why it is difficult to break away; we feel it impacts our identities and ancestry. But we have to move forward.
In this spirit, I join the Latin American feminist voices, scholars and activists who do not let these critical perspectives become empty claims. From the Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú in Guatemala, to the human rights activist Francia Márquez in Colombia and importantly the vast number of women and mothers fighting to survive the everyday, they tell us it is not about responding to machismo with counter-phrases. Instead, it is about collective mobilisation to demand basic human rights and social justice. Unlike those of us who are sitting in front of a laptop, many are at the sharp end of survival. With strength, perseverance, critical thinking and resistance, they adhere to a pa’delante (going forward) attitude fuelled by the desire and need to break from the historical links of oppression, violence and inequalities, which have relegated their civic and human rights."
Admitting our privilege is an initial step against an exhausted Global North society geared towards false efficiencies, which spill over into the majority world, disproportionally impacting women and all those who stand at the intersecting peripheries. The pandemic opens the possibility of re-building but can we face this inevitable reality?
Dr Natalia Concha is a Research Officer in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE.