In considering the development of individual rights, especially anti-discrimination laws, we have to also look towards the social movements that reinforce these laws or in some case dismantle them. On July 28th, I attended a panel presentation on Afro-Ecuadorian feminism hosted by FLACSO University’s Women and Gender Studies program. The panel consisted of two presenters Olivia Cortez and Sonia Viveros. Olivia Cortez is a professor at San Fransisco University and well-established leader & consultant among women’s organizations in Quito y Guayaquil. The second presenter, Sonia Viveros, is a professor at the University of Guayaquil. Francia Jenny Moreno, a graduate student from the Women and Gender Studies department, moderated the panel. The event was to serve as a space of reflection and analysis on the status of what is black or Afro-Ecuadorian feminism, and whether it can be considered a movement here in Ecuador.
Both presenters began their speech by identifying as Black women and asserting the value of that statement over other terms like mulata or Afro-descendant which serve to dissimulate and distance women from their blackness. They each affirmed that black women’s issues include the issues that are most commonly associated with feminism, such as sexual and reproductive freedom, and then when on to expose how racism and questions of poor women’s basic survival need to be more thoroughly incorporated into the mainstream feminist agenda. Black women have participated in a number of struggles in the coast, urban regions, and rural outskirts and have held leadership positions in these struggles, yet often find issues specific to Afro-Ecuadorian women unmentioned. Olivia Cortez spoke of the influence of black feminists in the US as a prime influence for her political development as a black feminist in Ecuador.
Claudia Garriga-Lopez PhD Candidate in American Studies Dept. of Social and Cultural Analysis of New York University
Here are some of the main points presented:
- Feminism is associated with the rights of white and mestiza, heterosexual and middle class.
- Black Feminism is a political practice that seeks to study the intersection of systems of power.
- A struggle against racism is a struggle against the violation of black women’s bodies. To think of our bodies is to think of our rights.
- One cannot speak of a black feminist movement when we still need to address the questions and demands of our agenda.
- Black Feminism cannot be considered an essentialist sin. It’s going to exist in diverse and various forms that will be shaped by the circumstances and the temporal contexts of women.
- Black feminism is not a movement on its own, but it is a clear articulation of an alternative agenda that black feminists pursue.
- While there are organizations dedicated to these issues, what lacks is the social structure and cultural structure to create a movement.
After the panel presentation. I met with Francia Jenny Rivera and she informed me that the event was intended not only to present to the broader academic community the interests and concerns of black feminism, but also to do a temperature check on the audience to see how receptive they are to the contributions of black feminists. In that sense the somewhat tense Q&A that followed indicates that mestiza feminists are hesitant to accept some of the criticisms posed by black feminists, and where quick to get defensive regarding the work they do with Black women.