It wasn’t until I moved to Sackville and started university that I started to learn more about feminism and confront the conservative ideologies and values that I grew up with in Edmonton. I was reluctant to call myself a feminist and I thought that racism was dead. I was telling this story to my good friend, Shannon Power, when it became apparent that university played a major role in shaping both our feminist experiences and politics. From confronting class syllabi that are comprised of overwhelmingly white and male authors to navigating a campus where sexual violence is all too common, we draw connections between what we learn and what is happening around us. This article is written by both of us – acknowledging that we are young in our feminism, and that we must do better to support the emancipation of those oppressed around the world.
Over 60 per cent of women’s labour is unpaid while their contributions to the economy are profoundly exploited. Our global system is one that massively exploits the majority of the world’s people for the accumulation of wealth for a few. In fact, eight men hold as much wealth as 50 per cent of the world’s population. This fact alone should enrage every one of us. In this capitalist system, women – particularly women of color – experience the highest levels of poverty, precarious working conditions and violence.
Women make up the majority of those who sustain their communities through farming and other forms of subsistence labor. They are at the frontlines of resisting encroachment on their land and livelihoods by corporations and governments seeking to extract ever more resources. All this occurs without fair remuneration, despite the rapidly growing climate crisis. Climate change will disproportionately affect women’s bodies, communities and ways of life.
At a domestic and local level, women are disproportionately impacted by the continuous rollback of social services, cuts to healthcare and childcare and unlivable minimum wages. These changes accompany the increasingly privatized nature of our society demanded by capitalism.
Capitalism is incompatible with feminism. Liberation is economic, and an economic system that devalues the labour of women cannot and will not emancipate us. As women and as students of this elite institution, there is a lack of structural conversations about deconstructing the capitalist society that creates and maintains poverty. These conversations must be present in all spheres of academia – not just select departments.
We should not allow our feminist analysis to be co-opted by corporations and institutions looking to profit from a narrow idea of (white) women’s empowerment. We do not want to “lean in” to the corporate boardroom if our success comes at the expense of other women and marginalized folks around the world. Liberation for all women can only occur when the world is liberated from the capitalist and racist system that values profit over the lives of billions.