Why aren’t feminists united?

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Lauren Kay-Lambert has observed many women's groups working in competition with each other

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24th April 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

As head of campaigns at Shape History, I have had the privilege of working with some fantastic women’s rights organisations. As a feminist, this is clearly something that I enjoy doing. Through this experience however, I have started to notice something more frequently, the tendency for individualism to crop up within the women’s sector when there should instead be unity.

In a sector where organisations are forced to compete for grants and donor support – see the overstretched domestic violence sector, for instance – it’s no surprise that organisations end up feeling like they need to create the best branding or digital campaign to make themselves seen. However, in this increasingly competitive space, we can’t lose sight of the core feminist principles of solidarity and sisterhood in pursuit for individual success.  

Lauren Kay-Lambert

Lauren Kay-Lambert

In a sector dedicated to fighting for social justice and a voice for marginalised communities, we should be careful that ambition is not replaced by competitiveness. When organisations are competing against each other to be the best feminists, it stops being about achieving justice and equality, but about who gets their voice heard first.

It seems contradictory for there to be a monopoly on feminism. All voices, particularly those most marginalised, need to be included and heard in these conversations.

It is not solely organisations either, there are some individual women who find it hard to appreciate and support other women because it may be seen as a threat to themselves. In a society where women are trying to have their voices heard, to have the loudest or the strongest becomes the highest priority. This woman on woman aggression and competitiveness that still has not changed is one of the main things that holds back womanhood in our society.

We’re living in such a fascinating time right now, with women utilising the online space in an entirely unique way, to express dissent and support each other. For me, it started off with Laura Bates' Everyday Sexism Project, a space for women to write in their experiences of everyday sexism that they have encountered. Women became able to share isolating experiences of sexual assault in an entirely new way in which people could relate to. There was a common ground and there wasn’t any competition.

I am in awe of the work that women’s rights organisations have campaigned for and achieved for women worldwide. These merits should not be taken away and, instead, they should be shared with like-minded people and competitors to reach the goal we’re all so desperately trying to achieve. There is more than enough room for each and everyone one of us to have a space to think and be respectful to each other. Working together with a supportive intention will communicate the shared message we’re all advocating for as women.

Ultimately, feminist organisations or charities share a common goal – to create an equal society for all its people. Our society will not progress if organisations with a similar purpose are competing rather than collaborating. Together, we should be able to create progressive change in our society, we’d get there a hell of a lot faster.

As Michelle Obama said in a speech on Hillary Clinton’s campaign trail in 2016: “People who are truly powerful bring others together.” For me, the core principles of feminism and equality include solidarity and unification, just as Michelle suggests.

How are we supposed to fundamentally create an equal society when there’s currently not space for everyone to speak up and share the space? We cannot lose sign of the core principles that feminism arose from, such as solidarity and respect. If these are taken away, we risk taking symbols of liberation for individualistic gain and what would be the point of that? If we advocate for feminism, then we need to truly reflect these values in our everyday lives and appreciate how competitiveness ultimately hinders us from achieving this.

At Shape History, we believe it’s important for us to support one another’s beliefs and passions, which we feel gives our organisation a more effective voice. It is possible to express your own excellence without hindering others. Emma Watson using her platform at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards to bring Marai Larasi, Imkaan’s executive director, as a guest was a great example of this. Let’s continue to amplify the voices of women, praise each other’s efforts, and work together to bring about real change.

Lauren Kay-Lambert is head of campaigns at Shape History