A Groundbreaking Workshop

At first the Middle-Class Women’s Workshop* felt heavy and hard. But when I began to realize how terrorized we all have been as middle-class women, it got easier. And we were all there together, working on it with such a courageous leader.

Diane was surprised that we had tried to do the work on class oppression without including the work on sexism and male domination. I realized that I must look at my life as a female first and then at how the middle-class oppression came in on top of that. She pointed out that middle-class women’s gains have mostly been individual. We haven’t had a collective voice because of our isolation. We have to prioritize connecting and doing the work together, and we have to look at internalized sexism in order to do that.

Each demonstration showed a different part of middle-class women’s oppression and how complex and varied middle-class women are as a group. The demonstrations with global majority women made me think about how deeply colonization and assimilation have hurt me and my people. Looking at them through the lens of middle-class oppression makes sense. They are weapons of the class system, and the middle class is there to enforce them. 

We heard about the history of U.S. imperialism in Korea, and I thought about my West Asian family and how U.S. and European imperialism forced them to leave Syria and Lebanon. They were part of the middle class in Egypt, agents of the French colonizers. When they arrived in the United States they were forced into the working class, and they worked hard to get back into the middle class, which they saw as their means of survival and the way to avoid racism. The pressure on me—as one of the next generation, born in the United States—was immense. They sacrificed “everything” for me to “succeed.”

It was a groundbreaking workshop, and I am happy to be part of this brave and loving group of women.

Mary Toutonghi
Seattle, Washington, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of women

* A workshop held in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, in February 2015, led by Diane Balser, the International Liberation Reference Person for Women

Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00