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Confronting a Very Old Oppression

I attended my first Contemporary Women’s Issues Workshop. It was held in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and led by Diane Balser, the International Liberation Reference Person for Women. Present were women from Korea, India, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia. It was a big job to work together with only English as a common language.

I was deeply moved to be working with women from so many Communities. Knowing that each woman in the room had been deeply hurt by sexism, we intrinsically understood what had happened to each other, even though we didn’t know the details.

I led a topic group on women and our bodies and another on sex and sexism. I was struck with how much we blame ourselves for the hurts we show as a result of sexism. Self-blame, although it occurs in all oppressed groups, is a strong aspect of internalized sexism. We need to blame sexism instead, and train our male allies to understand this aspect of our internalized sexism.

Diane said that the attack on the women’s movement has succeeded in shutting down women’s voices for change and allowed the myth that sexism no longer exists in “Western” countries to prevail. She encouraged us to have at least one session a week on sexism. Otherwise we are vulnerable to believing the lies and to settling for a compromised life. She reminded us that no woman is free until every woman is free and that liberation has to start in each of our minds.

She also reminded us that all oppressions are important, and that we shouldn’t compare them, but that sexism is a very old oppression. This partly explains why it is so hard for us to think about. Our species has lived with it for so long.

Nikki Berry

Christchurch, New Zealand

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of women

(Present Time 187, April 2017)

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00