Feminism goes beyond sisterhood

Justus Eisfeld

Feminist movements have always been about breaking harmful gender norms. Sex discrimination cases around the world have been fought and won over the right to express gender in any way a person chooses – such as the right of women to wear pants at work. Fundamentally, these cases expand the notion of femininity and masculinity – and thereby challenge the idea that there are only two sexes.

Women are greatly affected by these harmful gender norms – but so are people who do not conform to them. Those who do not easily get ‘read’ as either masculine or feminine experience violence in great numbers – certainly greater than men or women who do – regardless of how they identify.

Sisterhood has been a powerful unifier for many founding mothers of women’s funds. The feeling of kinship is a powerful one and provides the safety net necessary for daring activism. But what if kinship were defined more narrowly than just a sex assigned at birth, which is shared with half the population? Certainly it takes more than that to be a feminist!

The core idea of women-led funding is that those affected most by a threat should be the ones leading the fight and directing the battle – that is the feminist transformation that has been translated to funding for LGBTIQ issues and Indigenous people’s rights. Now it is time to come full circle and give a place at the table to those who are breaking gender norms by simply refusing them, next to their sisters and siblings.

Justus Eisfeld
Advocacy & programme development manager,
Sexual Rights and Diversity, Hivos

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