What are women?
We have been thinking a lot about this when we started the project. Yes, women in agriculture and fisheries sounds very straight forward at first. But when you start digging deeper into who you actually mean by women it becomes less clear.
You might have noticed that we say “women (cis, trans, genderqueer and non-binary)”. That’s the best we could come up with, but it might be subject to change. There is a lot to learn here. But as awesome Dr. Maya Angelou said:
“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.”
So, we’d like to briefly explain why we decided to extend the group of people we want to give access to the project beyond cis-gender women. If you do not agree with us or you think we missed something important please reach out to us. We try our best but we are a long way from knowing everything there is to know.
It all started when we reached out to members of a “women permaculture“ group on Facebook which we are part of. Several women had positive reactions to our idea. One said that it sounds good but that we should explicitly open it to trans, genderqueer and non-binary folx. (At that point we even had to google if “folx” was a typo or a term – guess what: it’s a very inclusive term!). Here are some important questions that popped up:
1. Which forms of discrimination do we mean?
Before we received that comment about inclusivity we started our project by saying we want to interview everybody that identifies as a woman. Thereby we could address their specific perception of their role in the world, the barriers and opportunities that only women face and yeah that’s it. But then the question creeped in “What about humans who do not identify as women but who still face gender-based discrimination, prejudice and oppression?” Wouldn’t that rather be our ground of research? Most of us live within the limitations and oppression of a world that is built on patriarchy and white supremacy. The “labelling” of anyone who is not a cis-gendered man as “Other” (or less than) is actually what triggers all the gender-specific issues they face. So in order to not miss anyone that could somehow fit in the category we are interested in, we extended the scope of people that will be portrayed on our platform!
(Intersectionality plays a big role here too, but you’ll find a whole blog article on this later!)
2. How could this affect women who do not identify as feminists or who do not fully understand why we extended the group of people whe interview?
Actually we’re trying not to be affected by the fear of shocking people. It often happens when you talk about feminism to men for example. Instead of being shocked people we’d like to see people asking questions and do research when they do not understand specific terms or context. Unfortunately most of us grow up in a patriarchal, racist, fat phobic, sexist, ableist (+) society and we are partly products of this society. So there is no shame to grow up internalizing sexist or racist ideations, but as an individual, one must start question it and try to change it.
But in this project it’s all a bit different. We want to be inclusive, we want do directly address and open the platform to trans, genderqueer and non-binary folx, but we also want to represent the daily lives of all women farmers and there might be many that do not understand these terms.
So dear interviewees,
it was a pleasure to talk to you and learn more about your story. We want to hear stories from women and people of genders facing systemic oppression all over the world, and believe that inclusive language is a way to open dialogues and invite everyone to the table. So please don’t get confused by the terms we use but follow us on this journey and listen to what all the lovely human beings we interview have to say! Thanks and be well ,
3. Don’t pretend to be portraying diversity if you’re not.
So, how many of the interviewees are trans? So far none. How many are genderqueer? None, so far. How many are non-binary? None. It means they were all cis? Yep that’s exact. Then, why do you list all these people if you actually don’t talk to them – it’s like creating laws to abolish a discriminatory system but not acting upon it – it’s just beautiful words with no impacts.
That’s true, but let us explain why we keep these categories in the list.
First, we believe that the first step to fight discrimination and reach inclusiveness is to acknowledge discrimination and NAME it. So, by officially inviting these groups to our project we try to show that we are aware of the different obstacles faced by the different groups and that we try to have an intersectional approach. We also inform people that we are willing to learn more about it and that we are open for critique.
Second, it’s important to think about the possible reasons why none of our interviewees are trans, genderqueer or non-binary yet. Might it be because there are not sufficient safe spaces accessible for these folx in the first place, therefore we would have trouble recruiting them for this project? Are they facing their own exclusion and oppression in spaces reserved for cis women? Might they, due to past traumas, not feel comfortable being a part of a project like this? That is part of the reason why it’s so important to be explicitly inclusive and create a space where people feel welcome and safe. If not, not only do we risk harm towards others, but our study risks leaving out an entire cohort of people who have important experiences to share.
Then, of course comes the point where we need to act and not only write it on our website! We are still in the beginning and therefore reached out to women around us or to whom we have easy access. We promise that this will change in the course of the project! So, feel free to keep us accountable, but we will try our best to live up to what we promised by ourselves.