How to overcome the pain and impotence that the current situation in which the world is in causes? How can we persist in providing analytical responses that motivate us to keep up the struggle for justice, peace, equity? How can we move from impotence to thoughtful, heartfelt action? These are only some of questions that may recurrently fog our minds as we wake up to a daily set of bad news, ranging from war, terrorism, and genocide to governmental corruption, fraud, impunity, economic collapse, forced migration, closed borders, polarization, pandemics and environmental decay. Interwoven and concurrent crises dominate our times, and despite the seemingly unstoppable destruction of humanity and the planet, many still believe that collectively, we can turn the tide. We don’t know exactly how, but in our own ways, we try.
Despite war and destruction, we can collectively turn the tide.
In our case, as Latin+ feminist sociologists, we may be trying to contribute to these constructive counteractions in the classroom, through our research, in our work with colleagues at the university and in other professional associations we may belong, in our activism and participation in various social movements. Also, we may all be trying to live our non-professional lives in the most coherent fashion possible: “to walk the talk” given our deep understanding of the fact that the personal and the political, or the private and the public, are fictitious dichotomies. So, besides doing “public sociology” or “activist sociology,” we are living “feminist sociology.” This, of course, isn’t easy. On the one hand, it hurts. It is profoundly disappointing to see through the failing reality with its persistently violent human actions, its systemic intersecting inequalities, and its chronic injustices. It is heart wrenching to witness the wide range of contradictions that surround us: politicians promising peace while sustaining war, governments benefitting the richest while ripping off the poorer, scientists trying to devise new harmless technologies while societies running on unsustainable productive and consumerist systems. On the other hand, it is risky. Repressive politics threaten academic freedom, neoliberal economics shrink scholarly jobs and funds, sociopolitical conflicts are rampant across our communities and the globe, and all these worsens family and intimate relationships.
By"living" feminist sociology we know that
today calls for careful reflection and conscious, heartfelt collective action.
Despite difficulties, the times we live in call for careful reflection and conscious action, especially if we enjoy some degree of relative privilege, be it structural, achieved or circumstantial. For instance, regarding the eruption of the Israel-Gaza war, feminist sociologists are speaking up for peace and justice and showing support to a multiplicity of actions denouncing terrorism and genocide worldwide. As Past President of Sociologists for Women in Society and co-founder of the Latin+ Feminist Sociology Collective, I am working with colleagues on developing a statement, organizing conversations and webinars, and gathering resources so we can better understand the complexities of the situation and act in an informed and intentional way. While doing this, I noticed and reflected on a few aspects:
Pain: people are hurting because this war seems particularly out of place at a time when other wars are already at full speed, and the response of the government of Israel to the terrorist attack led by Hamas has been extreme, causing a tremendous amount of casualties, including innocent people.
Impotence: people feel powerless. What can be done if those who hold political, economic and military power are able to do whatever they please despite our attempts for justice, peace, equity, and the like?
Confusion: there is a generalized misunderstanding of the situation and the implications of taking a stance. For example, if one expresses disagreement with Israel’s tactics, does it mean that one is being antisemitic? Contrarily, if one justifies Israel’s reaction to Hamas’ terrorist attack, does it mean that one is being Islamophobic? Polarization: unsurprisingly, a conflict like this one exacerbates and generates polarization. Are you for war or peace? conflict or harmony? Judaism or Islam? The United States or China? Russia or Ukraine?
Fear: besides the logical fright of those directly involved in the war because of locality, descent or belief, the rest of the people are afraid that this war (together with the Russia-Ukraine one) will trigger the Third World War.
In line with Latin+ feminist thought and praxis, I suggest that in front of these, we consider:
Instead of “trying to keep feelings at bay,” we “feel-think” to be able to reflect, analyze, create knowledge and develop strategies of action in recognition of the range of emotions awakened by this and the other conflicts and contradictions that I mentioned characterize our times.
As opposed to “taking a position,” we commit to learning more about the ongoing conflicts and wars and other contradictory and destructive events and systems that surround us in their complexity and historicity. This will help reduce confusion and polarization.
Contrary to isolating ourselves, we communicate with others, participate in dialogues across divides, cross and build bridges, join social movements, and collectively create alternative futures. In communities of action for peace, justice and equity, fear may diffuse and impotence may transform to collective power.
Overcoming then, will not be an individual process. It can never be. And it cannot be this time around. If all the crises and unbearable contradictions present in our world today signal the end of an era, a historical sociopolitical perspective must be taken to counter the destructive forces that threaten to end with humanity and our planet. Heartfelt, thoughtful, collective action is needed. Living feminism tells us that. Together, let's believe in the possibility of shaping a new era where violence, death, inequality and destruction are not the norm, but an exception of the past.
Let’s learn from history, from critical feminist sociologies,
from decolonial praxes so we can undo, restore, and build anew.