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As feminist thinkers and activists, we must tackle not only the systemic discrimination embedded in the world outside, but the often unconscious or invisible biases that we ourselves have internalized. Part 1.

The recently concluded 13th AWID International Forum, on the theme “Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice”, was framed around the sweeping idea that realizing “feminist futures” is only possible if we build our collective power to advance rights and justice. The great challenge for building such power, however, is that we ourselves, as feminist thinkers and activists, must tackle not only the systemic discrimination embedded in the world outside, but the often unconscious or invisible biases that we ourselves have internalized.

The twin concepts of rights and justice have embedded within them a rarely recognized and deeply normalized practice – viz., the practice of judgment. We are constantly judging each other as people, as social groups, as identities – whether on the basis of gender, race, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, location, nationality, religion, the work we do (“unclean” and “immoral” occupations such as those that stigmatize Dalits or sex workers). We are taught from our earliest years, and usually with good intentions, to make judgments – about what is normal, abnormal, right, wrong, good, bad, clean and unclean. But these judgments are often reflections of social norms and values that feminists and social justice advocates have not only rejected, but transgressed in our own lives.

Why then do we not recognize the ways in which we still continue to judge others, and justify those judgments? How can we find common ground and build our collective power for rights and justice if we continue to be divided by our own internalized biases? As Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in a recent powerful speech, “Nobody is ever just a single thing. And yet, in the public discourse today, we often speak of people as a single a thing.” She goes on to say, “So I would like to suggest … that this is a time for a new narrative, a narrative in which we truly see those about whom we speak.” Or whom we judge.

This is why CREA chose to launch our SUSPEND JUDGMENT campaign at the AWID Forum, where thousands of feminist social justice activists from every corner of the world were gathered.

To build feminist futures: suspend judgment - @5050oD