I figured I should write a bit about what it is that I mean when I use the words woman/women. It seems kind of weird that I should have to do this, and I’m sure I’ll be accused of trying to redefine words again. But, as you may know, I don’t abide by definitions that the dominant oppressor class forces upon me, particularly as it relates to my identity and my politics. There is, as I have pointed out before, power in language. Recognizing that is very important in terms of resistance. Besides, our language is not a dead one – it is very much alive, and undergoing construction and change all the time.
The power structure under which we live is a white heterosexual capitalist male supremacy, and identity is socially constructed under its directives, which assigns hierarchical value to groups that are defined in opposition or binary to one another. Man/woman, white/non-white, hetero/queer, rich/poor, and so on. The purpose/result is to create a stratification of classes within society. Power goes to some more than others.
The terms we use to describe ourselves and others have undergone a homogenization process, an attempt to weed out problematic anomalies and hide them away, silence them, make them disappear. I want you to understand that this is a political move, a power play. Homogenizing people under group identity allows power structures to remain in place. And some people benefit – a lot- from those power structures. So of course those people who benefit from power structures want to maintain them. Not all do, of course, but those with the most power have the most invested in structures that give them power – and the most to lose if they dissolve or change. So when people are identified under the common identity of a group, their differences are often forgotten, silenced, hidden, and ultimately denied. Power relations also exist within groups, along the lines of other group identities, which complicates matters even further. And this, my friends, is the common denominator: what individuals within groups share is not their oppression per se (although some groups will share some commonality of experience of oppression), but that their oppression stems from the same source, the same culture of white hetero capitalist male supremacy. What is shared is a common context of struggle.
So. When I talk about “woman/women”, I’m referring to the socially constructed sex class that experiences sexism (often among other forms of oppression) under the current culture of white hetero capitalist male supremacy.
For the record, this is the approach I take to all group identity.