WomanSpeak, a Journal of Literature and Art by Caribbean Women, edited and published by yours truly, is calling for submissions for volume 7/2013, an issue especially themed, “Voices of Dissent: Women Speaking to Transform the Culture.”
I am looking for the works of a new generation of Caribbean Feminist writers and painters who care about the lives of women and will dare to use their creative voices to shock us out of our complacency and into action. I see a new Feminist consciousness struggling to rise up across the Caribbean these days. I see women organizing, they are naming the human rights issues facing Caribbean women and their children, they are gathering and disseminating the information, they are discussing the issues and commenting on them from a Feminist perspective. I see far flung pockets of Caribbean Feminists connecting with one another on the web and made hopeful by the enormous potential that holds for creating a real and powerful women’s movement across our region.
But where is the literature and art of the new Feminist movement of the new generation? Where are the women poets who will articulate the struggle, nurture and grow it, give it movement, meaning and empowerment by addressing the issues in their highest and best work? Where are the writers who will redefine Feminism for a new generation of Caribbean women, and do it in fine literature and art? Where are the women writers and painters who feel an urgency to speak out in their work about the social issues that matter most to Caribbean women? Where are the feminist poets and writers speaking with each other about the roles they play and the responsibilities they bear in the struggle to uplift the lives of all Caribbean women? Where does the bookish young Caribbean woman turn when she wants to read works by the best womanish minds of her generation to inspire her, to give her the words she needs to get herself and her own voice free?
A Feminist is someone who believes that women’s rights are human rights. A Feminist woman is one who cares about the lives of other women and children and supports local and global efforts to uplift, liberate and transform those lives, because she understands her own freedom is incomplete until all women are free. Really, how can any of us say we are not Feminists? And yet so many women do. Women against women’s rights are in the majority in my country, The Bahamas. Any doubt of that was laid to rest when in 2000 they voted overwhelmingly against correcting discrimination against women in the Bahamian constitution as the whole world watched. Bahamian women again turned on their sisters in trouble last year when they voiced their absolute opposition to the proposed legislation that would have given battered wives the right to bring charges of rape against their abusive husbands. The majority of women I talk to avoid any involvement in the struggle for human rights for women because they have been trained by various father god religions to blame the devil, pray hard and leave it to their god to work out for them.
Dissent is impossible to find among women in New Age circles too. I call it the cult of positive thinking, that whole Louise Hay methodology that says you can change your life by changing the way you think. (This is not new at all, just a new spin on patriarchy’s founding tenant, “I think therefore I am,” deifying thought (traditionally male) over emotion (traditionally female). It just isn’t fashionable right now for women to get angry, to get an issue, to take a stand, to create an action or a movement to transform the culture. We are too busy being hyper-grateful to even acknowledge the ongoing war against women across the Caribbean and the world, too busy having positive thoughts and sending out good vibrations to acknowledge the discrimination women face because they are women, or to get an idea about an action they could take to change it. As for the women falling in the wars, they speak out but no one can hear them, and the women who’ve been working in the trenches thirty years tending to the wounded and the dead, they speak out but no one can hear them over the din of prayers and platitudes. Any woman who does speak out for other women from a Feminist point of view (or anything at all like it) will often look around and find herself standing alone.
We are beginning to hear the voices of Caribbean women dissenters on the web. Writers like Simone Lied and associations like Code Red for Gender Justice are bearing witness to the persecution and suffering of women and actively protesting the patriarchal status quo in their work. But where are the poets, the fiction writers, the painters of the new generation of Feminists who work to articulate the struggle for equality, peace and justice for women? Whose works deliberately resist the powerful forces without and within at work to keep us in a second class state? I believe that when we make spaces for them, they will come. WSJ Volume 7/2013 is one of these spaces.
We are seeking poetry, short fiction, fairy tales, essays, paintings and photographs for the new issue. Deadline (or, lifeline) for submissions is May 31, 2013. I’m planning for a September release. Please send submissions to email@example.com with “WSJ submission” and your name on the subject line.