Social Justice – what does it mean to me? For that matter, what does it actually mean? Having walked on this earth for a number of years, my social activism came of age in the world of the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation and much of the way I look at the world and how I think it needs to change comes out of those movements, particularly the Women’s Liberation Movement.
I still firmly believe that as long as women (regardless of race, religion, or any other identity) do not have the same rights as men that there is no possibility of social justice in this world. Every right that women have been “given” (just think about what that word means for a minute!) has been a hard-fought battle and has been about convincing men that we “deserve” to have those rights. One of the key areas, that continues to be a battle ground, is women’s dominion over our own bodies. From reproductive rights, to freedom from rape and violence, to being told how to dress and a myriad of other ways, women still do not have the right to do what we want with our bodies. Imagine how it must feel to not have control over the body that you inhabit every day?!
There are still places in the world where girl children are left to die, are not fed if a brother needs to be fed, don’t have the chance to go to school, and are married off when they are still children. There are places in the world where women can’t vote, can’t drive, cannot own property and can be legally beaten or killed by their husbands and family. The list goes on and on. I reiterate- there can be no social justice until all women have the same rights and liberties as men!
I also don’t believe that there can be social justice in the world in a system of out-of-control capitalism. Most of you are likely too young to remember that early feminism included analyses regarding how capitalism and patriarchy and racism systemically enforce each other and how one cannot be routed out without routing out all three.
Capitalism exists and survives by exploiting the means of production (workers-paid, underpaid and unpaid!) for the benefit of the shareholders and owners. Profit is its God and everything must be sacrificed to feed this deity.
North America (mostly the US and Canada) has largely become a nation of consumers, urged to consume more and more and more, as a way to happiness. Along with colonialism and capitalism we also seem to be spreading the gospel of rampant consumerism throughout the world. However, our plethora of cheap goods are made on the backs of the poor populations of the world. Yes, sure, we are providing them with jobs, making our toss able commodities, but at what cost to their way of life, their health, and the environment.
It is my belief that there can be no social justice without equality between men and women, world wide, and a dialing down of the rampant capitalism that exploits us all. Solutions? Well, call yourself a feminist and actually do the work! Begin to look at your consuming habits and start to make different choices. Think about where things come from and who is making them and make your choices based on knowledge. I realize that we can’t change or dismantle everything and certainly not all at once. However, individual actions create waves of change. Your every day choices matter. Make them wise and thoughtful.
/ Written by : Susan Smiel
Actor in training (but I can’t quit my day job), feminist, vegetarian, lover of music, voracious reader, dreamer