As we prepare to launch the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign for 2023, we invite our partners, friends, and allies to read our reflections on why we have moved its launch date. We hope this reflection inspires you to join us for this edition, which kicks off on April 27. Stay tuned for details on how to participate in the launch and take part in #VisibleWikiWomen throughout the year.
For the past five years, we have launched the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign on the 8th of March, in commemoration of International Women’s Day. This date has always been a combination of celebration and resistance for us. This year, after many conversations, and deeper reflections on where we want the campaign to go – in different and radical ways – we’ve made the decision to decenter International Women’s Day, especially the celebratory version of this date that does not include and affirm multiple feminist realities and resistance against intersecting systems of oppression.
International Women’s Day has long been removed from its radical roots and history. From the streets of New York in 1909, when women workers took the streets to protest long working hours to the halls of the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, where the idea of an International Women’s Day took shape, the day has always been about changing the material conditions of women and freeing them from the shackles of patriarchal capitalist violence.
Year after year, we see the hijacking of this revolutionary spirit in platitudes, slogans, and pink-branded products increase substantially as corporations try to mask their neoliberal exploitative sexist ways and profit away. Meanwhile, throughout March, patriarchal and fundamentalist governments and politicians use the smokescreen of International Women’s Day to arrest young feminist activists, perpetuate anti-queer violence, and revoke sexual and reproductive rights.
“Instead of confronting capitalism and its continued exploitation and undervaluing of women’s labour, we get an endless list of companies taking up space as they ‘celebrate’ the female workers whom they exploit and underpay throughout the year. Worse still are shops and services bombarding women with adverts, selling merchandise with slogans such as ‘women are strong’, turning our freedom struggle into a sad excuse for consumption”Jackline Kemigisa, Ugandan feminist journalist
A quick ‘googling’ of International Women’s Day does not bring up first the day’s socialist roots and close ties to the struggles for the liberation of women workers, but rather the fact that it is an official observance day by the United Nations, declared in 1977.
When we reflected on this history and also the present-day idea of IWD, we were reminded of the ways it veers further from the community and collective liberation and also that the “woman” at the center of this celebration is white, cisgender, heterosexual, and able-bodied. The ‘default’ woman invoked through International Women’s Day is not the one that we — the Whose Knowledge? team and our communities — relates to or embodies, as an intersectional collective of Black, Brown, queer (women and non-binary, sexually diverse), Indigenous, Dalit feminist folks from the Global Majority of the world.
Despite all of our discomforts with the watering down of March 8th, we are still pro-women (in all our glorious plurality) and pro-celebrations of women. To mark that, we acknowledged #IWD2023 and 8M in the following ways:
- Taking part in an art exhibition on rest, care, and labor in support of women artists in Uganda,
- Joining local marches and protests in our communities, like in Uruguay —where, for the first time, March 8 was a 24-hour women’s strike convened by the national worker’s union.
- Writing our protest and sharing our solidarity with feminist siblings of the Sistah Sistah foundation, who faced violent backlash from law enforcement in Zambia following the #WomensMarchZambia against gender-based violence.
- Investing our efforts and solidarity in support of our sister wiki campaign ¡Alto! Mujeres Trabajando, which centers women and non-binary people in the workspace on Wikipedia in Spanish and Wikimedia Commons.
This year, the #VisibleWikiWomxn campaign will be launched on 27th April 2023 – South Africa’s Freedom Day. South Africa’s history and its multiple ongoing revolutions led and sustained by feminist and pro-Black movements hold a special place in our hearts. The #FeesMustFall and anti-rape culture protests that took place in South Africa in 2018 profoundly inspired our first Decolonizing the Internet convening.
By choosing to launch the campaign on South Africa’s Freedom Day, we are decentering the Western, white, capitalist, and quite often US version of this date to center the realities, histories, and experiences of the Global Majority.
It is not lost on us that 27 April 1994 is also the day that celebrates South Africa’s general election where Black South Africans could vote for the first time – and when Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first Black, democratically elected president. By choosing this date, we also want to shine the spotlight on feminist icon Winnie Madikizela Mandela, an African National Congress leader, and anti-apartheid activist who was formerly married to Nelson Mandela.
“To those who oppose us, we say, ‘Strike the woman, and you strike the rock’ [Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo].” – Winnie Madikizela Mandela