About being (t)here and making a difference- : black women and the paradox of visibility
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AbstractFeminists, like many others, want to make a difference. They are interested in social change. They are especially interested in the ways this concerns the position of women in our societies. In order to accomplish this, the different actors within the women’s movements of Europe must be present in the political arenas where decisions are made. This concerns white indigenous women, as well as Black, migrant and refugee women. They all have to ‘be there’ to make a difference. Otherwise they will be (and are) forgotten. Matters of political representation and citizenship are important in this context. Differences between women, notably in terms of the intersections of gender and race, have been the focus of many feminist debates during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The political implications of taking these differences seriously has been an especially sensitive point of discussion. The author summarises this debate by means of the frustration over an impasse described as the paradox of visibility. The discussion of this paradox results in some suggestions, enabling feminists, political scientists and others to visualise and discuss the political representation of especially Black, migrant and refugee women in Europe. The paradox of visibility seems unavoidable. In visualising we use language as an aid. Unfortunately we cannot capture everything ‘in a word’. There is probably no way we ever will be able to. This appears to be an aspect of the phenomenon of language itself. The question therefore became how to address undesirable exclusionary mechanisms. A few suggestions were made. The first suggestion was that the shift from ontological and epistemological considerations of the notion of women in the project of feminism to ethical and political considerations over the same notion should not be made too quick. The second suggestion was that feminists should be careful in addressing the boundaries between politics and ethics. Focusing on the reasons for the invisibility of Black, migrant and refugee women, it is suggested that this invisibility is related to presumptions within political philosophy about the boundaries and character of the political community and about the phenomenon of the political as such. Suggestion number three is that feminist philosophers, and philosophers in general, should take these considerations into account when searching for ways to address the exclusionary mechanisms and the invisibility of Black, migrant and refugee women. Black, migrant and refugee women have been and are active political actors. To, amongst others, capture this activity, the notion of political solidarity was introduced as a fourth suggestion. This notion is a suggestion to capture the political, ‘fought over’ character of the ‘we’ of the political community in the feminist movements. This ‘we’ must constantly be re-invented and re-negotiated in order to give meaning to an appeal to solidarity. When this is done, the political representation of Black, migrant and refugee women can also be visualised.