During my fieldwork in Madrid with migrant care workers I had the chance to meet a group of women that call themselves “Territorio Domestico”. This space brings together migrant domestic workers and Spanish women, and all share a feminist commitment to fight against the invisibilisation of domestic work. They’re seeking to improve domestic workers’ working conditions, for instance by lobbying political parties to commit to the ratification of the ILO Convention 189 if elected in the next general elections. They also have several years of experience in organizing and reaching out to the public through demonstrations, theatre and public events. Taking part in their meetings made me reflect upon grassroots feminist mobilization and its challenges.
Members of the group included both migrant and Spanish feminists so that they can fight together to bring care related activities from the margins to the center. All members were committed to support domestic workers to have their rights acknowledged (through legal advice for instance) but also fought for justice through a great diversity of initiatives aimed at the general public. During their meetings there were at times discussions around this collaboration and they reflected upon the roles of the Spanish and migrant women, as well as generally speaking issues of representation of the group in public fora. The times I was there they highlighted the need to work and fight together while being aware of the efforts needed to ensure a certain balance so that each member can find its place (not to speak on behalf of but also not to marginalize the role of Spanish women within the organization).
These conversations resonated with me as I have followed from afar the destructive oppositions that have emerged among feminist movements in France. I found the work of Territorio Domestico in this perspective particularly inspiring. Since some decades already, and even more so since the 2000s, feminist discourses and mobilizations in France developed to some extent in opposition to each other, especially on matters of religious identity, an issue that triggered more polarization that joint reflection. Organizations that turned the headscarf into a symbol of women’s oppression went so far as to reject these women’s participation in their activities while others assimilated secular feminism (in its French version of laïcité) with imperialism and the silencing of the subaltern, and thus rejected its contribution to feminist thought altogether. While this depiction is a bit of a caricature, religious and ethnic diversity in feminist movements could certainly do better and enrich feminist thoughts. I do believe these debates are necessary within feminisms, but focusing on these also weakens the potential for common ground. That all women do not face the same oppression cannot be denied, but does this mean we shouldn’t seek to strengthen feminist potential for change by actively reflecting upon this? I think Territorio Domestico is an example of the possibility to engage and fight together while being aware of this. Care ethics and the claim for an alternative organization of our capitalist and patriarchal societies might constitute a foundation to go beyond such divides, constructing a discourse around justice, equality and social progress without falling into the traps of identity politics.
I had the chance to take part in one of their performance and I share with you this experience in this short video (the part about them starts at 2’20”). Their claims build upon feminist fights in South American countries and call upon the decolonization of our minds. By doing so, they point out one of the causes of the current marginalization of migrant women in post-colonial European societies.
I would love to read your thoughts! There are also cases when migrant/minority ethnic feminists chose to create a dedicated space for their fights and it would be great to hear your experiences and ideas.