We are what we do… and what we do is organize local, direct-impact projects to make a tangible difference in communities. We believe it useful to clearly identify and communicate what we bring to the table, and to consistently express our core values in everything we do as Neighborhood Feminists. Our guiding principles include:

Being flexible and context-specific

One of our central beliefs is that our interventions need to be tailored to the context in which we work. Given that we address complex issues around social justice and push back against systemic oppression, our actions must be shaped in collaboration with women of color and other marginalized members of the community. While obvious, this requires ongoing attentiveness, and we regularly reshape our projects on the basis of  feedback from the community and the people we support. We believe developing a flexible, practical and context-specific approach is key to effective results.

Our success demands a real understanding of how people within our team, network and community function and react. Our approach also requires real respect and room for differences in background and perceptions. For this reason, we dedicate particular attention to both communication and context, building our team with care and nurturing relationships within our team and the community. As we learn how best to support one another, we work on maintaining realistic expectations, as well. In this way, we aim to be better placed to meet shared challenges and shifting realities, as we expand our projects and reach.

Being feminist and anti-racist

We consider our actions to be feminist and anti-racist… but what do we mean by that?

For us, feminism is about recognizing that there are real, pervasive differences in degree of access and power according to one’s gender. As we take an active approach to feminism, we look for ways to tangibly reduce that access and power imbalance. We strongly believe that feminism must be both actionable and intersectional to be viable. So, in addition to recognizing gendered power differences, we also recognize that factors such as race, class and ability significantly add to systemic discrimination. We believe inequality, compounded through these additional intersections, expresses itself in all parts of people’s lives, in a manner of ways, large and small. Our view of feminism is fundamentally inclusive: we believe anyone can be a feminist. Our feminism is grounded in a belief of genuine equality regardless of background, with basic dignities as a right for every one of us.

As we see it, racism includes not only overt behavior but also systemic discriminatory policies, which can be more subtle, even while remaining pervasive. Racist behavior is acknowledged, such as the unwritten policy of ethnic profiling by tax authorities and police, or the additional hurdles of persistent bias in education, housing and employment. Racist behavior is also unacknowledged, whether conscious, or unconscious, such as everyday racist microaggressions. Author Ibram Kendi defines racism as “supporting any racist policy through action or inaction or by expressing a racist idea.”

From this understanding, we consider requirements of anti-racism to include active engagement and a conscious centering of Black and Brown voices–of all voices in the community–but especially the historically and currently marginalized. To be anti-racist means truly listening to those heard too little, means normalizing equity, and actively resisting racist ideas or actions. Being anti-racist includes finding ways to leverage any privileges or access we can assemble to the benefit of the marginalized and less privileged. To once again quote Kendi: “The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it – and then dismantle it.”

Focusing on community solidarity and human dignity

Any neighborhood is made up of individual people, each with their own stories and lived experiences. Regardless of race, origin, gender, orientation, creed–or whether a person has papers–we believe that all people belong and deserve basic rights, starting with respect. We seek to acknowledge and honor those individual experiences by centering human dignity, by finding ways to improve individual lives and build community solidarity. Our emphasis on human dignity means a commitment to ethically telling the stories of those whom we support. Through existing and future projects, we seek to strengthen the character of the community as a proactive response to the increased anonymization of city neighborhoods. Our geographic focus is currently Amsterdam.

Bringing opportunities to women of color and other marginalized groups

To be legitimately intersectional, feminist, and anti-racist, we must begin with drawing more opportunity and funding into communities that have historically been excluded from both. As the renowned Black feminist Audre Lorde says “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We therefore aim to center opportunities for Black women, women of color, and other marginalized groups in our work, because we believe real reduction of existing inequalities can only come through broader engagement in all stages of our work. Our commitment includes prioritizing paid work for community members, offering stipends for volunteer efforts, providing the community at large with educational and/or capacity-building workshops, and offering space for community members to develop their own initiatives. Additionally, rather than potentially creating any long-term dependence, we actively seek systemic change and plan the obsolescence of our projects.

Linking the levels

While the issues we work on have profound effects at an individual level, the effects we strive for cannot be sustainably maintained–nor can challenges be effectively addressed–without looking at larger systemic and political levels. For this reason, we also bring individual lived experiences and needs to the municipal, provincial, national levels (and beyond) through advocacy and by building alliances, such as through our membership of the Nederlandse Vrouwenraad (Dutch Women’s Council).

Beyond levels local or transnational, we engage in this work to link people, and to remind people that we are all inextricably linked–as we all know but too often find it more convenient to ignore.

We recognize the change we seek is not simple, but our community work as Neighborhood Feminists is a continuation of work begun by many before us. Our work is for today, but for those coming tomorrow, too. Put simply, we firmly believe in steadfastly normalizing human dignity for all.

July 2020