Gender is a Tool of Colonization

4 min readFeb 22, 2021

For 32 years AF3IRM has organized against all oppressive systems that live at the intersections of capitalism, racism, and patriarchy, including the gender binary. We define woman as a political class to identify the material exploitation of womankind to unify and define our collective interests, strategy, objectives, and tactics. AF3IRM focuses on women because for the over 2500 years it took to institutionalize patriarchy, the symbols associated with women as lesser persons and the process of dehumanizing and othering women was central to patriarchy’s creation -with the rigid gender binary as its ultimate enforcer.

As Ninotchka Rosca has stated, “For many societies the gender binary was a component of the sex trade, a component of occupation, a component of colonization and imperialism, as a system of gender based exploitation could not exist without this thesis/antithesis system and a hierarchy of genders.”

As women of colonized experience, we remember what history has attempted to erase- that Native people and people outside of the western world have long lived beyond the gender binary: muxe in Mexico, mahu in Hawai’i, waria in Indonesia, and two-spirit people among Indigenous People, to only name a few. The gender binary was and continues to be a colonial imposition and a tool of conquest — the violence, a material reality. With the imposition of the gender binary, came the subordination of women and gender non-conforming people and the right to commit violence against us — to rape and pillage us, traffic and prostitute us, enslave us, displace us, and rape and steal our lands.

Today the pandemic has worsened our subordination under patriarchy and the gender binary. In sickness and in health Black, Indigenous, and working class women of color have been pushed to consider selling our flesh to survive the perennially low wages of women all while holding down essential work across the country. In December 2020, women accounted for 100% of the 140,000 jobs lost; most were women of color. The women behind the statistics and numbers of increased violence in all of its forms — we know her, we are her, and we’ve chosen to organize and to resist.

In the face of the continued attempts to marginalize our shared oppressions and erase the power of our militant sisterhood and leadership of trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary women, we organize. With rising rates of femicide and transicide, our focus is to eradicate violence on women and feminized bodies and to fight for the right to exit:

  • the right to exit abusive relationships,
  • the right to exit the sex trade,
  • the right to exit exploitative work,
  • the right to exit capitalist patriarchal impositions on our bodies, our lands, our lives, and our dreams.

Our work has led to huge organizing wins:

  • #SurvivorsNotCriminals Campaign — Beginning in 2018, AF3IRM launched our campaign to decriminalize those (mostly women, children, and feminized people) who have been criminalized for ‘prostitution’ in the sex trade. Hawaii passed the first and only law in the United States to allow any person convicted of prostitution to vacate the conviction and expunge their criminal record, regardless of whether or not they were a victim of sex trafficking. Los Angeles won a landmark victory for survivors in Los Angeles massage establishments, to ensure that survivors would not be criminalized or handed over to I.C.E. LA County will institute a hotline for community members to call in instances of suspected trafficking, instead of calling 9–1–1.
  • Passed an ID law in Hawaii allowing people to ID as m, f, or x according to their identity.
  • Led the campaign in the US and Philippines for justice for Jennifer Laude, a trans woman murdered by a US soldier.
  • Have had trans women in our membership since 1991.
  • Helped repeal the Walking While Trans Ban in NY.
  • Raised money for trans women trying to exit the sex industry.
  • Currently fighting to expand protections for trans and queer families in Hawaii, which directly affects our membership that includes trans couples.

Unlike the Patriarchy’s pawns of past and present intent on the continued vanishment of women’s history, we will name the violence that is focused on destroying rather than offering an alternative. We read, we think critically, we organize rooted in the knowledge of our lived experiences and we call out the masks of misogyny. We will continue to engage in revolutionary struggle for the liberation of womankind, the eradication of all exploitative systems and we welcome all black, indigenous, trans, and gender non conforming women of color to join us!

Ending women’s oppression completes a revolution. Land and women not for conquest!




AF3IRM is a national grassroots organization of women engaged in transnational feminist, anti-imperalist activism, fighting oppression in all it’s forms.