Friday, February 5, 2010

A Feminist Because

I’m a feminist because of a tea towel. 

I was young and small and saw it flapping on our clothesline, two children standing next to each other and looking down their knickers. (Down! Their! Knickers!) 

The caption read: “Oh! So that explains the difference in Our Pay”

I remember asking “the adults” what it meant.  

The best response: “It’s about tea towels and what gets done with them. It’s about what we think of the people who mop up spills and wash and wipe dishes, who polish glasses and mop our floors and what we think of them when they don’t. When women don’t just cook dinners and clean up messes. It’s about how women get treated and about changing it.”

Good answer (& like all the best answers one immediately has more questions. Then more. And more still). 

It is good answers like these and the continual questions that keep me in the movement, that are of the Feminist Movement, that are of my dreams.

I’m a feminist.

Because of bell hooks who writes with characteristic brilliance, “Feminism is a movement to end violence. Feminist struggle takes place anytime anywhere any female or male resists sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. Feminist movements take place when groups of people come together with an organised strategy to take action to eliminate patriarchy.”[i] 

Because of Judith Butler,[ii] Liz Grosz[iii] and Sara Ahmed[iv] who ask in different ways what it means to be a woman in the first place. Who ask us who we mean when we say “woman” anyway?  Who is the “woman” of our imaginings? Who are we leaving out, who are we excluding, what are we taking for granted when we say “woman,” when we say “she”?

Because of Le Tigre.  Nina Simone. Maybe even Lady Gaga.

Because of Aileen Moreton Robinson, who talks about the racist legacy of Australian feminism and with immense generosity urges feminists to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander struggles for justice. [v]Because of visual artists like Tracey Emin, like Nan Goldin, likeCindy Sherman, like Yayoi Kusama, like Catherine Opie who are unafraid. They, like those kids on that tea towel, look down their own knickers. They flesh out their bodies. They make art. 

And Because of the F Collective, who are organising this conference, who are always inspiring and challenging, always busy, calling each others bluff, thinking about feminisms, learning from legacy, holding meetings, passionately licking envelopes, organising a festival, writing books, working, laughing, reading books, creating a zine, blogging, tweeting, facebooking and, with millions of others around the world we are fighting for our lives.

Your turn! Finish this sentence: 

I’m a feminist because...

Blog post by Rosa Valerie Campbell

[i] hooks, bell. Feminist Theory From Margin to Centre. South End Press: 2000. xi.
[ii] See Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. Routledge: 1990.  for a brief introduction to Butler’s work see:
[iii] See Grosz, Liz. Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism. Indiana University Press: 1994.
[iv] See Ahmed, Sara and Jane Kilby, Celia Lury, Maureen McNeil, Beverly Skeggs. Thinking Through Feminism. Routledge: 2000.
[v] Moreton Robinson, Aileen. Talkin’ Up to the White Woman: Aboriginal Women and Feminism. University of Queensland Press: 2002. 


katherinecunningham said...

I don't know if I am a feminist...

I share with women tools to bleed well with, how to harness the body rather than medicate it. I walk with women as they open up those deep power places. I know a sisterhood is available in each group of women that are willing to find it. I will one day see the moments when a woman's life is entirely her own, to really choose on every level. I know that men can only learn respect, when respected.

Does that make me a feminist?

LauraM said...

I think it makes you one for sure!

I grew up in a family where my parents weren't married, where my great-grandmother chose not to marry, despite having my grandmother, where both my grandmothers had jobs and this was normal. It didn't occur to me until I went to high school that this, perhaps, did not reflect the experience of many people.

I was totally perplexed that people would be surprised that my parents weren't married....they didn't shun me or anything...they were just surprised.

And this is where my feminism started, I think. I started life in a very tolerant bubble where women could choose the life that they wanted (I only learned later how hard some of those choices had been....).

And Katherine I think the thing that you say that resonates most with me is: "I will one day see the moments when a woman's life is entirely her own, to really choose on every level".

That is why I am a feminist and I think that is why you are one too!

ana australiana said...

I think it's really refreshing and important to have talk of feminism here opening with the experience of non-white women and, especially for our Oz context, Indigenous women.

As Jackie Huggins puts it in 'Sistergirl':

“Aboriginal women insisted that the Women’s Liberation Movement recognise that the conditions they faced were different. The white women’s movement argued, for example, that compared with men, women in Australia were poorly educated and worked in poorly paid jobs. Yet Aboriginal women were better educated than Aboriginal men, and when they were able to be employed, they worked in better status jobs than Aboriginal men. The white women’s movement was at that time concerned with sexuality and the right to say “yes”, to be sexually active without condemnation. For Aboriginal women, who were fighting denigratory sexual stereotypes and exploitation by white men, the issue was more often the right to say “no”. Where white women’s demands to control their fertility were related to contraception and abortion, Aboriginal women were subject to unwanted sterilisation and continued to struggle against the loss of their children to interventionist welfare agencies. While Aboriginal women insisted on their right to have access to full medical services, including information about contraception, their demands to control their own fertility were related to the right to have as many children as they wanted.”

Anonymous said...

It was all reading well until you mentioned Lady Gaga! She is the ultimate anti-fem. Who would want to emulate her!?

See -

*Illuminati Symbolism In The Music Industry

*PROOF Lady GAGA Worships SATAN!!! (illuminati girl)

*Freemason/Illuminati/All Seeing Eye

Is this what you want for your kids?