Nothing but blue skies

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Nothing But Blue Skies Do I See. Kate Ter Haar (2011) flickr.

 

Feminists are amazingly diverse. There is such a wide range of approaches to the question of what causes women’s oppression, and what to do about it. But if there is anything that binds feminists across time, space and ideology, it has to be that they are good at having ‘vision’. Feminists, like all social justice advocates, have a wonderful capacity to imagine a different world.

Simone de Beauvoir imagined a world in which women were fully recognised as acting, experiencing subjects, rather than merely objects of the patriarchal ‘eternal feminine’ myth. In the radical feminism camp, Shulamith Firestone imagined a world in which women lived free of the burden of reproduction and the regressive limitations of the traditional nuclear family. For liberal feminists, from the sassy suffragettes to our very own Women’s Electoral Lobby, the new world was one in which women, through the mechanisms of the state, were equal actors in the public sphere.

Here at MCWH, our favourite world to live in would be the one imagined by the intersectional feminists, from the materialist to the post-colonial, who made us all think a little differently again about gender. Specifically, they helped us to think more broadly about the ways that sexism as a system of women’s oppression intersects with other forms, such as racism, capitalism, ageism, and ableism.

Feminists such as Angela Davis, with her landmark 1981 book, ‘Women, Race and Class’, alerted us to the role of racism and eugenics, hand in hand with sexism, in holding back women’s reproductive rights. Aileen Moreton-Robinson has articulated the impact on Indigenous women’s lives of gendered oppression in the context of colonisation in Australia. Helen Meekosha has written of the impact of colonialism and capitalism, thinking through the ways that these systems intersect with gender oppression to cause disability in the global South. These are the many ways that we have been reminded that it is not only sexism that contributes to women’s oppression.

Such feminist thinkers, from bell hooks and Gloria Anzaldua, to Kimberly Crenshaw, Chandra Mohanty and Gayatri Spivak, have expanded the vision from one in which women are equal to men, to one in which inequality and oppression on any basis ceases to exist. An intersectional approach gives us a vision of gender equality that does not simply even up the circumstances of women and men within each class, race or culture, leaving the rifts between classes and races intact. Rather, it imagines a world without structural inequality itself.

That’s a difficult world for us to picture now, an almost unfathomable change in what we know and what some of us experience, but look how far we’ve already come. We need to keep the blue skies of intersectional feminism firmly in our sights, and make sure we take the time to appreciate its variation, its subtleties and its colour.

Understanding the complexity of gender issues

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I will be more conscious of my own position/role before speaking and engaging. – workshop participant

Last week MCWH partnered with Diaspora Action Australia (formally known as the Humanitarian Crisis Hub) for the second year in a row to facilitate a gender workshop for 10 of DAA’s staff and volunteers. It was an evening of exchanging thoughts, ideas and concepts about gender issues, as they arise in both national and global contexts. Participants were introduced to different ways of thinking about gender and asked to reflect on the impact of gender norms and racial biases in their everyday lives.

Concepts such as ‘intersectionality’ were new to some members of the group, with one participant observing: “I will no longer be simplistic in my assumptions.” For others, the training was a way of deepening their understanding and expanding on their professional practice. As an attendee later reflected: “I was reminded of how amazingly complex these issues are.”

In order to ground these complexities in reality, the settlement stories of real immigrant and refugee women were shared and discussed with participants. What those stories illustrated, and what the group discovered through the workshop, was how interlaced and multifaceted gender issues can be. By seeking out a deeper understanding of oppression and working towards continual self-reflection on the mechanisms which hold it in place, staff and volunteers at DAA are even better placed to effectively empower women and their communities.

If you think your organisation could benefit from an MCWH gender workshop, why not contact us here.

 

Continuing the Discussion about Feminism

3CR Community Radio has recently broadcast parts of our March seminar ‘Does feminism speak for all women?’

The national women’s current affairs program, Women on the Line, featured discussions from all three of our speakers: Durkhanai Ayubi, a Senior Policy Analyst for the Federal Government; Juliana Qian a writer and media-maker and Dr Odette Kelada a lecturer at the University of Melbourne who researches and publishes on whiteness, race, colonisation and feminism.

You can listen to the broadcast here…

Invitation to Public Forum: ‘Does Feminism Speak for All Women?’

SEMINARFeminism is making a comeback. In Australia, feminism is increasingly becoming a part of pop culture, politics, and a dominant topic in the world of social media. Internationally, struggles by women all over the world are adding to the significance of feminism. Women are reclaiming feminism for a new era and applying it to the context of their lives.

But does feminism today speak for all women?

One of the critiques of feminism is that it does not represent the diversity of women’s experiences, by making sweeping assumptions of what feminism means. In particular, feminism can be seen to disregard the complexities of racialised/gendered identity.

With the resurgence of feminism, now more than ever, it is important to ensure that feminism gets it right.

What areas of feminism need to be challenged to ensure it truly works to further the interests of all women, regardless of background? What would this new feminism look and sound like?

Featuring a panel of 3 amazing young feminists, this not to be missed forum will raise key questions about feminism today.

For tickets and details click here or download the poster