MichFest: One Year Ago, by @smashesthep

Cross-posted from: Smash the P: Women's Liberationist
Originally published: 02.08.16

One year ago, I arrived at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for the first time after hearing about it for years. It was an amazing experience and it changed me forever.

At the time, I wrote about my experiences, but since they were so personal I shared them in bite sized pieces on tumblr, feeling that I wasn’t ready for them to be exposed to a wider audience and all together.

On this important anniversary, and the first year without a MichFest, I have decided to share them here. Many women are grieving this loss for what it is. But there is hope. Womyn are creative, innovative, and powerful. Amazons get shit done. This is not the last time we will gather.

Here are my words from last year, interspersed with some photos for you all.

Arriving at MichFest: Challenges and Gratitude

outside michfest

 


Read more MichFest: One Year Ago, by @smashesthep

A brief history of ‘gender’ by @wordspinster

Cross-posted from: Language: a feminist guide
Originally published: 15.12.16

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In New York City in 1999, I heard a talk in which Riki Anne Wilchins (self-styled ‘transexual menace’, and described in the Gender Variance Who’s Who as ‘one of the iconic transgender persons of the 1990s’) declared that feminists had no theory of gender. I thought: ‘what is she talking about? Surely feminists invented the concept of gender!’

Fast forward ten years to 2009, when I went to a bookfair in Edinburgh to speak about The Trouble & Strife Reader, a collection of writing from a feminist magazine I’d been involved with since the 1980s. Afterwards, two young women came up to chat. Interesting book, they said, but why is there nothing in it about gender?

From my perspective the book was all about gender—by which I meant, to use Gayle Rubin’s 1975 formulation, ‘the socially-imposed division of the sexes’. Feminists of my generation understood gender as part of the apparatus of patriarchy: a social system, built on the biological foundation of human sexual dimorphism, which allocated different roles, rights and responsibilities to male and female humans. But by 2009 I knew this was no longer what ‘gender’ meant to everyone. To the young women at the bookfair, ‘gender’ meant a form of identity, located in and asserted by individuals rather than imposed on them from outside. It wasn’t just distinct from sex, it had no necessary connection to sex. And it wasn’t a binary division: there were many genders, not just two.
Read more A brief history of ‘gender’ by @wordspinster

Her Dress, His Choice by @EstellaMz

Cross-posted from: Uncultured Sisterhood
Originally published: 13.11.14

In the nineties, girls and women navigating through downtown Kampala would have been surprised to end the journey without being groped and stalked. By men. This was normal; men being men and women being, well, objects for men to grab, gawk and leer at. Negative reaction often resulted in a barrage of insults. It didn’t matter that they had just called you ‘sister’ or ‘mummy’ or ‘auntie’. You were buttocks, breasts, legs. Yours was to suffer it, preferably with a smile, and keep walking.

Years later, we hear stories of women who have retaliated against this harassment. Surprisingly, men are said to cheer them on, and playfully chide their colleague for the unthoughtful move. And so you would think that a lot had changed on these streets. However, last year when Ugandans were gifted with a Christmas of laws, including the notorious anti-miniskirt act, hardly had the thud of the honorable speaker’s gavel died out, than mobs were undressing women in the name of policing decency.


Read more Her Dress, His Choice by @EstellaMz

The Outsider Within: Racism in the Feminist Movement by @ClaireShrugged (Part 2)

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 25.04.16

A brief foreword: this essay is the second in a series on race and racism in the feminist movement. It is a work of personal reflection. No individuals, organisations, or events are/will be named or directly identified. My objective is neither to call out nor to heap praise on any woman, but rather to highlight some realities of interracial dynamics between women in feminism. Part one of the series The Outsider Within: Racism in the Feminist Movement is available here.

 

The personal is political. So goes the rallying cry of second wave feminism, a perspective which has characterised a significant body of feminist theory. It is for this reason that I have decided to share a reflection upon my experience as a Black woman within the movement. There is a theory within Black feminism that being an outsider on the grounds of both race and sex positions Black women as watchers, gives us particular insight into dominant power structures and the means by which they manifest (Hill Collins, 2000). With this in mind, I aim to live up to the standards set by my foremothers and improve this movement for the women of colour who will follow after me.

Feminism is for everybody – so says bell hooks. (Note: hooks is not arguing that the movement should prioritise men, or any other dominant class, but rather be fully inclusive on grounds of race, class, and sexuality.) This text was critical in my development of a Black radical feminism, the moment when black became Black. Feminism is for Everybody outlined the importance of acknowledging race and class alongside sex if white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is to be dismantled, and provided a blueprint for true interracial solidarity between women. Here, hooks posited that sisterhood can exist between women of colour and white women provided that race is acknowledged as a hierarchy, racism as a system of power, from which white women benefit. If white women continue to deny the privilege of whiteness, disregarding countless testimonies delivered by women of colour, we have no reason to trust them as political allies – this is hooks’ perspective, and one with which I agree wholeheartedly. 
Read more The Outsider Within: Racism in the Feminist Movement by @ClaireShrugged (Part 2)

Why Women’s Spaces are Critical to Feminist Autonomy by Patricia McFadden

Cross-posted from: Isis International

The issue of male presence, in physical and ideological terms, within what should be women-only spaces is not just a matter of ideological contestation and concern within the Women’s Movement globally; it is also a serious expression of the backlash against women’s attempts to become autonomous of men in their personal/political relationships and interactions. As human societies have become more public through the intensified struggles for inclusion by various groups of formerly excluded constituencies (the largest of which is made up of women of differing classes, ages, sexual orientations, abilities, ethnicities, nationalities, and locations), so the struggle for the occupancy and definition of space has also taken on a concomitant significance.

In this short article, I want to explore some of the reasons why this contestation over women’s spaces has arisen. I also want to argue strenuously that women must not allow men into our spaces because strategically this would be a major political blunder for the future of the Women’s Movement, wherever it is located and engaged with patriarchal hegemony and exclusion. To argue for men’s inclusion into women’s political and structural spaces is not only fundamentally heterosexist; it also serves an old nationalistic claim that women need to take care of men, no matter where they are located and or what they are engaged with. This claim is inherently premised on the assumption that women who are not attached to or associated with a man are dangerous, rampant women who must be stopped. That is why the statement that women need to “take men along” smacks not only of the deep-seated patriarchal assumption that women’s mobility requires male approval. It also facilitates the transference of socio-cultural practices into the Women’s Movement that nurture male privilege and pampering in spaces that women have fought for centuries to mark as their own.  ….

The rest of this article is available at Isis International.

I am Woman Hear Me Roar

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 29.10.15

feminist signHelen Reddy sang this song in the 1970’s and it became an anthem for Women’s Liberation.

I sang it loudly and proudly. I was a University student in the early ‘70’s and I was just beginning to learn about Women’s Liberation. I cannot say that I was part of the so-called ‘Second Wave’ of feminism. I was not actually involved in the movement. But I was inspired by it and benefited from it.

It enabled me to reject the notion of becoming a wife, mother and housewife and to recognise that I could have a career.

It wasn’t until I began working in the field of social work that I began to realise that women’s liberation meant more than achieving equality and individual choices. This was when I began to learn about the true extent of male violence against women and children – child sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment. I learnt this through talking to and working with women and children who had been traumatised and victimised by male violence – their lived experiences of surviving in a patriarchal world.
Read more I am Woman Hear Me Roar

Playboy Feminism TM isn’t feminism, it’s the same old misogyny by @sianushka

Cross-posted from: Sian & Crooked Rib
Originally published: 01.07.15

No one wants to be ugly. No one wants to be the unsexy one. No one wants to be rejected.

And that, I think, is what makes this weird phenomena of ‘Playboy Feminism TM’ so attractive.

Okay, if like me you read the phrase ‘Playboy Feminism TM’ and went WTAF, I thought Playboy was rather antithetic to feminism seeing as it involves Hefner’s insistence on being flanked by much younger women and the magazine’s 50+ years history of treating women as disposable objects for male consumption, then you have my sympathy.

But no! It’s 2015 and let go off your anti-porn hang ups ladies, because apparently these days Playboy is totes feminist. In fact it always was, and the proof is that they got a bloke to write an article telling all us boring women feminists how we’ve done feminism wrong, and Playboy-reading men have done feminism right (sorry guys who read Playboy thinking they were sticking it to the feminist movement. Turns out you were feminists all along! Oops!).


Read more Playboy Feminism TM isn’t feminism, it’s the same old misogyny by @sianushka

Trouble in the Sisterhood by @EstellaMz

Cross-posted from: Uncultured Sisterhood
Originally published: 22.02.15

Two articles that were published over the last few days, and the reactions that followed in their wake, are proof of backlash against the progress made by the women’s liberation movement. Whereas one was an open letter calling out the no-platforming at universities in England of some feminists because of their “unpopular” opinions, the other, related to the first, highlighted the ongoing erasure of references to women at women’s colleges in America.

Anyone who was shocked by the anger directed at the signatories of the letter has not been following the on/offline application of nearly every weapon in the master’s toolbox to silence women into submitting to male interests. This really wasn’t news – but of course it was shameful; the offense taken and ageism that ensued stuck to the book.

The other story captured another shade of arrogance and male entitlement. Apparently, at one of the women’s colleges, the word sisterhood has been replaced by siblinghood because the former is “exclusionary” language. There even is (or was) a petition to the school’s administrators to cease referring to it as a women’s college… because that is not “gender inclusive language.” Colleges, established through vision and hard-won battles fought by women for women, are now in the bulls-eye of patriarchal backlash.
Read more Trouble in the Sisterhood by @EstellaMz

What’s wrong with activism today? We’re becoming too comfortable.

cross-posted from Equinox until Solstice

orig. pub 23.12.2014

Let me cut to the chase: I think that much of the problem about most social justice movements in the first world today is that they’re becoming “hippie trends” instead of long term commitments.

Instead of genuinely fighting for women’s liberation, many self-proclaimed “feminists” today wear feminism as if it’s a fun, fashionable badge. Every choice is a brave defiance of patriarchy. It’s empowering to dress oneself up in expensive brand name attire produced by the labour of underpaid workers in third world countries. It’s much easier to do that than to actually care about the plight of the world’s most oppressed and underprivileged women and girls.

Vegans around me are always talking about what brands of mock meat, cheese or tofu are the best, instead of analysing how to dismantle the institutional forces that reinforce anthropocentricism and uphold the industries that exploit non-human animals.

Environmentalists don’t even bother to advocate decreasing consumption these days. They’re all about promoting the Big Green. To hell with ditching the car or not leaving the tap running while brushing your teeth – we’ve got so many corporations offering you the best in snazzy, flashy Solar Panels, Hybrid Automobiles and Renewable Geoengineering! #spoiltforchoice

Activists were much more radical than this back in the 80s. Look at us now.

The truth is that we’re all becoming way too comfortable with mainstream consumer capitalism, and unfortunately, “activism” these days is all about how cool, hip and “in” it makes you look.

 

Equinox Until Solstice: A young Asian Australian feminist sharing her artwork and writing. Sometimes I blog about philosophy and politics.