Sunday, 4 March 2012

A weekend of Activism

Dear Diary,

The past weekend has been one full of activism, feminism, and GLITTER!

First- Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2012 was a blast! The organisation I work for, PWD (People With Disability Incorporated) teamed up with the CP Alliance, Intellectual Disability Rights Council, and Touching Base, and submitted a joint entry themed “Sexuality and sex/gender diversity do not end with disability”. People with disability have historically been viewed as asexual, a very discriminating misconception, and one that these organisations, particularly Touching Base, is aiming to dispel.

It was raining on and off during the time we were waiting in the marshalling area, luckily Daphnee, our Superhero Communications Manager, had bought extra ponchos that she provided us. Not only do they keep you dry, but warm, as those cheap things are like wrapping yourself in gladwrap! My friend, AW, was attacked by a glitter fairy, and as my other friend, KR said “That shit is like herpes, once it’s with you, it stays for life”. I think I still have some in my hairline…

During the actual march, from Hyde Park to Moore Park, it stopped raining. We got heaps of cheers from the crowd and all grew hoarse from cheering and blowing whistles ourselves! It was an amazing experience, although the cardboard signs that we had painted were totally trashed!

From a wet, windy wonderful night, to a fine, laissez-faire, feminist afternoon. My friend AW and I attended ‘The F-Word: an Afternoon of Feminist Debate’ at The Sydney Opera House.

In particular, I wanted to write a summary of Naomi Wolf’s lecture. Wolf, in trying to answer the question of why Feminism is seen as irrelevant by significant proportion of today’s youth, and what are the next steps for Feminism, explored the antecedents to previous Feminist movements.

Firstly, the Victorian Movement, which paints women as fragile victims of their culture, does not entice young people today, as its’ framework does not make room for our current lives, where women are active in the workforce, and more control over their reproductive health. It also does not paint women as having enough agency- we can change within  the culture but do not have enough status to change THE culture.

Secondly, the Marxist Movement, is more helpful in terms of providing a framework for working women, but is not able to sit with Western advanced capitalist consumption. Young women of today want a Movement where they don’t have to forsake consumer goods that make their life easier (*dripping sarcasm* I desperately need that IPhone App that tells me when I get my period!!!)

Lastly, the Existentialist Movement, particularly post War French Existentialism of Simone DeBouvoir. Wolf hypothesises that young people today do not connect with the ardent Individualism that Existentialism espouses. Women of today dismiss this theoretical framework because it focusses too much on the self, and does not encapsulate our whole being as daughters, friends, mothers, aunts. This aggressively Individualistic approach is probably what gave birth to the negative stereotypes the media holds today about feminists: Man Hating, Hairy Armpitted crusaders that yell at a man if he offers up his bus seat to her.

Wolf’s conclusion was that, in order for the Feminist Movement to move forward and out of the stagnant water of which it has been sitting for the past 30 or so years, we need to find another framework. Wolf advocates that the Enlightenment Framework, founded primarily by Mary Wollstonecraft
(see here for more info on Ms Wollstonecraft!

The Enlightenment framework can be useful, as it is based around human rights, and so can be transferrable across cultures, religions, and political and economic systems. It is about equality of the sexes (remember equality does not equal ‘sameness’- it’s still polite for a man to hold open a heavy door for a woman!). Using a human rights lens, women in Western Countries that feel they’ve achieved “equality” can look to other places in the World and realise there is still work to do. Wolf explained that this will take the now plateaued ‘Western Feminism’ and turn it into a ‘Global Feminist Movement’! Huzzah!

I really enjoyed Wolf’s pieces as she put into words what I’ve always felt but haven’t examined enough to break down and analyse. For those of you who know me, you know I’ve always said I am a Human Rights Advocate in everyday life, and I try and educate my peers about human rights abuses whenever I hear about them. (Ooh, I just had a wonderful thought- I’m going to do some reading and write about Feminism and normalisation theory. Stay tuned people)

Anyway, the point is, it’s been a fantastic weekend. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cough up some glitter I still have in my lungs!

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