Thursday, 5 February 2015

On feminism

I've mentioned in passing to a few mates that I've decided that 2015 would be my time to take an organised approach to understanding my perspective on feminism.

So why feminism and why now? Here’s ten reasons:

1. The little I know about feminism is enough to spark my interest. The definition is fairly straightforward and I can’t fault it – aiming for equal political, economic, cultural and social rights for women, especially in education and employment are worth supporting.

2. I consider feminism to be a free space. I would have had to be living under a moss covered rock in the moist undergrowth beneath my back stairs not to notice that there’s been conflict around feminism.  Fortunately for me, I do not run in packs and aren’t prepared to die in a ditch trying to get the last word. 

3. Yes, I understand that from time to time, trolls are a nuisance and have forced some extreme measures. I had the unfortunate experience of being roped into a stable of people seeking safety in numbers. The only thing we had in common was an ability to keep secrets. They wouldn’t tell me who they were and how they got the idea to exploit me ‘because trolls’, and when I worked out who one of the main trolls was, I kept that to myself.  All water under the troll bridge now. I don’t have a problem with trolls and I doubt they are interested in me either. 

4. Much of the literature that is referred to as feminist in nature was already on my to read list. I intend to read a lot more in 2015. These two notions go together like a good cheese and quince paste. I admit the idea of learning a whole heap of definitions doesn’t excite me. I wonder if much of the teething problems can’t be solved by cupping my hands around my mouth and saying very clearly “if you have a problem with black people, why not just say that?’
If Rosa Park’s words are as fresh as anything I could have said yesterday, there are no surprises that people continue to argue they are going to need some time to process (their) racism. Quite frankly, do it in your own time. I know more than enough women who have hurdled that low lying barrier to keep me sated in the bounty of good conversation and fresh ideas till my dying day.

5. Many of the really interesting* black writers that I’ve come across to date** are Native American and black feminist writers from the US and First Nations writers from Canada.
* There are issues in black Australia that have yet to be put in to words. The US has the highest profile or maybe they just went there first and just like in Australia, it takes some delving to find references to the unspoken undercurrents that are starting to drag us down.
** lists of Indigenous and black writers takes some work to track down and I expect the list to grow.

6. Online feminism campaigns rarely include black women. To point it out is to spark an awkward response. If black women are there at all, there is one of us.
That’s not inclusion – that’s chasing the brown tick of approval. I don’t know what’s worse – the person who seeks a token black representative or the feminist-inclined who want for nothing providing they can bask in the vicarious glory of the sisterhood’s sole black comrade.

I don’t know how I could confine myself to one white friend. What selection criteria would I use to arrive at just one?  There is not one kind of black or brown woman, so how is there one kind of white? Do I go for the whitest shade of skin and reject the fake tanned?

Yes, Indigenous and other black women understand the pressure to unite as one group and settle for invisibility for 99% of us. Don’t we ever. We’re more than aware that the same expectations do not apply to, for example, Palestinian and Israeli women uniting, or for Serbian and Croatian women discarding their differences, with the intention of selecting one to enter the equality fray like a mascot at the super bowl.

6. I choose to engage in feminism by avoiding being the token black feminist writer. You know the kind – each and every written piece is a reminder that black women are excluded from full participation in more ways than you can poke a stick at it.
Again African American writers are way ahead – at 16%+ of the US population and in the land of the unlimited broadband, they’ve refined their voice into a perfectly pitched withering tone regarding the mining of black writers to provide the colour-by-numbers polarized views to beige publishing landscapes.

Exclusion is the norm only if I choose it to be. Just as I have more than one of every colour friend WITHOUT EVEN TRYING, I can choose to engage with people who don’t practice OBFF (one black friend feminism).  Lord knows they are not hard to spot. This is not an act of hostility but rather an act of emancipation because to not point out the recurring examples of token black women is to participate in my own marginalization.

7. L-plate feminism means I don’t need to know what everything means. In fact I revel in it. There is no shame in not knowing what to my ears sounds like a foreign language and not being able to tell one notable feminist from another because I continue to meet people everyday who confess to never having met an Aboriginal person and we’ve been here for over 200 years.
No, sorry I don’t know who that feminist is you’ve mentioned. But can you tell me the history of the land you live on? No, having one black friend is not your lifeline.

8. I heard a rumour…that from time to time feminists have sought to include Indigenous history and perspectives in their theories. I don’t see it as my role to correct every piece of misinformation. If I started, I would never stop. And that would relegate me to a second rung of feminism. Blackfellas have been misunderstood, misquoted, misrepresented and missed out on the discussions about us, for too long to revise it all.

9. Feminism doesn’t belong to anyone so I don’t really understand why distinct camps have formed. I’m inclined to think it’s because the different perspectives are paid for by the word. Social media campaigns ring hollow to me, when the only measure is an enhanced profile for who ever it is that is recognized for creating the hashtags that go viral.

UPDATED 30 April 2015

10. Three months after first dipping a toe into feminism, I've read a lot more, had some good yarns - though mostly out of public view - and was swept up in the fascination for Roxanne Gay.  Roxanne caused a sensation when she made a number of Australian appearances last month and she talked in a language I could understand.  Plain English.

But what appealed to me the most was though diversity and black women was mentioned, and careful questions about her observations of Australian race relations, the conversations were about feminism and not confined to an interrogation of her blackness.

I want what she's having.

So....*drum roll* I was thrilled to get the chance to curate the 84th Edition of the Down Under Feminists Carnival for May 2015.

The carnival is a monthly collection of blog posts of feminist interest from around New Zealand and Australia. It has been running since June 2008, with Downunderfembloggers taking turns to host. Topics presently include Politics, Violence, Race/Racism, Science, Media, LGBTQIAU, Family/Women’s Work, Sex/Relationships, Language/Literature, Disability, Class/Poverty, Repro Justice, Intersections, Life, The Body, General Feminism/Social Justice, Reviews, Creativity/Geekery and whatever you fancy. 

Submissions must be of posts of feminist interest 
by writers from Australia and New Zealand
that were published in April.

Additional notes on style: I use 'black, Black, blackfella, Indigenous, Aboriginal' and combinations of all these words - these words are my choice how I identify myself as an Aboriginal Australian. That is the long and the short of it.

My next appearance:
5-6 May 2015

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