Saturday, 30 March 2019

This Is 42 - Roxane Gay and Christina Hoff Sommers

Pic author's own

There are 2 things I took away from the Dr Roxane Gay and Christina Hoff Sommers talk for This Is 42 at Town Hall in Sydney last night. Firstly, the notion that some people believe Feminism is now too radical, divisive and exclusionary, as Ms Sommers suggests. Secondly, that the way to address this is for women to come together and, in particular, to reach out to the most disadvantaged women in “developing” nations to progress forward.

My take is that Feminism is absolutely radical and militant right now and needs to be because we find ourselves at a time when misogyny is no longer an open secret, but a full blown, in your face, mainstream and acceptable way to behave both in everyday and political life. Whether this is a backlash to the supposed gains that women have made or simply the scum rising to the surface, scum that has always been there but has been allowed to flourish and is now undeniably seen, is just a chicken and the egg argument, futile.

We have Trump in the White House, right wing misogynist politicians, both men and women, in every developed country on the globe, in our media, judicial and education systems. In Australia, 1 woman is killed a week by an intimate current or ex-partner. We are not doing fine!

The democratisation of information through social media, has meant that women have come forward to disclose their experiences, can come together to support each other globally, organise and mobilise in real time, in response to individual events and broader social issues. Whether these events are tokenistic, few and far between, selective only to demonstrate who is deserving of support and who maintains power is debatable. Perhaps people who feel that feminism is too radical are those who have held onto power for so long and think they own feminism. Suddenly marginalised women have a voice. Marginalised people are seen. “Equality feels like oppression when you’re accustomed to privilege.” Privilege isn’t necessarily wealth either, white skin is a privilege, as is an abled body, being a CIS hetero, being raised in a Judeo-Christian religion, not ever having experienced war, having access to education.

Feminism is radical and militant because it is responding to a capitalist, patriarchal, colonial, imperialist and white supremacist world that is destroying not only the planet and subsequently our species’ existence on it, but also the lives of othered people that don’t fit the dominant paradigm of that narrative on a daily basis.

People that DO fit the narrative of the dominant paradigm; white, male, able bodied, straight, Christian, wealthy, educated, ‘western’ or any of those combinations are having those values and traits questioned and measured against an alternative lived experience, one that is not any of those things and can never be and that applies to the majority of people. Suddenly, aspiring to this narrative, the impossibility of it and the demand that people do that to the exclusion of everything else is being rejected.

We need to go back to talking about ideologies. Yes, the bodies we inhabit matter hugely. The intersections of our privileges and oppressions, individually and collectively are important and dictate our lived experiences as citizens and as nations.

We need to continue to shed light on these individual experiences but that does not eliminate the need to talk about structures that continue to be racist, white/western supremacist, sexist, heteronormative, homogenised and classist.