Sunday, February 5, 2017

Feminism: The Evolution of a Movement | Ellen Bourne


'I'm not a feminist' , 'I don't think I'm a feminist', 'I don't want to research feminism'. These are all things I've heard from people in my life who I love and respect. Young people, progressive people who believe in autonomous living and often face the pain of being members of the proletariat like myself. People who do not deny racism, hate Murdoch media, people who want the beautiful billboard of the two Muslim girls celebrating Australia day put back up. Good people, nice people. People I've dated and people I've spent years with experiencing rewarding and rich friendship that has taught me a lot. Still, these are people who seem scared of the word 'feminism', because of the stigma and the lack of available education around the subject. Yet these are still people who believe abortion should always be legal and accessible and women should have the right to education.


To me, aligning oneself with autonomous living yet denying that feminism is necessary is contradictory. Denying the snapshots experienced in everyday life viewed whether through our own eyes or a news representation is  a complete disconnect from the facts. Denying that the word 'feminism' SHOULD be the world used to describe the movement, is some serious cognitive dissonance, because the word is more than important. Arguments against the word feminism being used to represent a movement of equality, pushing the sexes and races typically undermined and underprivileged up toward the same level as those who are not typically underprivileged, named after the fact that it was a group of women  (women of colour included) that first saw those inequalities and fought against them denies historical truth.

Typically what I see in those who deny feminism is that they do not want to be thought of as 'angry man-haters' - which is far-removed from what I see as the quintessential feminist of today. I see feminists as a nuanced group of intelligent men, women and non-binary people. People who have either educated themselves through systemic or empirical means and have come to understand the complexities of where this movement came from, the original arguments versus the current arguments and how these are linked through the socio-cultural evolution of women. That evolution is inherently tied to education. Evidence of this claim can be found in the 2008 Commission on Growth and Development suggesting that well-educated women raise further educated children who  benefit largely from their mothers education. Feminists mothers and teachers have educated our generation, allowing us to see the world from a different perspective, creating a vibrant patchwork of narratives of women and men, non-binary peoples, and people of colour with an undeniably empathetic disposition because when we see and hear these stories from the platforms the representatives of these 'other' narratives own, we are forced to step for a moment into their shoes and try to understand. It might have been easy to say, 'well, we no longer need feminism because I have the right to education', before Malala was shot,  or 'well, I have a good job so we don't need feminism', before we found that the wage gap is still irrefutably a part of our lives, and that women of colour make even less than white women.

Back in the day the feminist movement may have identified with a disregard for chivalry - declining a door being opened on their behalf - but today the arguments being made by feminists - men, women and non-binary - are much ore sophisticated. The change in argument itself is a snapshot of how far the movement has come, how far any movement might go given enough mobilisation. With proper access to education the western white woman, the woman that while still not equal is the closest to being equal, has changed her argument.

With self-reflection the feminist movement has long been dissociated with microcosmic arguments against chivalry, but looking back we can see how this micro argument may have been drawn from a macrocosmic experience.

The feminist movement is associated with autonomous living more than anything, for all people and the 'social, political and economic equality of the sexes' - plural. Feminism today is making more arguments for non-binary people than ever before, feminism itself is not an advance against men but against the anachronism that is Abrahamic patriarchy when compared to the social, political and economic goals of today.

If we look at the feminist movement today we understand that it is intersectional. It is about the social, economic, political and personal goals of all people. It is a holistic viewpoint. It is about women in Afghanistan not being allowed education, it is about the destruction of ecosystems in Africa and colonisation that has prevented women of these countries particularly, from benefits they may have had access to.

Feminism stemmed from a will for representation of all people, that it is called 'feminism' comes from the fact that it was a group of women who first saw that they were not seen as equal and that is historically important. In 2017 there is still a stigma surrounding the word, and that stigma proves there is still a sense of internalised misogyny within many men and women who don't want to align with themselves or other women, who still see competition, who still find it hard to educate themselves and are being held back by scarcity mentality, and this is the most reflexive point because that is the difficulty the movement seeks to eradicate - so that all people will have the ability to understand how to educate themselves and then choose freely what they will to do with that education, tell their stories, and bring us all toward a world where we see less judgement, and create a less closed off space - whether that is in our personal and private micro worlds that shape our societies, or the political macro world where what we say in our private homes returns to shape us and the lives we live.


Ellen Bourne