Location: South Australia
How do you define feminism?
The crux of it is that no one should be treated differently or privileged based on gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. It means thinking critically about the social structures in play around me, and whether they’re really for everyone’s benefit, or just a select few.
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I’ve only become very comfortable with it over the past year or so. Before that I would toy with words such as ‘peopleist’ and ‘humanist’ to emphasise that I wasn’t only concerned with women’s issues, but feminism, to me, encompasses those things anyway. It’s just a sadly misunderstood and vilified label.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
My definition of it has definitely changed; when I was younger I did think that feminists were man-hating extremists. Having said that, my dad was the stay at home parent, my mum is an electrical engineer, and things were relatively egalitarian at my high school so it wasn’t until a few years ago that I even recognised and began to experience gendered discrimination. Mine has been quite a slow road to feminism and even now, I find it very difficult to align myself with any particular school of feminism. The more I read, learn, and experience, the more my views shift, however slightly. I tend to think that’s a good thing though.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
It makes me think I’m doing it right when I experience resistance! People have a very limited idea of what feminism is, and when I’ve engaged in conversations around its necessity or why I find some things unacceptable that are very tolerated in our culture (eg. jokes that reinforce and normalise gender stereotypes), I’ve been accused of things like spreading and preaching feminist doctrine, ignoring common sense, taking everything the worse possible way, and told that I don’t achieve anything and just make people angry, that I am just like many other activists who spends time my group with our “shibboleths and group think”, and that I take any criticism to be about my gender because it makes me feel important and like I have a cause. Phew! I’m willing to argue with people so it’s not as though I have no role in conversations that yield such comments, but I think it’s usually because even mentioning feminism inclines others to make assumptions about what I stand for and not actually ask me about it. I just don’t take it personally; most of the things people say are about them and not about whoever they’re talking to – I have people in my life to tell me when they think I’ve said or done something out of line, but criticisms that come out of discussions about feminism tend to be quite empty.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
Sometimes I wonder if maybe feminism needs a marketing team! Unfortunately it’s just not very popular to be a feminist and without mobilising more people, the movement will become stagnant. But I’m feeling like there’s a bit of a groundswell of late … I certainly hope so! Fourth wave, anyone?
Dunja Kay is the Managing Editor of Lip Magazine, an independent feminist magazine aimed at 16-24 year old young women. She likes writing and red wine, but doesn’t combine the two nearly as often as stereotypes would have you believe.
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