This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Mia

Name: Mia Northrop
Age: 37
Occupation: Digital designer
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Mia

How do you define feminism?
I consider feminism to be the fight for equality between men and women on the domestic, public and professional fronts. I also see it as the celebration of what women have achieved and have to offer in all arenas.

When did you first identify as a feminist?
I don’t remember a lightbulb moment.

I grew up with a mum who is very independent, a risk taker and assertive. During some of my primary school years she was a single mother who juggled a career, two kids and post-grad study. Aspects of her career, the extent of her overseas travel and lifestyle would not have been possible without the achievements of feminists before her, and women like her who continue to demand access and recognition. I see her as a great role model in terms of striving for full participation in everything life has to offer.

At some stage during my teenage years I must have realised this and thought, yep, feminism is an important and powerful thing and I’m definitely a feminist.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
I took a Gender Studies class at uni and read some Germaine Greer, Naomi Wolf and Camille Paglia in my twenties. Exposure to their ideas definitely broadened my understanding of the history of feminism and different tenets and measurements of the movement. It’s such a complex topic, and I appreciate its complexity, but I always come back to the notion of equality.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
I haven’t felt any overt resistance to my feminism. I’m not really vocal about it, it doesn’t define me, its just part of my values and morals in a way.

Lately I’ve been surprised by comments from female friends who don’t identify as feminists. I’m always shocked that they feel like feminism is something they can’t be or don’t want to be part of. I’ve found that they see feminism as radical and man-hating: their concept of feminism is very narrow. I guess their distance from feminism is simply their lack of recognition of some struggles as feminist issues, or they haven’t had the intellectual curiosity to find out more about feminism. It upsets me because they have daughters and I want them to recognise and pass on what feminists have achieved for them. I want them not to take things for granted and to continue the fight for further access and equality.

In the past I haven’t challenged them on their understanding of feminism but it upsets me more now that I’m a mother to a daughter too. I have started to probe a little further and illustrate some concrete examples of how feminism allows them to function as they do in the world today.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
Complacency abounds and the attacks on women’s rights continue. So many women and men take the status quo for granted in the Western world and are unaware of some of the truly shocking conditions women struggle in elsewhere. The topics of abortion, equal pay, contraception, maternity leave, breastfeeding in public – basic basic stuff – are still controversial in the West after all this time, and bandied around by male politicians at every election for casual point scoring. It’s disheartening and frightening.

Current political discourse is so inflammatory, fundamental and far reaching that its hard to get sensible messages out to reasonable people. I worry about Gen Y and Alpha girls and their lack of personal exposure to women who were at the vanguard of the 70s feminist changes, who won’t recognise when their rights are in danger.

It’s also long overdue for men to realise how they have benefitted from feminism. Among my contemporaries, lifestyles would crumble if the female partners couldn’t earn what they do, flop out a breast in public for a quick top up or take paid maternity leave for example.

Everyone could do with a wake up call, from whom I don’t know. Women like me?

Mia has a B.Commerce and a B.Arts from the University of Melbourne. She has lived and worked in Canada, England and the US and resides in Australia with her daughter and husband, where she is a self-employed user experience designer.

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