Say the word fuck today and no one lifts an eyebrow. Say the word feminism and it’s a different story.
There weren’t too many raised eyebrows in the Macquarie Marquee. Jane Caro, Bella Elwood-Clayton, Susan Johnson, Michaela McGuire and Bernadette Young’s frank discussion of modern feminism instead attracted raucous applause and a mass of heads nodding furiously in agreement as they spoke. Is feminism dead? The enthusiasm at “The ‘F’ Word: Feminism in 2012” answers a resounding no!
If you believe men and women should be equal you’re a feminist. Everything else is just noise. Feminists have always come in many forms with unique takes on the direction of the movement and arguments over the importance of various issues. That, said Jane, is the sign of a healthy and vibrant movement.
Just as there are differing opinions within the boundaries of feminist thought each of the panelists found feminism in a unique way.
For Johnson, The Female Eunuch’s call to reclaim our bodies and the sexual liberation movement connected her with feminist thought.
Jane Caro’s first connection with feminism went much further back: to her love of Queen Elizabeth I. Caro believes that although the Queen would not have imagined herself a feminist, or even have known what the term meant, she provided the foundations for the movement in the western world.
Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth inspired Bella Elwood-Clayton’s growing feminism as a young woman. Her immediate reaction to the book was to shave off all her hair, much to the shock of her mother. After puberty, Elwood-Clayton developed a real sense of the male gaze and the uncomfortable feeling of being always watched. Already feeling frustration at the insidious marketing techniques that told her she would only ever be good enough if she bought their product, she felt The Beauty Myth gave words to those thoughts.
Michaela McGuire experienced her first feminist text at 13: the television series Buffy the vampire slayer. In all the horror books she had read in the past, the women were just plot points to be killed off quickly. For the first time she saw a woman take the lead and kick some ass.
Hugh Mackay said in his book What Makes Us Tick? that one of our prime human desires is to be taken seriously. For Caro that sums up the feminist movement, the most popular weapon employed against women is ridicule.
“We don’t want everything! We just want what men have! Is that so unreasonable?” asked Caro.
The panelists did not thank the men in the audience for attending as is so common at feminist events.
“This is a human rights issue, you’re not doing us a favour,” said Caro.
Feminism is still considered largely a women’s issue, but why? The civil rights movement was not a black issue, and we’ll go to war for the rights of those oppressed abroad. Why the reluctance of some men to brand themselves feminist? Why are men not standing with women declaring the inequity that arises when half a population is being paid on average 80 cents in the dollar, compared with their male counterparts is wrong? No one is going to give power away voluntarily says Caro: “We’re going to have to take it!”
Emily Handley is a Southern Cross University media student.