(feminist) stuff I like

October 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

Recently I gave a workshop at an awesome conference out in Penrith called What’s Up West?

What's Up West?  26-27 Sep 2013

Here’s their logo, isn’t it sweet?

Part of the workshop was that I wrote a short list of feminist resources that I really love, roughly categorised into books, art, blogs and online mags, facebook pages, twitter handles and youtube vids.

Full disclosure: this is a list of stuff I like. It’s not an exhaustive list of feminist resources and it’s not meant to be. It’s things that have made me think, made my heart sing or skip a beat, and I wrote it with teen feminists in mind, but that doesn’t mean it’s all or ‘only’ for young adults.

Here it is:

Books

Art/ performers

Blogs/ online mags

Facebook pages

Twitter folks

Thoughts from a man

Youtube

What feminist ‘stuff’ do you like? Add ’em in the comments!

“Women could do awesome shit”

July 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

Three photos of riot grrls in the 90s in NYC.

Last night I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at one of Colectivo Mujer’s Through Our Eyes film screenings. They showed ‘Grrrl Love and the Revolution’, a film by Abby Moser about riot grrrl culture in New York in the 90s. Here is the trailer:

Here’s a rough version of what I had to say about the film and about how riot grrrl relates to my experience of ‘do it yourself’ (DIY) feminism:

First I want to acknowledge that I’m sitting on Aboriginal land, pay my respects to the elders, and extend that respect to any Aboriginal people here tonight.

Thanks to Rosarela and Colectivo Mujer for inviting me, it’s good to be amongst feminists and friends.

I’m going to talk about the film a little bit and relate it to some of my experiences in Sydney and some things I’m often thinking about: feminism and creativity.

Would any one here ID as an artist/ creative of some sort? Me too.

In many ways the culture represented in the film is unfamiliar to me. I’m not a punk rocker and some of you who know me might find the idea of me as a riot grrrl fairly ironic (I’m pretty mild-mannered). So let’s establish some familiar territory:

Many of us are feminists because of sexism in our communities, at work, because of sexual assault (often at home), narrow gender roles, slut shaming – these things might make us feminists, and these things made riot grrrls feminists.

Some more familiar territory is that these women thought – and felt – that they could change things.

Has anyone here ever been part of a feminist movement where you felt you could change some stuff? I have too.

I come from a tradition of organising, mostly student and trade union organising, that really focuses on capital C change – legislation, government – in my state, country, occasionally someone else’s country, then there’s political parties, school or church or organisation’s policy etc. And there’s definitely value in that and I want that activism to keep happening – at the moment for example I’m working on a campaign about cuts to the single parent pension. But I’ve also certainly felt over the years that this was sometimes a really OVERWHELMING task, and if there wasn’t an obvious target, then this sort of activism would stall.

On the street, for folks who care but aren’t necessarily activists, I reckon people often also feel like its really hard to make change.

Last year when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with capital C change, I was lucky enough to go overseas for a while. I was in Spain and Germany to be precise, and I saw all this street art culture everywhere. This really made me want to do activism through street art, even though I felt I lacked the skills. So when I got home, my feminist buddy Corina and I started a practice of feminist street art, and the thing was that we had inspiration to draw on because feminists had done this riot grrl DIY stuff before us.

Our art was definitely part of campaigning – some of it was about Bankstown being targeted in changes to Centrelink, for example – but some of it was also about making beautiful things that made us feel good and feel like feminist bad asses and so on. Hopefully it also made other people feel good when they saw it. In some ways this is the super accessible feminism of my dreams.

Like the girl in the film said, riot grrrl is about doing stuff, direct action, and that was what I wanted for my feminism at that time.

A question I’ve seen asked a bit is whether riot grrrl tactics, zines and so on, are defunct due to the internet. After all a lot of their ideas, such as actual snail-mailing lists, came about without the Internet. DIY is not taken out of action by social media, though. Zines are still happening, and music, and art. But the internet changes it, and changes the distribution patterns. It’s a lot of work, too. Not only do I have to make my art but I also feel obliged to document it online, to put it on my blog, etc etc. What this says to me is that we need more people than ever involved and doing stuff, sharing the work and the action.

On the flip side, DIY can make production easy again too. I can’t make a glossy graphic poster for example, at least not yet. I can make a pretty great poster with scissors and glue though, and I can draw, so there’s always a way if I am willing to consider these options when I am organising.

As one Colombian riot grrrl said, “I learned that we have the strength needed to make our dreams come true.” I would add, and the resources.

I think this is for me the insight and power of Riot Grrl – the sense that change and possibility can happen right here, right now. I think that what riot grrl does is present a whole bunch of possible new realities. You could learn guitar and start a punk band, you could write your own mag, you could take this fat texta in my bag and write about how awesome you and your best feminist friends are on that wall over near Erko train station, you could make art and hang it on the canvas that is the street.

I guess the question of what sort of change music and art and zines can make is a big one that I think we should ‘post it’ for discussion later tonight.

Which kind of brings me to what I see as some of the values of riot grrl, because there is political analysis there, even if it’s pretty disparate – there’s commentary on class and access to education in terms of sharing what we know, for example.

I guess what I see as the other main ethic of riot grrl is that it saw/ sees women as artists with total, full potential as human beings. Women could do awesome shit and lead crazy amazing lives and make art and music. These were and are people who deeply value self-expression/ creation. Riot grrls are saying that they/ you/ we can be artists and conversely that their/ your/ our self-expression is valid. My question here is who is and isn’t represented in this “they/ you/ we”? What special codes & language do you have to know to be read as a person of value in riot grrl culture? In a culture so informally organised, where doing stuff really depends on friendship, who is in or out? [Mimi Thi Nyugen has an awesome article on riot grrrl and race that I’ll embed here – it’s academic but worth wading through. Link is to PDF]

I want to finish up with two examples of DIY culture that aren’t necessarily riot grrrl but are part of the DIY feminism tradition. They’ve both inspired me recently:

Femme Shark Manifesto (last night I mistakenly said Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha was of Latina heritage, whereas she is actually of Sri-Lankan & Ukranian & Irish background, apologies! Again link is to PDF).

Poor Lass Zine.

With thanks to Rosarela, Corina and Rosa, whose thoughts and deeds inspire and sustain me.

Freshen your hoo-ha (or why Libra can kiss my smelly vagina)

May 26, 2013 § 15 Comments

Let me start with the necessary caveats: consumer activism isn’t usually my thing, though I reckon its got its place. Destroy the Joint (who started protesting Alan Jones and are now working on getting Facebook to disallow misogynistic groups) have done some great stuff in this area, even if its not everyone’s feminism.

However, today I was having lunch with my Dad and his partner in a pub in Balmain, enjoying the glorious Sydney sunshine. I went to the loo, and saw a sticker on the mirror. “Get fresh with Libra wipes,” it told me.

I instantly knew Libra were talking about “getting fresh” vaginas. At first I hoped I was mistaken. Then I turned around and saw this:

Libra ad reads "We won't dance around it. This gives you a fresh HOO-HA"

Libra ad reads “We won’t dance around it. This gives you a fresh HOO-HA”

Libra are telling people that their vaginas need ‘freshening’.

Libra, as far as I know, is a tampon company. Pads too. I think they mostly market to younger girls, with bright colours and a boppy “Live Love Libra” slogan. A quick internet search revealed that Libra is owned by SCA, or Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget. I couldn’t find any immediate dirt on them, despite the bad rep a lot of hygiene companies like Unilever have with women’s groups.

I can’t even be bothered with unpacking the irony of the word (is it even a word?) “HOO-HA” when used in combination with “we won’t dance around it.”

I am not of the “let’s talk about my vagina” school of feminism. For better or worse (quite probably worse), I feel reserved about these things, in addition to having, shall we say, some control issues regarding my body. However, I have lots of feminist comrades who ARE of the “let’s talk our bodies” variety, and they are hero(ine)s in a world that teaches us that our bodies are smelly, out-of-control things in need of constant disciplining and upkeep with random stuff (like Libra products). Feminists and women before me who did the hard work of health promotion and myth-busting, such as these paradigm-shifters, didn’t do that work for nothing, even if this bullshit is still happening. They’ve taught me to recognise a bit of body hate when I see it.

The reason this ad annoyed me so much that I feel driven to talk VAGINA on my blog, despite my mild discomfort, is that Libra are making such a blatant play on body insecurity. This is especially the case for girls and younger women, given that that’s who Libra seem to be targeting. The “am I normal am I ok am I doing stuff right” self-talk that is a constant in many heads, just got a big “NO YOU ARE NOT OK” from Libra. All in order to sell unnecessary, potentially harmful vagina-cleaner, as though this part of our bodies was a kitchen drain.

So, in case it’s not obvious: MY VAGINA DOES NOT SMELL BAD, AND IF YOU HAVE ONE, I’M PRETTY SURE YOURS IS FINE TOO. If someone thinks your vagina smells bad, they are very probably not worth your time. If you’re worried your vagina smells bad, go to a good (hopefully feminist) doctor and get a check up. In Sydney I can recommend the Uni of Sydney Health Service and Leichardt Women’s Medical Centre. The Australian Lesbian Medical Association also has this list. Please make other suggestions in the comments if you’ve got ’em.

And by the way, if you do feel inclined to boycott, here’s a handy list of alternatives to the usual ‘feminine hygiene’ route.

Lastly: VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA. Libra and its HOO-HAs can go kiss my smelly vag.

Pro-choice actions and wearing in the activist groove

September 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

My life was full to the brim with activism for a few months, and for the last week or so I’ve been staking out some more time for academia, my day job, helped along by a self-enforced sabbatical in the ACT.

I have three new posts from the F Collective site that I’ve been meaning to share here, but I’ve left it a little long, so two in one hit today (don’t say I never treat you nice). The first post is about a protest I was heavily involved in planning and took a key part in, the second I helped organise but couldn’t attend. Lived vicariously through the photos, and you can too.

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#Occupied: The NSW Right to Life Conference

On Saturday, this Right to Life event took place. Except that it didn’t, because feminists occupied it. Or, if you like, #destroyedthejoint.

NSW Right to Life invited the lovely David Bereit (pronounced bee-rite) to speak at their conference dinner on Saturday night while he does a speaking ‘tour‘ of Australia.

If you’ve followed any of the links above, I don’t have to tell you that this man is proud to announce that he has closed 23 abortion centres. He was national director of Stop Planned Parenthood. He started 40 days for life. He is vile and he wants to take away women’s control of their bodies, and trans* folks bodies too.

*Some feminists* (no names) were motivated enough to want to interrupt this guy. We wanted to let him know that he is not welcome to fuck us over, to try to change the culture of reproductive rights in Australia. We wanted to take direct, non-violent action to make sure the people peddling this stuff know that they are not unopposed – in fact their opposition (that’s us) is strong, tough and amazing. We wanted to take our glittery, beautiful, feminist fight to those who want to take away our control of our bodies. So we did.

We went to North Ryde RSL and threw a glittery ballet flat at him, in homage to other inspiring activists who have used this symbol to make their voices heard. We yelled “this is for all the women who’ve died in backyard abortions.” The room went silent. They heard us.

Two feminists then occupied the floor in front of the lectern. Our comrades rushed in to join us at the front. One of us took over the lectern and spoke about women’s rights to control their bodies. We played Peaches (fuck the pain away). Some of us gave attendees at tables our ‘prayer for women everywhere,’ which you can see here (PDF): Prayer 1.

We stood proudly in a row in front of the audience. We ruined their meal.

We glitter bombed the audience. We used glitter and pink shoes and music to have fun and show that resistance against oppression is beautiful. We did it to contrast their conception of femininity as passive, a chalice for ‘new life,’ with our ideas of liberated femininity. Our femininity is empowered, and on Saturday night, it was about action, fierceness, non-violent resistance, solidarity and strength.

Mary Lee Sargent, a mother of feminist direct action, says of women (this web page is poorly formatted but worth reading!):

We have been socialized to fear physical danger, discouraged from taking risks and engaging in deeds of daring- do… Despite these obstacles, what leaps out at anyone who reads the newspapers is that women are resisting injustice. For those who look, it is also evident that women have always resisted injustice and will continue to resist it in the future.

We did it. More on this soon.

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Though shalt not mess with my reproductive rights

That protest we invited you to – did you make it?

If you didn’t, here’s what you missed!

If you did, here’s a selection of photos to remember it by. They’re beauties, all taken and provided by the excellent Kate Ausburn, of coal seam gas reporting fame. You can check out her full set here.

F member and attendee Emily said:

It was fun!

Turnout was good. Around 30 – 35 on my rough head count, which is amazing for 7:30 Monday and with such a short build up. There also seemed to be a lot of women who were not necessarily there from F directly. I think that is pretty exciting.

Interestingly Notre Dame had security guards at all of their entrances and you could only get through with Notre Dame ID. It has clearly stepped up since Saturday night 🙂

We were highly visible and George and Mac did a great job with signs, leaflets and posters. Oh and we also got pretty noisy with some chanting with the two giant mega phones and the accompaniment of horns as people drove past.

All in all I reckon it was a pretty successful action and a nice accompaniment to the Saturday night disruption.

Enjoy!

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