Date: 20 April 2011
Title: Co-founder and editor of feminaust
Born in Melbourne to Northern Irish parents, grew up in the inner south eastern suburbs. Travelled extensively from the early days, back to the UK, Singapore and India with dad’s work, Belgium, Southern Africa, North America, Middle East, China, Mongolia Russia on my own, slightly obsessive, steam. Studied nursing, health promotion and public health at uni. Ended up working in community programs through a strange stroke of chance and having worked at a women’s organisation in Victoria for four years now, there’s really no going back to the “real world”. So, looks like I’m stuck on a feminist career path now!
How did you come across feminaust?
The idea of feminaust came from my reading loads of excellent feminist blogs and websites from the UK and USA and wishing there was something equivilent in Australia. Not to say there aren’t great Australian feminist websites, but they all have different aims and objectives and I was after something that showed me what was going on in Australia, without being too insular or focusing too inwards. I wanted to create something that showcased all the amazing writing and talking that was going on in Australian feminism and encouraged new thought and debate. I also wanted to do something to set myself on a new path so part of my desires were very selfish but I’m hoping that somehow, somewhere, feminaust will make a difference to someone. My co-founder IsBambi and I talk a lot about “lightbulb moments” in feminism. The day, moment, second that you realise you’re a feminist and are comfortable with that term. We want to inspire lightbulb moments in women and men all over Australia and encourage them to tell us about their lightbulb moments.
What does feminism mean to you? Is it different from your mum’s?
I started my feminist journey from the day dot. My parents used to think I’d either be a lawyer or the dictator of a small nation and I think I’ve found something that sits between the two. I did a program at my local YWCA when I was 15 and that’s when I really started to think about women’s rights in a day-to-day manner, rather than just in abstract terms like equal pay. I ended up doing some volunteering for YWCA Victoria when I was at uni and later was employed by them to run young women’s programs. My feminism is different from my mum’s because we are different people. Mum’s feminism is simple and effective; inequality is bad. But she’s willing to make compromises and will still question behaviour which she sees as socially or situationally inappropriate (gay couples kissing at family functions, women wearing short skirts and acting “inappropriately”). My feminism is a far more; you’re either with me or against me, take no prisoners kinda philosophy which certainly doesn’t win me many friends, but those who stick around are loyal and loving and essential to my health and well-being.
What is the number one 21st century challenge feminism needs to meet?
Sexual violence. Well, all forms of violence, but sexual violence really gets to me, the idea of taking something which is meant to be beautiful and enjoyable and massively fun and turning it into something painful and horrid is such a despicable form of violation and power.
Boys and feminism, what d’ya reckon?
Boys and feminism are essential. What’s the point of ruling the world if we can’t invite everyone along for the ride? That said, I do understand some people’s reticence and respect it. Just because we want to invite boys into the feminist fold, doesn’t mean they should gain access to everything. Safe spaces for women is something that I feel very strongly about.
Your goals for the present and future?
Right now, I want to get feminaust up and running and working smoothly. I’m a 20th century gal so I know my way around the internet and computers but this venture is introducing me to so many new technologies and ideas and ways of connecting. It’s a full time job just figuring it all out! Very exciting though. Moving forward I’d love to see feminaust grow and flourish. Just like the ultimate goal for feminism is to be obsolete, my ultimate goal for feminaust is for me to be obsolete. I read Jessica Valenti’s last major post on Feministing, talking about how she was no longer a young feminist and wanted to hand the site over to the current youngsters and that really struck a chord for me. Our tag line is “show us your feminism” because we want young people and old people and women and men and everyone to tell us what feminism means to them and how they work it in their own lives. We’re not here to tell you what to think or believe, but we will show you what other people are up to in Australia and around the world.
Inspirational feminaust moment, aka shit that keeps you feminist:
I just finished a community program with a bunch of 15 year olds and in the evaluation one of the questions was about what the girls had learnt and discovered from the program. There were a lot of predictable answers but two in particular caught my attention. Firstly “you don’t have to be slutty to be sexy” now this wasn’t in my aims and objectives of the program and the funding body wasn’t aware that this might be an outcome but if someone went home realising that they could be sexy and desirable without acting like a porno or being overly provocative then I’m a happy lady. Secondly “both sexes wank” again, this wasn’t a clear message for the program but I can’t help having a little image of a girl in my head, maybe she’s been masturbating for years and feeling guilty for it, maybe she’d never considered it a possibility for a girl, but in a passing remark about how boys wank, I say “girls do that too” or “so do girls” and suddenly I’ve changed this kids life forever. Either she goes away feeling good about herself, cleared of her guilt or worry about what she does OR I’ve introduced her to a whole new concept and she goes home to give it a try. Either way, I’ve changed that girl’s existence in a positive way and I’m happy about that. Even if the “real” messages of the program didn’t get through, these two ideas did and that makes me feel like I did my job.