When given the honour to contribute to feminaust as a “Friday Feminaust”, I knew that I would find it pretty hard to condense and express every element of my feminism into a single post. Whilst I absolutely identify as a feminist, it is an identity that is fluid, changeable, and in the best of cases, dormant. Lately, I have noticed that my feminist big mouth is pretty quiet, which has made me question my commitment to the cause. However, it’s pretty hard to feel the rage when you are full-time employed, have all the trimmings such as access to personal and maternity leave, and have been able to maintain the hairy legs thanks to Canberra’s dismal attempts at summer.
Nevertheless, when a feminist rant is required, I’d like to think that I can come up with the goods. This was expressed quite recently at lunch with some fellow colleagues. The topic of conversation was bucks’ nights and the inevitable stumble into strip clubs that occurs on these occasions. I must admit here that my university education was firmly grounded in the radical feminist tradition, and whilst I was/am a disciple of the radical feminist movement, I am very open to challenging radical feminist perspectives. I do appreciate the adamant and unapologetic stance that radical feminism takes on issues such as prostitution and pornography, and whilst I don’t feel that I have the authority to agree wholeheartedly with this stance I feel that there is definitely a place for radicalism when it comes to women’s rights.
Anyway, back to the strippers. I simply do not understand why a woman (most women, in fact), accepts that her future husband, on the eve of their wedding, would feel the need to get loose, have a few drinks, and pay for another woman to rub up against him. I don’t really understand why the man thinks this is ok either, or why society as a whole accepts this construct of bucks’ nights as a man’s “last chance” to get some action, or at least to pay for some action, before being “tied down” to the marital ball and chain for eternity. My colleagues were pretty confused at this assertion, one girl was so confused that her only response was “Strippers gonna strip. That’s just how it is.” Another girl reassured me, that while she accepted her future husband would probably visit the strippers on his bucks’ night, he would definitely not look at the strippers in the same way as he looked at her, so it would be ok. Needless to say, I was left speechless, somewhat ostracized and deeply disappointed in my peers.
A similar situation occurred just last weekend, during a pretty amazing DJ set by Big Freedia at Meredith Music festival. Big Freedia is a transgender rapper who fits into the “sissy bounce” genre of music. The music was pretty entertaining. The dancers were pretty confronting. There were up to forty back-up dancers, all of different shapes, sizes and states of undress, whose task was to shake their asses for the entire set. These actions were captured in close-up on giant screens, which means that we (my friends and I, at least) staring in drunken horror at undulating bottoms for almost an hour. It was hip, it was underground, it was subversive, but boy did we feel uncomfortable. (I do recommend that you do some Google searches on Big Freedia, and read the 2010 New York Times article on her at the very least. She offers a pretty fascinating perspective on gender and booty shaking, although I can’t say I feel comfortable with what’s going on there). When talking about strippers and the transgender rap scene, the last thing I want to do is deny or oppose expressions of sexuality and difference. Nevertheless, I feel that the objectification of women in these cases is inevitable, and must not go unnoticed. I am not sure how sexual freedom of expression and gender equality can be mutually expressed, and I feel that this is something my radical feminist counterparts do not adequately address.
I would like to touch on one more feminist issue that has been rearing its beautiful head since I moved to Canberra, and that is babies. Whilst Big Freedia is all about the “AZZ EVERYWHERE”, Canberra is more about the “babies everywhere”. At work, I am surrounded by pregnant ladies, expectant first-time grandmothers, men with baby photos on their desks and endless morning tea conversation about disposable vs. cloth nappies. I am lucky enough to be in a workplace where women are very well represented in leadership, and where work-life balance is supported and encouraged. However, I feel that there is just a bit too much baby in my life right now. The inevitable family vs. career struggle is unfolding right in front of me, and I feel that it is rather premature, given my very recent entrance into the workforce.
Those three examples pretty much sum up where my feminism is right now. I would love to spend more time delving into my views on feminist theory (perhaps with the assistance of Feminist Ryan Gosling), or discussing the atrocious rates of domestic violence in Australia, and the extent of gender inequality in the developing world, but that just isn’t my day-to-day experience. And I feel that the best way I can contribute to the “Friday Feminaust” is by providing you with an up-to-the-minute account of my living, breathing expression of feminism. Skimming over what I have read above, it seems like I am stuck somewhere between a Madonna/whore complex. How awkward for me! I guess the sticking point of my feminism is that, despite the freedom and equality I enjoy on a personal level, it only takes a few strippers or a bit of ass to undo any sense of gender equality that I perceive. And whilst I don’t want to lump the pregnant ladies in with scantily clad dancers, I guess the morning tea conversation in the office has given me an insight into what the future might hold for a fiercely independent “feminaust” like myself.
Frances Meese has recently moved to Canberra to work in the public service, and is currently working on the Government’s eHealth agenda. She approaches most things in life from a feminist persepctive, and while this can be slightly disarming to her new friends and housemates, she feels that it’s the best way she can contribute to “the revoluation”.
feminaust ~ a blog for australian feminism