By Emma Di Bernardo
Earlier this year, the NUS Women’s Department ran a campaign called “The F Word”, encouraging debate about why women who believe in women’s issues don’t like to call themselves feminists, and encouraging women to become the new f word.
It got me thinking how feminists are perceived, and how feminists “really” are. We are forever going to try to steer away from the negative overused idea and visual image that feminists are all white, hairy-underarmed, unnecessarily angry, lesbian women – because we are never seen as people of differing genders or non-genders and ethnicities, hairy-underarmed or not, passionate for a reason, who don’t see lesbianism or any other sexuality and identity as a negative other to be called.
The F Word campaign was a hard task by NUS – to try and encapsulate what being a feminist is – and I think by focusing on what feminists in Australia ultimately stand for in a general, broad sense was an excellent way to go. As anyone knows, putting a set definition on what an identity is can be problematic, have negative consequences as almost certainly something will be missed or have less emphasis in this definition. NUS’ campaign wasn’t about projecting a certain image of feminists visually, but textually – something that I think was great by stopping any definitions being underpinned by what feminists look like or appear to be.
There were three main posters (which you can find under the ‘resources’ tab on this site!) which were all black text with a white background. No images – just awesome phrases like, “I’m just as good as you are, just as valid.” It managed to encapsulate issues feminists stand up for, like equal pay, and not being victimised or villainised for choices around sexuality. It wasn’t about projecting a certain visual representation of a woman, which would send messages of the ‘ideal’ feminists and obviously would be targeting an audience, whether intentional or not. Although I think the campaign could be potentially read as being more focused on cis-gendered women, there is room for interpretation because of the textual nature.
My idea of what a feminist is always changing and growing to fit identities – I think feminists are undefinable, and I like that. However, I also realise how problematic that becomes when it comes to recruiting new people to hop aboard The F Word train. Focussing on issues rather than image or confined definition, I think, is very feminist to the core.
I’m sure someone will disagree with that definition, however!
Emma is a member of the UQ Women’s Collective and the editor of their Zine Wom*n’s news. The new edition comes out today! You can read past editions in the ‘Resources’/Zines tab of the blog or on their blog here. If you’re interested in the new f word campaign the posters are here