Feminism- The elephant in the room refusing to make you a sandwich

By Bella Mentor,

So since high school ended, everyone seems to have an opinion. Israel/Palestine, Krudd vs. Julia, scrunch or fold. But one thing that shouldn’t be an issue is feminism. It’s pretty basic really, the economic, social, and political equality between the sexes. Nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, that interpretation fails to get a mention and instead the poster-girls of the crusade get all of the glory.

So, who are these crazy out-there feminists? *drum roll please* Well, if you believe Hollywood and Kyle Sandilands, they are; Butch lesbians, vegans, hippy-wannabes, left extremists, man-haters, girls who don’t shave (See: all of the above), and as dreamboat Kyle likes to say “fat slags”. Charming. Oh, and any woman who tries to point out gender-inequality. Opinions on pecking order get a bad rap, especially when they come from one or more of the above categories. Don’t preach your extremist ideas at me ladies!

A common ‘thanks but no thanks’ sentence is along these lines: “I’m all for gender equality and the right to vote and all, but feminism is a bit extreme…” The sad thing is, it seems as though none of the beneficiaries of these shrill femos’ work get the back story.

I would say “let’s start at the very beginning” as I’m a huge Fraulein Maria fan, but feminism really doesn’t have a starting point. Instead let me sprinkle a little bit of history onto the page, and then if you don’t know a name, event or nugget of history; look it up. It’ll be worth it.

Mary Wollstonecraft: A feminist philosopher from the late 1700s, Mary preached through her works that women aren’t intellectually inferior to men, but a lack of education leads to that perception. She also was vocal about bucking conventional femininity. On a side note, her daughter wrote Frankenstein (bonus points!)

The Pankhursts: Emmeline, Christabel et al – a formidable mother-daughter team with more cred than the Kardashians. These women did the hard slog to fight for what we are privileged to have today, primarily universal suffrage. Emmeline also gave a kickass speech called Freedom or Death, check it out here: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Freedom_or_death

Emily Davison: Famously jumped in front of the King’s horse, causing her death. This event is one of the most iconic of first wave feminism. It brought the debate out of obscurity and into the public consciousness of Britons.  This woman is definitely worth your time as your right to vote was worth hers. Look her up, stat.

If you didn’t catch Utopia Girls on ABC1 on 14 June you should get on iview and check out the history of the Australian feminist movement. South Australia was the trail blazer but there are amazing stories out of Victoria and New South Wales. This is essential viewing.

Ok, so there are a few hints to get you going, but what about feminism today? What polarises people, what throws them off, and why does feminism get a bad wrap with young mainstream folk?

A big problem is that young 18 year olds start uni and all of a sudden ‘women’s’ is spelled differently. The ‘us and them’ mentality kicks in. “Why is it spelled with a ‘y’ or an asterix?” is a common question for girls and guys who use the generic Oxford/mainstream spelling. The response is usually that the office, or the women associated with it are hungry to separate themselves from men as much as possible. [Feminist mistake: accidently alienate everyday people from the movement with things they don’t understand]

These girls are the future, and they’re not going to accept something that they don’t understand or think is necessary. I’m not saying that either of the y or * spellings is invalid, but I am saying that if someone is going to make a point, there should be some easily-accessible explanation. Unfortunately, these girls don’t have it.

To get these young girls on side we need to explain feminism for what it is, mainstream. Then as a movement we can break down the barriers. Conversations will happen. People will learn, and the current movement will expand.

Bella is a committed state and national activist from La Trobe University. She is a member of NUS’s National Executive and is presently at Education Conference in Sydney and is running a workshop on the TAFE cuts and universities. You can check out what’s happening at ed con on Twitter at #edcon12 


One thought on “Feminism- The elephant in the room refusing to make you a sandwich

  1. Steph

    Great post! I find the movement, like many, can have that alienating effect, when alienation is the exact opposite goal. I don’t want to exist in a little ‘extreme feminist’ bubble, looking down on men with disdain while I ‘tsk tsk’ at people eating meat – not that there is anything wrong with doing that if that is your thing – but I shouldn’t have to. All I want is my own and my fellow women’s rights, and all those other things are just optional extras.


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