Tag Archives: WOC

On the Offensive: A Case for Furious Feminism

its ok to be angry

Alison is just a really angry person who has been blessed with being UTS Wom*n’s Officer for 2013. Alison liked to write letters to the editor before the internet made it the bastion of time-rich conservatives. In leiu of this, Alison likes to be an advocate and, short of a serious criminal record or parking fine, will hopefully one day be of the silk or in a suit, yelling at people for a living.


Wom*n’s bodies have been the site of patriarchal conquest for aeons, and if you’re reading this blog, I’m sure I don’t have to delve much into that conquest. But how often do we think about the conquest of more abstract rights, bodies and expressions of wom*nhood and feminism? And how do we negotiate these when, as wom*n, we have internalised a great deal of social boundaries regarding what conduct is proper?

I’m talking about emotions, specifically, anger, and its expression in feminist circles.

Why is it that a man’s anger on wom*n’s issues (read: White Ribbon Day) is noble and righteous, but a wom*n’s (read: Every Other Frickin’ Day) is unreasonable, embarrassing and laughable? For a man to sway with rhetoric and quaver his voice with passion was the sign of a good speaker. A wom*n’s furious vibrato is nothing but hysteria.

For an embarrassingly long time, the man thinkers of the day treated a wom*n’s unruly emotions in the most patronising, pathological and bizarre way. It was considered that an angry, upset or noticeably emotional people with egg-producing reproductive organs had the condition hysteria, and for some time, it was thought that egg-producing reproductive organs were malfunctioning, spurting hormones everywhere or leaping about the body, inducing within the wom*n some unnatural and perverse state in which she expressed unpalatable feelings, often relating to grief.

The vibrator was invented as a more automated treatment after doctors subjected wom*n to manual stimulation (read: sexual assault) in order to ‘cure’ this grave condition and the scourge on society that an angry wom*n was.

In particular WOC and ATSI wom*n have suffered significantly under this construct, denied rights and believed to be racially inferior due to their non-complicity with colonialism (see: Sapphire caricature). It’s apparently funny, even meme-worthy, for a WOC or ATSI wom*n to express fury or upset. Some of my un-favourites include “Aboriginal Woman Yells at Man on Train Lolz” or, if you want to delve into history “African-American Woman Gets Angry When She’s Catcalled ROFLMAO”.

We have a long and grievous history in which we have been subjugated, bodily, ideologically and physically based on our anger for an infuriatingly long time.

Cut to today and one would guess that this would be an issue solved and lain in our past.

I wish it was so.

Feminism has this bizarre lateral trend which I have noticed where we call out people for calling out, we bring shame and scorn upon those wom*n who yell at the patriarchy. We are happy to make subversive bunting, but very unhappy to back a wom*n up in a confrontation against her cat-caller, a misogynist bro in caucus or in a fight with a microagressively sexist friend.

And I’ve tried this ‘Nice Wom*n: Please, Sir, I Can Haz Rights Nao’ thing, and it is soul-destroying. I grew sick of explaining things to people for whom patriarchy and feminism was a series of non-sequiturs and strawman arguments. When people would see a wom*n’s cheeks become flushed as they pick apart her experiences under a lexical microscope and laugh because she takes it too seriously. But a Daily Life, Mama Mia, Kochie’s Angels brand of feminism is riling against that, saying that we’re something more, that Angry Feminism is something that we should move beyond, that it’s a stereotype and that Feminist Killjoys and Misandrists are forcing everyone to shy away from the big F word.

I’m not for a second going to tell you what to feel or how to act, and I can tell you that acting on my feminist anger has won me exactly zero friends, zero jobs, and zero Mama Mia articles on my nifty range of cunt-cakes, yet has stirred within me a huge affirmation for my ideas, an understanding of my self-worth, a more complex contemplation of intersectionality and my role in the activist realm. My anger is a great enabler, it drives me to get things done, it drives me to examine privilege and it drives me to consider my feminism in forever changing lights and to temper my anger with pragmatic empathy, not to those who perpetuate ‘-isms’, but with those who are subject to them.

This is not a free-for-all pass to screaming. We must also consider the safety of others. But we must also consider substantive violence. A yell here or there may be nothing compared to years of lateral ideological subjugation and cruelty. A yell may be just and furious and fitting in all the right ways for a person who has been subject to this cruelty and, though it is not the focus, may bring a shameful call to action for the receiver. A yell, though, may also trigger a stander-by with significant history, and so we must be careful.

But these things haven’t really been mapped out yet, or set for negotiation, because respectability politics and the cringe of the modern feminist at the howling, unshaven, buzz-cut hulk of a feminism supposedly passed, have yet to really shift and make space for such a discussion. The answer has always been a resounding ‘No’, even from our own, an ejection from the feminist table.

It’s alright, if you want to, to be that rabid, furious, screaming, crying feminist, because it is nothing else but your prerogative, your right, and potentially, your joy.

And, in the face of things, there’s a lot to be furious about (here’s a sampler of some pretty standard run-of-the-mill bullshit).

  • With every student/pensioner/everything discount you can pull, the average cost (excluding transport, accommodation, time off work, recovery and pain medication) of a medical or surgical termination from a not-for-profit is $300;
  • Forced sterilisation of (dis)abled wom*n is still happening;
  • Revenge porn is a thing;
  • Sistagirls (trans* ATSI wom*n) are still dying in custody in men’s prisons and no-one’s saying a word;
  • Nice Guys ™ are everywhere right now, and they’re going undercover, without their fedoras and chain wallets;

And my un-favourite;

  • We’re encouraged to be polite in the face of all this.



Alison Wonderwound

UTS Womens Officer 2013




“I am not my hair“: one woman’s journey to loving her ‘fro

By Hiba

I’ve had a complicated relationship with my hair since I was 8 years old. That’s the age when I was erroneously called ‘spring onion’ by my classmates because short, frizzy strands of my thick North African hair would escape from the tight braid my mother put it in and would stand vertically like little springs. The bullying made me self-conscious of my appearance and begin to resent my natural hair, but more importantly that was the first time that I had a concept of ‘difference’ and that I was not like everyone else in my almost entirely Caucasian public Primary School. To stop the name-calling I tried to cut off the rebellious frizzy hairs, which was my first act of trying to change my body to fit other’s expectations of what I ‘should’ look like.

Only a few years later mother changed my hair colour with a gradual lightening product. I was confused as to why she did so and didn’t like pretending to be something that I wasn’t and how the lighter brown hair clashed with my tan skin, but my mother wouldn’t hear any of it. In her mind fairer and more Caucasian-looking was better, a concept remnant of her own upbringing in post-colonial North Africa where skin, hair and eye colour still corresponded to class and social status.

At age 13 I finally convinced my mother to let me cut my hair short. Up until that point my mother had never let me cut my hair, so it was long and grew past my hips and was a nightmare to maintain coupled with its thickness and frizziness. I convinced her on such practical grounds, but for me it was a symbol of finally taking some control over my own body and making a decision for myself about how I ‘should’ appear.

Over the next decade I subjected my hair to every hair product and device you can imagine to make my hair look more Caucasian: chemical relaxers, flat irons, curlers, serums, mousses, sprays, gels, waxes, braiding, thinning, extensions… if you can name it then I had tried it. I spent thousands of dollars and hours upon hours of my time and my mother’s time trying to change my hair into something different. I tried to rationalise and  justify it to myself on the grounds that it would be easier to manage if it were straighter, that it would look more professional or employable, that others would see it as more attractive, and so on. All the while I knew deep down that there was something amiss and that I wasn’t happy with the lengthy daily process of burning, stretching and moulding my hair.

In 2012 I took the plunge and stopped chemically relaxing my hair, cut off the remains of the straightened hair and left a curly, frizzy ‘afro‘. The main reason I did so was the simple fact that I could no longer afford both the money and time that went into chemical and physical hair-straightening process. I was also curious to see how my natural hair, unseen since I was a pre-teen, would look like. Neither of these reasons were particularly serious or heavy, but that decision would nonetheless still have a significant impact on my self-perception.

Considering how often I had changed my hair in the previous decade, I didn’t expect a change in the way that people would treat me after I went natural. However, I began to be subjected to ‘micro-aggressions’ in conversations where people would mean to compliment me on my “exotic” hairstyle, which as an occasional comment was fine, but would happen so frequently that by the end of a day I would feel ‘othered’ and constantly singled out as different and an outsider who didn’t belong. More damaging was my parents’ reaction to my new hairstyle which was of disapproval and shame, believing my hair to look “too African” and “ugly”, in denial of their cultural background and the lingering effects of colonialism on their self-hatred. Even more serious was that my personal space was frequently violated by complete strangers on the street, in shopping centres or at social events who would without asking for consent pat my head, run their fingers through my hair, or hug or embrace me while also touching my hair. In the first few weeks after changing my hair I felt dehumanised and reduced to an alien object on public display for Caucasian people’s amusement and whose consent was irrelevant.

That was the first time that I began to reflect on my relationship with my hair over my lifetime, how I had felt about it over the years, how people’s treatment of me changed with it, and how both I and others defined me by it. I began to see my hair as a site of resistance, where over the years I had fought myself, my mother and wider society for control over my body and on how I ‘should’ look. I began to understand why it was a site of such controversy, why hundreds of years of European colonialism has shaped what we deem as ‘beautiful’ and how that concept has never included my natural state. I questioned why my body was seen as a ‘public space’ that complete strangers had the right to comment on or touch without consent, and how that was compounded by the dehumanising way that this society views women’s bodies, people of colour, and fat people – all three of which were true of me. I began to realise that the very act of wearing my hair in its natural state was a political statement and a physical representation on my body of a “f*** you” message to a society that had warped my self-perception for most of my life. Most importantly, I accepted that I am not my hair and that I could define myself beyond just physical appearance and that how I wore my hair had nothing to do with how good a person I was or my potential as a human being.