feminist(s) of the week: cath & josie of feminaust
Name: Cath Bateman & Josie Swords
Age: Combined age of 50(ish)
Occupation: Co-founders of feminaust.org
How would you describe yourself and your life?
Our lives are quite similar in that we are both very busy (Cath thrives on chaos), live in the same street, are generally the ‘feminists’ at every party/event/social encounter and proudly disagree or point out anything anti-feminist we come across, and enjoy dressing up at dinner parties. Oh yeah, and we run a website dedicated to creating a safe platform for people to discuss and debate feminism and feminist issues.
What does Feminism mean to you?
Josie: To me, feminism means always questioning the status quo for ways in which people have or don’t have power because of their gender. It also means reflecting on my own behavior constantly and ranting a lot about patriarchy.
Cath: For me feminism is about recognising the structures in our lives which dictate the way we do things and how we discuss gender. I am a strong believer in the power of socialisation to pre-determine our behaviour and I love both pointing this out to people and constantly subverting people’s expectations of me. I also like to pick holes in people’s gendered language. For me “being a feminist” is an active experience so it requires me to be active in my beliefs.
Do you think feminism has a place in today’s society?
Of course! Feminism is designed to make itself obsolete – if feminism is successful as a movement and a theory then it renders itself unnecessary. But at the moment there are so many things that point to feminism being relevant and absolutely necessary if we are going to progress to a better world. For example: the advent of Slut Walk, lack of representation of women in leadership positions across society, unequal pay, body image and objectification issues. The list goes on! It’s easy to look at our world (for us, inner suburban Melbourne) and imagine that things are all hunky dory now. But anyone with the slightest insight can see different, that feminism and the equality movement in general has a long way to go.
Which feminist stereotype annoys you the most? Why?
The mainstream one – that feminists are hairy and man-hating. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with being hairy (nor does it instantly make you a feminist, a lot of men are hairy). Second of all, man-hating implies that all feminists are lesbians, and that that’s a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with being a lesbian (which doesn’t automatically make you hate men either). And not wanting to have sex with men is different from hating them. PLUS feminism doesn’t hate men, it critiques patriarchy and patriarchy is not just damaging to women but also to men. So not only is it an offensive stereotype to hairy people, lesbians and feminists – it is also fundamentally wrong.
If you could pass on one piece of advice to other feminists, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to call a spade a spade: when you see something anti-feminist say so in the best way you can. Silence is your enemy, authentic voice your friend.
Is there a down side to being feminist? Have you ever received negative feedback from others?
The main down side of being a feminist is that it’s hard to enjoy mainstream things any more. I can’t watch, read or engage in anything without having my feminist glasses on. For example, watching AFL is nearly impossible now because I get so angry that there are no women on the field or in the media team. Watching movies is really hard because I get so angry that so many characters are men, and women are only made characters if it’s a female role i.e. mother, wife.
We get negative feedback from people all the time. From family, from good friends and from strangers. Sometimes ardent feminism is something you have to wear like a label and sometimes it isn’t but if you’re going to dedicate your “spare time” to damning the patriarchy you’re inevitably going to get found out in nearly any situation. I’ve even had good, close, feminist friends try to wind me up with bad jokes and horrid gendered language. It’s hard to keep saying that you’re not easily provoked, you’re just offended by their behaviour/language/attitude. Society hasn’t reached a place where feminist bashing is unacceptable yet, but we’re working on it!