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feminist of the week: amy nicholls-diver

Amy Nicholls-Diver
Writer, freelance editor
Melbourne, rural Tasmania

Describe yourself in one word: learning

What is your feminist philosophy?
A brilliant English lecturer once described feminism as ‘the political commitment to gender equality’, which is how I choose to approach it. There is no reason why women should be treated as less than, so I want to believe we can work towards a world where women are no longer treated as such. Things like the gender pay gap, the devaluation of the work women do if they choose to be stay-at-home parents, the fact that people (usually online) think it is okay to threaten to rape a woman who has different ideas to them, the fact that I am legitimately afraid when I take the train at night – these are all symptoms of a society that undervalues women. So my philosophy is that we have to work to change these attitudes. Women and men are equal; we need to act like it.

How does Australia’s current political climate affect the way we, as a society, value women?
Tony Abbott makes my skin crawl. If, as Prime Minister, Abbott reflects our society’s valuation of women, then we have a problem. (However, I don’t think that many people look to politicians as signifiers of decency.) If anything, the treatment of women in the current political climate has only served to highlight the importance of valuing women. There was such an uproar when the gender balance of his Cabinet was revealed – that in itself is a good sign that people recognise that women need representation.

Someone I met recently reflected that feminism has grown so much that if Hilary Clinton is attacked through sexism in the upcoming Presidential contest, there will be an enormous backlash that could cripple her attacker. ‘They’ll have to come at her as a candidate, not as a woman’. I think that is also true of Australian politics. After Gillard’s awesome misogyny speech, it was like we were allowed to point out that it is pretty obnoxious to criticism someone’s capabilities because of their reproductive organs. You have to address their skills and weaknesses as an individual in a particular role, not as a gendered being.

Are Australian feminists doing enough to make a difference? What more can we do?
In this day and age, I think it is kind of reductive to make distinctions based on nationality. The systemic ill-treatment of women and girls that feminists fight against is a world-wide issue.
If by ‘Australian feminists’ you mean white, straight, able-bodied, middle-class feminists, then yes, there is more to be done. Stop quibbling about whether Miley Cyrus or Beyonce are real feminists; start addressing real problems. The continued oppression of “minority” voices. The treatment of refugee women by our own government. The fact that no one seems bothered that Eminem uses the lyrics ‘I’ll still be able to break a motherfuckin’ table/Over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half’. Work on educating kids on the truth about gender and feminism before they grow up instilled with the notion that feminist are bra-burning man-haters.

How has online feminism helped the wider feminist cause?
Online feminism is great because it allows like-minded people to connect. In my experience, many areas don’t have a physical feminist presence, but young people can still share their experiences and learn how to make changes to fight for the feminist cause because of the Internet.

Do you think that feminism has a branding issue? If so, why and how do you suggest the movement can fix it?
Feminism doesn’t have a branding issue; the developed world has an education issue. Young people need to learn about where the myth of bra-burning came from (hint: it didn’t actually happen), why women call themselves feminists, and the problems women still face that feminism is focussed on stopping. This isn’t some extreme curriculum change I am proposing – just teaching facts. That way, at least if people want to claim they aren’t feminists, they know what they are talking about.

What inspires you?
Young people (I know I am only 24, but there some incredible youngsters out there). Young people who are strong and successful, who are using their influence to affect change. Lorde inspires me. Tavi inspires me. Malala Yousafzai is freaking amazing. Anyone who is willing to risk significant backlash to stand up for what they belief in. These kids are inspiring, and they are going to change the world.

What’s your advice to other feminists?
Don’t be ashamed to be a feminist. If anyone questions you or belittles you, ask them the following three questions:
1. Do you think that men and women are of equal value?
2. Do you think that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work?
3. Do you think that it is a problem that more than a third of all women, worldwide, have suffered some form of intimate partner violence, or non-intimate partner sexual violence (and that around 80% of gendered violence is men attacking women)?

If they answer yes to any/all of these questions – Congrats, you’ve found a feminist. You won that round.

I need feminism because… I want my (future) children to be recognised as equals, and to live without fear of violence perpetrated because they “deserved it” or were “asking for it”.

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