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feminist of the week: bronwyn lovell

bronwyn
Name:
Bronwyn Lovell
Age: 32
Occupation: Poet
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Describe yourself in one word: Idealist

What is your feminist philosophy?
I think all women should and must be feminists. When I meet girls (and they are usually girls, not women) who say they aren’t feminists, I am horrified. I can only conclude that they are so deeply indoctrinated in the patriarchal society they’ve grown up in that they aren’t consciously aware of the sexism that permeates our everyday existence, or that they can’t imagine the world being any other way. The undeniable truth of our existence as women in this world is that having a vagina makes us vulnerable—to sexual violation, to ridicule, to discrimination. I don’t know a single woman who has not been touched inappropriately or had her boundaries crossed by a man in some way at some point in her life. Sadly, for many women in the world, this is part of their everyday experience.

What is the most important feminist cause in your life?
Raising consciousness of the issues and awareness of their importance.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking things like, ‘What a douche!’, ‘Such a bitch!’ or ‘Man up!’ because this sexist language is part of my culture – and it is so deeply entrenched in us that it affects the way we conceptualise the world and label the people in it. As women in a patriarchal society, we are brainwashed and part of the problem.

I am disappointed when I see sexism exhibited by men, but when I see it exhibited by women it particularly disturbs me – because if women can’t respect each other, how can we expect to be treated respectfully by the other sex?

I worry when I hear women put other women down, by making judgements and using sexist terms like ‘slut’, ‘cunt’ or ‘bitch’, which belittle and demean the gender. Most women don’t seem to hear the sexism in their own words when they say, ‘He cried like a girl’, or ‘He runs like a girl’ – wherein being a “girl” is synonymous with being pathetic. When a culture devalues women, women’s welfare is at stake.

I cringed when I heard the media victim blaming in the Jill Meagher case, shaking their heads because she had the gall to walk home alone – implying that it’s too risky for a grown woman to walk even 700 metres in the dark independently in her own neighbourhood, that she should have had the foresight to enlist a man to escort her home and protect her from the possible threat of other more dangerous men.

We all need to recognise that the seemingly harmless sexism women encounter on a daily basis can have deadly serious repercussions. And society really needs to stop treating feminism like it’s some kind of joke.

 

How has online feminism helped the wider feminist cause?
I think it has strengthened a sense of female solidarity and it’s great for building support networks and community. I think popular blogs like Everyday Sexism have been fantastic for raising awareness amongst the younger generation especially. Still, I think it’s important that the feminist cause keeps widening its reach and appealing to different demographics. Sexism is present everywhere, and likewise the feminist cause needs to be assessable to everyone and make its presence felt at all levels of society, in all aspects of everyday life, through a variety of mediums.

What would have to change before men and women achieved true equality?
A heck of a lot! An equal society would be one where women are not restricted by, or held accountable to, a different set of rules than men. An equal society would be one where women are not more vulnerable to attack, ridicule, judgement or objectification because they have a vagina. And likewise, an equal society would be one in which men would not be paid more money and respect for having a penis.

An equal society would be one where a perfectly capable female prime minister like Julia Gillard would be taken seriously and could actually get on with her job rather than being constantly bullied by the boys’ club and asked inappropriate and intrusive questions about her sexuality and relationship.

Equality doesn’t mean every man for himself or the death of chivalry. It doesn’t mean not holding open a door for a woman or stubbornly refusing to give up a seat to a woman who needs it more than you do on public transport. I am concerned that some people might think that’s what equality is – I get a “They wanted equality; I’ll give them equality!” vibe sometimes from men, but that’s not equality; that’s just bad manners.

We are a long way from achieving equality. When my boyfriend casually commented about an episode of Seinfeld, ‘Elaine is such a slut’, and my brother recently booked a party boat full of strippers for his mate’s buck’s night, I had to up my antidepressants. Sometimes it feels like we’ll never get there. But we have to keep working towards it and have faith that true equality is possible. Each generation makes ground and, with any luck, ‘our daughters’ daughters will adore us!’ to adopt the irresistible optimism of Mary Poppins’ Sister Suffragette.

Do you think that feminism has a branding issue? If so, why, and how do you suggest the movement can fix it?
Absolutely! I think most people equate feminism with angry, antagonistic women who love to hate men.

I think feminism needs to dispense with the “us and them” mentality. Sexism is not an old-school attitude displayed by a minority of men – our brothers, fathers and sons are sexist. Most mothers and daughters are inadvertently sexist too. We live in a patriarchal society and, as such, we are inherently influenced by its traditional rules and value system.

The sooner society as a whole accepts responsibility for the ways in which it is perpetuating the problem of gender inequality, the sooner we can all be part of the solution and focus on the way forward together.

 

Where do you find the inspiration for your poems/writing?
Mostly from my everyday observations and personal experience, told with a touch of imagination.

Here’s something I wrote a little while ago that seems relevant to this discussion:


Telling it like it is

The Madonna-whore complex is strong
in this one. Watch him judge that
comedy on TV. Thinks Elaine isn’t so funny
for giving it out on the first date. Jerry can
because it’s different for men; didn’t you know?

The Madonna-whore complex is strong
with this one. Watch him parade his new girl
around for his mates. They’ll rate her behind
as he buys her more wine and she’ll sip
away quiet objections.

The Madonna-whore complex is strong
in this one. Count up his gigabytes
of porn. See those chicks in the video
with red-lipstick smiles; doesn’t his
dick deserve the same happy service?

The Madonna-whore complex is strong
with this one. Count up the dollars
sent to Mama back home. He’s the perfect
son, calls his grandmother often, knows
how to make them both cry.

If we want to change the world, first we must… change ourselves.

Bronwyn Lovell lives in Melbourne. Her poetry has been published in Australian Love Poems, Antipodes, Cordite Poetry Review and the Global Poetry Anthology. Bronwyn has won the Adrien Abbott Poetry Prize and been shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize, the Bridport Prize, and the Montreal International Poetry Prize. She works as the Publications Officer for Writers Victoria. She writes poetry reviews for Lip Mag and you can read her latest here.

6 thoughts on “feminist of the week: bronwyn lovell

  1. Bronwyn Lovell

    My dear friend it is absolutely wonderful to cross your path again in such a way. Reading your article in Lip Magazine was absolutely moving. I never really thought about it enough or stopped to realise what is going on right in front of us every day.
    Thank you for your fight, beauty and passion towards what you are really saying. I will share this with the many women I know.

    “CONGRATULATIONS BTW!”

    Hope all else is a good as ever!

    Laurent

    xx

  2. Dearest Bron, a lovely friend, you are bravely honest, and with your words you are helping to change the world. Thank you for bringing some more understanding to this subject, something that weighs heavily on me with a four year old daughter, and three year old son, how do I try and help them through the minefield of sexism?
    Love to you, Deidre

  3. Bronwyn you are truly amazing! Whilst I agree with your sentiments I also think that women can stand up for themselves if they are being ‘labelled’ by confronting the offender(s). I aslo think many women label other women as they are afraid to be assertive or to have an opinion of their own, which lies more with the individual’s personality and character than their sex (many males and females are not labelling and opressing others). Being a mother to two boys I really think Men are also subject to the same taunts and issues that women experience. I don’t think we can say that women are the only victims in society, or else we are being sexist against men! It frustrates me that we have to separate our experiences according to our genitalia. I am proud to have two sensitive boys to nurture and hopefully educate on just being fair and just in every situation, regardless of whom is involved.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Belinda. I think you are truly an amazing woman too, and I know you are bringing up two beautiful sons and you should rightfully be proud of this. I don’t think any part of my article suggested that women are the only victims in society. Men certainly suffer from injustices too, of course, especially when it comes to pressure to conform to gender stereotypes, but the fact is that we live in a patriarchal society and I do not believe men “are subject to the same taunts and issues that women experience”. Far more women would have had the experience of being called a slut or of being raped than men, and if you had daughters I am certain that you would worry for them in different ways than you worry for your sons.

      • Hi Bronwyn;

        I read your article on AustralianPoetry.org, I liked some parts of it, it also lead me here. I am afraid Belinda in the above comment has some excellent points that you don’t seem to be addressing very well. First of all you say “I don’t think any part of my article suggested that women are the only victims in society”; you may not have said these exact words but it certainly feels by reading it that women are the most “important” victims and the “group” that deals with the most or most brutal kind injustice, but lets disregard this argument, no one knows what you “intended” to say and I could be misinterpreting you and hearing things through my subjective ear. You also say that “I do not believe men “are subject to the same taunts and issues that women experience”’ yes maybe not the same but they suffer from it due to their gender, meaning they lead to the same outcome! In your last paragraph you look at the issue quantitatively, you should know that this is the worst angle to tackle any issue and you don’t want to convince us to judge matters based on numbers as this leads to all kinds of contradictions. I wont even bother to give you any examples but generally speaking have you wondered why more men rape women; maybe just maybe it’s not because they devalue women but maybe more women get raped than men because more men are heterosexual and maybe allot of women get raped because according to the (Journal of Sex Research (2012), Issue 29, pages 69-77) allot more men think about sex than women and maybe we don’t hear about women raping men because when men refuse sex they are perceived as “gay”; another stereotype that men deal with and one that I personally suffered from. You also say in your Australian Poetry article “If anything, poetry is my religion. But as for writing religious poetry, thank God I left that behind.” now that may have been just a “joke” but you say that “To be a writer is to have a position of power and privilege”, people look up to writers, they idolise them, I know I do but can you deny that this statement could make some religious people (who are not quite so steadfast as you are yet) feel stupid and that they are being devalued by their powerful idols? Finally my opinion is that poetry is like any other art, you express yourself however you like without feeling that you have to conform whether you are a feminist or the opposite of feminist, whether you are religious or not and it is your right to make your convictions clear whatever they are. My trouble with what you have written is your hypocrisy and your lack of “logic” which is defined by google as: reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity ( i had to look that up to use the word) Can i finish by asking how you dress on weekends? Do you wear a skirt that reveals your legs or a shirt that reveals your cleavage or something tight that accentuates your curves above the belt and below? If the answer is yes then do you realise that you are maintaining a “sexist” tradition that you so passionately oppose; or are you? Why are men with nice legs or nice butts who want to flaunt them not able to find something as revealing at target to wear at their work function? Should men wear women clothes or should women wear men’s clothes or should we create a new androgynous clothing line? These questions are deeper than you think and their answers are not a yes or a no. The world is not as clearly defined or “black and white” as you make it seem. Go easy on advocating people to go to war and perhaps spend time delving deeper in the issue. We have read and heard your above statement everywhere, there is nothing new about it it might be true but i think a different approach is necessary.

        • Sorry but I was just “telling it like it is” which really means “telling it how I think it is”. I have not yet achieved divine objectivity.

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