feminist of the week: sophie verass
Name: Sophie Verass
Occupation: Radio Presenter and Writer
Location/Hometown: Canberra, Australia
Describe yourself in one word: #freethenipple
What inspires you?
My friends. I feel very fortunate to have so many interesting and engaging people in my life. Whether they’re discussing gender in Government or chewing my ear off about DnB music, I value conversations that are delivered with passion. It’s wonderful to share insights, opinions and expertise with others.
Documentaries. Unfortunately I’m not talking about highbrow docos that tackle serious issues like sex-trafficking or people-smuggling. I’m addicted to thoseBBC 3 “I’m a transgender teen-mum with a caffeine addiction” type programs, where producers have almost created a character, rather than exposing the lives of “real people”. I have an academic background in media theory and sociology, so in some twisted way I think it satisfies my interest in sensationalism, society and the ridiculous.
Music. Nothing releases serotonin like spending a day on public transport with headphones in, feeding my ears a heartfelt song (while I secretly pretend I’m in a music video with a Sliding Doors theme). Since Canberra has been covered in clouds these last months and the trees look like props from a Tim Burton film, I’ve had the haunting track Brain by Banks on repeat.
What is your feminist philosophy?
Aside from practicing witchcraft and performing castration? To me, feminism is about challenging the patriarchal system. It is about strengthening the oppressed position of women in society so they are not unfairly discriminated against because of their biological make-up.
Why is feminism important in today’s world?
Firstly, whether you’re inclined to burn a bra or not, feminism is really fucking interesting. The oppression, the movements and the social issues are all part of our history. The way in which this sociology has changed and developed over time is an interesting insight into the way humans live.
Additionally, today’s world is fuelled with patriarchal politics, acts of sexism and hate crimes against women. If we still live in a world where women are victims of gang rape and even lynching, evidently there is something wrong with the current patriarchal system and this problem needs attention.
Are “modern” feminists doing enough to make a difference? What more can we do?
I think people who identify as feminists do the best of their ability to challenge the patriarchy, whether it’s reading The Female Eunuch or simply voting against the Liberal Party. Feminism isn’t about conscripting people to a protest rally; it’s about awareness and understanding of a social issue. But consequently these things are never far removed. Once you become interested in the cause, action will generally follow.
Tell us about your feminist social group, Rugs. What prompted you to start the group?
Like many great ideas, Rugs started over a few too many glasses of wine and good company. After so many in-depth discussions and ‘You’d love this book I read’, likeminded friends simply got together and decided to make group where we share articles, ideas and sometimes a little too many feelings about the patriarchy and its effect on women. This group expanded from close friends, to friends of friends and now we have a small online network. As for the title, obviously we all have a flourishing interest in tapestry looming…
When I interviewed Mia Freedman earlier this year, she spoke about how women have a natural ability to communicate with one another, which is why she enjoys the interactivity of blogs like Mamamia. It’s such a shame that woman-to-woman dialogue is often described so negatively such as, ‘bitching’, ‘gossiping’, ‘nagging’, when really, we are extremely social creatures with attention to detail and a lot of emotion to boot.
Has online feminism helped or hindered the feminist cause? In what ways?
New media has an outstanding audience reach that has never existed before in terms of communication, and is a useful promotional platform. If you look at the media industry outside of online phenomena, it doesn’t represent women accurately. Many online publications negate that young women are spokespeople for Diet Coke, interested in ‘Five beauty products that will banish cellulite’ or looking for a bright future filled with Vanish, Dettol and Glad Wrap like the commercial media might suggest.
Instead, websites and social media forums (like Lip),highlight that we are intrinsic thinkers and interested in social issues, humour and pushing the boundaries beyond watching The Bachelor, buying Peter Alexander and reading about what’s in Selena Gomez’s refrigerator. New media takes the reigns of communication and can be made by women, for women.
Sadly though, feminism can be hindered by those who also play in the Internet’s unrestricted boundaries. With the freedom that feminists have to express themselves on a public forum, comes the inevitable counter arguments, where articles by the brilliant Clementine Ford have a hull ofconservative, misogynistic and mean spirited backlash. Although opposition is an indication that headway is being made, the Internet is just another platform where women can be abused, degraded and not taken seriously.
It’s difficult to ignore the fact that there are many misconceptions about feminism and feminists. Which ones irk you the most?
It really pisses me off when people disregard the academic aspect of feminism and that it is, in fact, a discourse that has been researched and reported on, rather than an ideology that’s open for debate and in my experience, scrutiny.
For example, it is very difficult to inform people on feminism when some moron is chiming in with, ‘Feminists say they don’t like domestic violence, but then think it’s okay to slap a guy in the face. What’s up with that?’ I think many people misunderstand the basic mission of the movement and interpret feminism as going from discriminating one gender to another. The whole ‘well, what about me?’ response, which derails the initial conversation, sounds like a child who insists on also getting a lollipop when their sister has fallen and grazed her knee. I have read countless books on feminism and I have never come across any discrimination against, or sexism towards, men (despite what the majority of the Reddit community might think). I think bell hooks was far more concerned with analysing the devaluation of black womanhood, rather than plotting ways to “reverse” sexism.
Is there room for men in feminism? Why/Why not?
Yes. Of course there’s room for men in feminism, but we need to see more men taking their space in society and making it feminist.
What would have to change before men and women achieved true equality?
In theory, we need an attitude adjustment.
In practice, I would like to see more women in positions of power.
If we want to change the world, first we must… have a complete paradigm shift, 50% of women in all positions of power, a restructure of the global economy, a Minister for Science, a strategy for tackling climate change… But let me start by being Feminist of the Week.
Sophie is a radio presenter, freelance writer and hardcore feminist. If she never went to university, Sophie thinks that she could have made it to X-Factor bootcamp round. Follow her @sophieverass