feminist in focus: eden gillespieName: Eden Gillespie
Occupation: Full-time Media/International Studies student at UNSW
Describe yourself in one word.
Do you have a ‘feminist philosophy’? If so, what is it?
I believe feminism should be inclusive rather than exclusive. This doesn’t just mean a narrow focus on gender but broadening the scope to celebrate diversity racially, culturally and socially. I’m against pitching women against women or men against women and most importantly, I believe gender should never been seen in terms of masculinity and femininity. Gender can’t stand in as a substitute term for personality, interests or ability. Words like “tomboy”, “girly-girl” and “nancy boy” make me want to puke, not only because they just sound terrible, but because they are so often used to shame people because they don’t fit in the perfect category of what someone thinks that their gender represents. I like to be critical of gender in everyday life because when you start to see that gender (unfortunately) matters, you notice that gender has such a large role in our lives and interactions.
What is the most important feminist cause in your life?
In my life, presently, I’d like to change the gender roles and expectations that we are burdened with. I want women to be able to feel comfortable saying no without having to use the excuse of having a boyfriend, I want women to feel comfortable travelling alone, especially at night and I want women to feel equal and respected. For men, I want emotional openness, for them to feel comfortable to filling roles like a stay-at-home dad and to be able to express themselves without having to revert back to masculinity as a safe-guard that holds back emotions.
Why is feminism still relevant today?
There are so many modern cases that prove the ways of thinking about gender haven’t progressed to the extent that is needed. Men have high rates of suicide and women have high rates of rape and domestic violence. There isn’t equal representation of gender in politics, sports and music. There is sex-trafficking, women being sold as brides and captured by ISIS, and genital mutilation, which are serious restraints on many women’s rights, in some parts of the world. Feminism is seen is many places as a Western ideal and this is highly problematic as it acts as a barrier to change and bringing equality.
Are “modern” feminists doing enough to make a difference? What more can we do?
The best thing a modern feminist can do is read broadly on the issue. Educate yourself about feminism and on what feminist scholars say and why the movement is important. Find out what you agree/disagree with. This will allow you to articulate your ideas much better in discussions. You will have evidence and scholars behind you, and an informed opinion. The saddest thing is when feminists have a vague idea of feminism and so they can´t support their views. Discussion is important and trying to break away from gender expectations and identities and unlearn the lessons of gender is the best thing you can do to make a difference.
Do you think that feminism has a branding issue? If so, why, and how do you suggest we can fix it?
I think many people who label themselves feminists have a limited idea of what feminism entails. This can lead to internalised misogyny, slut-shaming and misandry, which should not be how feminists are viewed. The way we can fix this is by talking about feminism and explaining feminism in a constructive way. Identifying the restraints gender places on both men and women is the first step. Also, welcoming men, members of the LGBT community and people from all backgrounds, is a step in the right direction
You’re hosting a fictional feminist dinner party and there’s room to invite three influential feminists. Who are they? And why?
Too bad I can´t cook… I´d invite the lovely African feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Aichie, along with Lacy Green, a sex-positive feminist, and finally, Clementine Ford, an influential female journalist. They are badass, strong women who know a lot about feminism and could help me fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge. Plus, Chimamanda has the most adorable laugh and sense of humour (I have a massive girl-crush). They strike me as interesting people and I think we’d make a hot remake of the Spice Girls.
No feminist should leave the house without…
This is the corniest thing ever but self-love and knowing that gender is something socially constructed. They should know that they are extremely brave and badass for going against social norms and not letting anyone else’s idea of who they are define them.
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