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feminist of the week: scarlett harris

scarlett FOTW
Scarlett Harris
Freelance writer/blogger at The Early Bird Catches the Worm/call centre operator
Melbourne, but originally from country Victoria

Describe yourself in one word: Passionate.

What is your feminist philosophy?
I would characterise myself as a judgmental person and, while I wouldn’t want to change a thing about myself as I love who I am, if I’m going to judge I always make it a point to do so based on who someone is, not their gender, sexual orientation, race, class or abilities. And even then the adage “walk a mile in their shoes” can still be applied. If we’re serious about this equality thing, we need to treat everyone the same and acknowledge that different sets of rules should not be applied to different sets of people.

Why is feminism important in today’s world?
When women are victim-blamed for deigning to put ourselves in a position where we could be vulnerable; slut-shamed for our real or perceived bedroom habits; harassed and attacked on the streets for going about our business; have our genitals mutilated, acid thrown in our faces and murdered for being “shameful”; denied basic healthcare or taxed more for it; receive less money for the same work; are objectified and thought of as less than for what is or isn’t between their legs; and are gaslighted into believing we’re overreacting when we broach these subjects, it solidifies the fact that feminism is still paramount in our society.

Are Australian feminists doing enough to make a difference? What more can we do?
Until we no longer need it and we’re all “equal”, we can always do more to further the feminist cause. I can only speak of my experience as an Australian feminist, but I feel like feminism is still a niche subject here. We have mainstream media outlets like Daily Life, for example, that don’t shy away from airing feminist issues, but I don’t necessarily feel like this is represented through the rest of society.

In Melbourne, though, there are lots of feminist events to keep those sympathetic to the cause involved at a grassroots level, such as Karen Pickering’s Cherchez La Femme discussion group on the first Tuesday of every month at a new, accessible venue in the city, The Duke of Wellington Hotel, and SlutWalk, etc.

How has “online feminism” helped or hindered the wider feminist cause?

This is not to mention the abundance of online feminism, which I think is the hallmark of fourth-wave feminism.

When I first started my blog, The Early Bird Catches the Worm (soon to be undergoing a revamp – stay tuned!), in 2010, I envisioned it to be more about books, magazines and pop culture with no real edge. Then I started getting heavily into online feminism via MamaMia and Jezebel. Now a lot of feminists might take these sites to task for victim-blaming and body-shaming, amongst other things, but for people just dipping their toes into the raging waters of online feminism, they can be effective, non-threatening  jumping off points. As my ideologies changed so did my blog to reflect this.

I think online feminism illustrates that it doesn’t just have to exist in the intimidating realms of academia; online feminism is equal opportunity. (Unfortunately that also means equal opportunity for trolls.)

What is the most important feminist cause in your life?
I am most passionate about slut-shaming/victim-blaming, gender stereotyping and reproductive rights. I write more about that here.

Do you think that feminism has a branding issue? If so, why and how do you suggest the movement can fix it?
I think that has been true in the past, but from a purely pop cultural perspective, the current influx of all the pretty young things – Miley, Beyonce, Lorde, Selena Gomez, Courtney Stodden – identifying as feminists would suggest otherwise. And so the debate around who can and can’t proclaim themselves feminists ensues.

Feminism can certainly benefit from big names like Beyonce coming out in support of it, but we need to be conscious of not mistaking women doing things with women doing feminist things. For example, just because Sarah Palin calls herself a feminist doesn’t mean she is one as evidenced by her stifling policies.

Can men be considered feminist? Why should men take up the feminist cause?
Definitely. Having a vagina and being a feminist aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ve managed to convince my male housemate that he is a feminist, despite his initial insistence that he can’t relate to the feminist cause because of his male privilege. As long as you’re willing to check that privilege and believe that your female friends, colleagues, family members and lovers are equal, you’re a feminist in my book.

What is the most annoying feminist stereotype in your opinion? Why?
It would have to be one that I also enjoy taking the piss out of: the feminist killjoy. While I love eviscerating certain things for their misogyny, it also gets tiresome that I’m known as the go-to person for this. Sometimes I just want to talk about/consume things without having to put my feminist hat on. Having said that, though, I recently bought a “Feminist Killjoy” necklace, so make of that what you will…

What does equality look like (to you)?
As I mentioned above, the ability to do whatever you want and be judged on it based on your existence as a human, not on whether you tick one or some of humanity’s many intersecting boxes.

If we want to change the world, first we must… change ourselves. Or, feminism starts at home.

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