F member names the problem (Corina talks activism)

This is the the written version of the speech given by F Collective member Corina Backhouse at the International Women’s Day Picnic last Saturday March 10. She’s kindly agreed to have it published here, so please enjoy her words. 

I was born on International Women’s Day 25 years ago. Thankfully, despite this nice alignment of fate, that is not the reason why I am speaking today. The reason I am here, is because I am a young woman and feminism means a lot to me. For me, feminism is a way of life. It is a set of ethics and ways of engaging in the world that asks questions of power: who has it and why. It asks us to think about who informs our decisions, who has access to our personal and working lives and who speaks for us. As well as being about our personal experiences, feminism is also a political movement. It is a continuous call to action. It stems from the desire for real, global, gender equity, but also from the desire for all people, irrespective of their gender, race, sexuality, age, religion or income to be able to live their lives freely and with dignity.

It seems obvious to me that this is not how most people are able to live their lives and it is for that simple reason that I believe that feminism is not only still relevant, but essential if we want to continue to create communities and societies that are worth living in.

Every year, International Women’s Day celebrates the wins of the feminist movement. And there have been some good ones. Most recently, the ASU’s historic equal pay case. But IWD also reminds us to pause and reflect on where we are now and where we are headed. This is never easy. Our generally hostile media wants us to dwell on the tired stereotypes of feminism. Unshaven, breasts sagging. As if our preening habits are somehow indicative of our capacity and desire to create change. It also encourages us to believe that because there are a few more women in higher paying, public profile jobs, that we have it all. Younger women get thrown a double-edged sword: told either that we are complacent and apathetic towards social activism, or that because some of us have pretty good access to education and healthcare and can buy the morning after pill at $30 a pop, that feminism has no place in our lives.

But this is just not true. Sexism is still pervasive and we do not have to look very far to see that. It may be more institutionalised and personally internalised, but it is there, in our playgrounds and workplaces; in our armed forces; in our homes and in the gender-specific expectations placed on women and men. We see the very real effects of these discriminatory practices in policy and governance. The feminist movement has made some solid in-roads but there is still work to be done.

One of our tasks as young women is to capitalise on the intersections between gender and generation. Young women are active. They are campaigning and organising for action on climate change; they are at the forefront of anti-war movements around the world; they are leading discussions on sovereignty, sex work and pornography. And they are doing so in different ways. The internet has clearly aided us in new forms of discussion, debate and organisation. We need to make use of the invaluable resources for political action passed down from activists before us, whilst developing and strategising for newer, more energised models of political change. It is time to recognise and embrace the fact that feminist action by all women and men, is as multiple and diverse as we are. And that this is in fact our strength.

It is hard to find strategic discussions of long-term plans for a feminist future. But us young ones are going to be around for a long time. We need to start thinking about the kinds of societies we want to live in and how to create them. One of the ways we can and do do this is by getting involved and getting organised. There are lots of ways to do this. And lots of organisations in Sydney working towards this goal, definitely check them out online and get involved. The F Collective is one of them, which for me personally, is relevant and driving.

The F Collective was formed about three years ago and is a multi-generational and diverse group of Sydney based feminist activists who work together to bring about change in our society. With a lot of feminist theory under my belt but with not a lot of activism experience, I took myself somewhat nervously to F’s first meeting. But I found out very quickly that there’s a lot of love in the F Collective. We try hard to be inclusive and welcome all allies. We understand that university activism isn’t accessible or attractive to everyone and we formed in part in response to that. It is not an intimidating organising space. Because of my involvement in F, I know that young women do want change and do want to act on it. I know that older generations of feminists do want to pass on their knowledge and do want to keep fighting.We want to engage with a broader understanding of feminism and to remedy that disjuncture between what the media says feminism is, and what we experience it as.

Feminism is something that is dynamic and constantly evolving. And it feels really good to be a part of that.

3 Responses to “F member names the problem (Corina talks activism)”


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  1. […] for anyone who missed it or wants to enjoy it again. You can check out another speech from the day here. The artwork in the featured image is also an Elizabeth Mora original. Elizabeth Mora speaking at […]

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