It’s 7:25 on Sunday morning and my head is legitimately still exploding. I’ve had a wonderful first week back of teaching on the undergraduate programme, had feminist conversations a plenty, and finished off the work week with a very thought provoking and articulate talk from Sara Ahmed, author of many amazing pieces of work, but most recently, Living a Feminist Life. I feel very privileged to have been able to attend the talk, and am still processing some of the important things that were discussed – there are plenty more blog posts to come I’m sure.
Taking a step back, I think what has struck me this week is the variety in the feminist conversations that I’ve had or been a part of. These conversations form a kind of feminist catalogue, building a picture for what has had an impact on me, on those around me, and the ways that feminism is understood.
Central to my personal philosophy on feminism is the accessibility with which feminism is discussed, opening doors and avenues for conversation to allow people to get involved in a way that is not intimidating. Because feminism is intimidating. There are big conversations that are happening (especially right now, relating to trans-inclusive feminism as one example), and I know that sometimes, the defence of certain viewpoints serves to exclude people who are either the topic of conversation, or want to engage with the conversation.
Case in point, number one: my other half. My partner is not a fan of psychology at all - super start. He’s most definitely not feeling academia either. Now, I am sure he would not consider himself a feminist, but he is open to conversation (read: he has no choice when I get going. He blames my PhD for this). Yesterday, I told him how a man attempted to tell Sara Ahmed at her talk how he ‘completely understands’ her position; a white man. My partner pulled a face – he understands that a white man is not capable of understanding the experiences of a woman of colour. He simply cannot – he has not experiences the oppressions that are experienced through the intersections of both gender and race, let alone any others. But after a sigh, his response to it was simply ‘people are stupid’.
This to me was such a cut off moment – rendering the argument down to just a statement of perceived intelligence does not begin to encapsulate the feminist fight here. You cannot argue from a feminist viewpoint that ‘people are stupid’ – there is so much more to this – why someone would argue that point, what position they are coming from themselves, what their experiences and privileges are, how their positions affect how and where their views are heard. It is exhausting (a concept captured by Ahmed beautifully), feminism is a wear and tear, a constant battle, a scratching of the walls rather than a bulldozing of them. My partner asks me why I bother if it’s so tiring. Because that is the point! I say. The more conversations we have about feminist issues, the more these conversations are opened up to those who may or may not normally engage, the more the intricacies are understood, and the more progress can be made. I look forward to continuing conversations.
But first, coffee.