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March 16, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Women’s Column

“What makes someone a feminist?” asked a male friend of mine, over a bottle of wine a few weeks ago.

“You are a feminist if you identify as one,” I replied.

“Do you have to believe certain things?” he asked.

No way. While I identify as a feminist because of certain beliefs I hold, I welcome you to disagree with me and call yourself a feminist too.

Yeah, I read Germaine Greer and Susan Griffin. Yeah, they influence the way I think. But they don’t decide what I think. Inga Muscio’s Cunt is a fucking great book, but I certainly don’t agree with everything she says. Susan Brownmiller has been a huge influence on the way I think about sexual violence…

The main way that these writers influence me is that they say what I feel, and suddenly it becomes okay for me to think that and for it to be a topic and an issue. Suddenly I’m allowed to speak out about how I hate spending $15 a month on pads and tampons (money that ends up in male dominated corporations), because it’s not just me who feels like that. Before reading about a continuum of sexual violence, I thought it was my fault when a car-load of guys drove past and yelled out the window at me. I thought that I was being pathetic when I asked a friend to drive me home because I was worried that a certain guy would follow me off the bus. Before it was pointed out to me that if I’m made to feel uncomfortable, it’s not okay, I thought I was being pathetic and maybe he ‘was just being friendly.’

I call myself a feminist because I feel that since realising these things myself, it is my duty to get other women (and men) thinking, and to recognise when there is a problem. I promote issues, new ideas I hear, or my experiences when I think it is important for women (and men) to know about them. If I am faced with ‘women’s issues,’ I tell everyone I can. I start with a close female friend to test the story out, and then I tell other women and start leaking the story to the boys too.

Opening up and talking about our issues is one of the main ways that women have been able to be liberated in our society. By talking to one another, women recognised a common feeling of inequality and started to campaign for the vote, for more access to crèches and initiatives like Rape Crisis were born. Let’s keep this sharing of common personal issues. The more we talk about it, the more okay it is to talk about, and then we can do something.

I was disappointed when I noticed no women’s column in Salient so far this year. The column will always have its skeptics. Why have a women’s column? Where’s the men’s column? I don’t know where the men’s column is, but if you want to write one, I totally support that. It is important to have a women’s column because gender is an issue for many of us at this university. And for those who haven’t read Cunt or Against Our Will, or whose friends and family don’t talk about the silicon balls they use to tone their vaginal muscles, or who would feel it was their fault because they wore a short skirt and low-cut top, maybe this column will be a starting point for discussion or where you can begin to realise that you are not alone.

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About the Author ()

Fiona was named "Recessionista" in the ASPA Fashion Awards 2009 for her Takaka op-shop frock and spray painted shoes. She co-edits the arts section and also likes to write about women and other stuff.

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