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RECLAIMING FEMINISM: ENGENDERING CHANGE

A LANDMARK NATIONAL SUMMIT FOR AUSTRALIAN EDUCATORS AND POLICY MAKERS  

 FRIDAY OCTOBER 3 – SATURDAY OCTOBER 4 2014

MERCY PLACE, BARDON, BRISBANE WWW.MERCYPLACE.ORG.AU

  •  How is feminism relevant to young people, parents, educators and policy leaders today?   
  • Where are the spaces and opportunities for feminist influence on policy and practice in Australian education systems?
  • How can feminist approaches be promoted, embedded and sustained for long term social change?  

We are delighted to convene this gathering of so many of Australia’s leading researchers, educators and activists, including Raewyn Connell, Dale Spender, Jill Blackmore, Jane Kenway, Bronwyn Davies, Lyn Yates, Julie McLeod, Margaret Clark, Debbie Ollis, Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Jane Wilkinson, Amanda Keddie, .. our dinner speaker, Clementine Ford, and many more.

In the 1980s Australia was admired, internationally, for its government sponsored feminist leadership. In the early 90s every Australian education department had a gender equity unit and there was active and explicitly feminist development and implementation of gender equity policy.  Over the past 30 years, however, the changing political climate has diminished feminist participation in the development of policies and programs in education, and feminists have been increasingly and variously silenced and marginalised.

The Reclaiming Feminism: EnGendering Change conference

“above all, promotes the role of feminist thought and practice in creating new visions for Australian education, dominated as it now is by a masculinized economic model of private interest and competition.

Professor Raewyn Connell, University of Sydney, keynote speaker

Gender, Feminism & Me – My Reflections on the AWE conference, Mercy Place, QLD October 2014

How did I come to be here?

Surrounded by interesting, intelligent, strong, but yes, at times, damaged women, in all their diversity, purple g-strings and magnificence?

Is it a requirement to have made ‘gender’ a focal point of your work?  Have I failed the feminist world by using their theory to talk about other things?

How is it that I come to a forum like this and meet with others whose words, thoughts, ideas and experiences resonate with me, almost to the point that I might be one of them?

Provocative, difficult, confronting.  Informative, thought provoking, generous and passionate.

I understand the appeal of neoliberalism because I was brought up in a world that agreed with the same principles.  But in this particular feminist infused space I became surrounded by the people who had inspired, enlightened and provoked me during my more recent years of criticality:

Bronwyn Davis, who re- introduced me to my own world through critical theory.

Julie McLeod, you explained the notion of meritocracy that was in my bones but I didn’t recognise it until you told me.

Dale Spender you brought alive the lives we may have had if we’d been born in different times.

Jill Blackmore, how is it that you manage to bring together all that is so intricately connected?

Jane Kenway, my awesome supervisor and prolific and inspiring role model, bringing together notions of the body and our embodied insecurities.

Amanda Keddie my recently discovered soul sister whose work on diversity and social justice now permeates every course I teach.

Janine and Ginene, thanks for making me cry and reminding me of the other ways these stories can be felt, expressed and shared.

So, what was I saying?  How did I find myself here, sitting outside a café in Southbank on a perfect Sunday afternoon, but not wanting to lose this feeling of re-invigoration after the conference, before I return to Melbourne ground?

Maria, Sherilyn, Ana, Melinda, Clementine, Meg, Lyn, Debbie, Emily, and all of the other women involved, your work and your conversations have inspired me – thank you so much for inviting me in and sharing what it is to be fabulous, dynamic, courageous, strong, generous, committed and AWEsome women.

Some Post-AWE thoughts…

Making fun of an easy target (scapegoat?) the ‘dead white (European) male’ theorist, is par for the course for many of us.  And certainly not that we ignore them or their work, after all, best to know what it is we’re making fun of.  But then, there are the still living white feminists (of which I suppose I am one) that are also somewhat fair targets.  I learnt a lot through reading their work during my academic ‘formative’ years, but at that time, I also learnt valuable lessons from still living non-white feminists who were also busy demanding a voice and a hearing within/beside the dominant feminist voices.  They provoked me to consider who I was and what I represented, and who I wasn’t and could never be.  Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Trinh Minh-Ha, Audre Lorde, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Gloria Anzaldua,  bell hooks…

These women helped me to learn to talk about difference, to understand more about how our colonial history has shaped so much of our world, and to come to my own conclusion, that difference matters.  This remains one of my key check/reference points, in all of my work.  And it was these non-white feminists that brought the point home for me.

The point I’d like to raise in respect of the AWE conference was the unfortunate lack of these voices (except as subjects within some research) or recognition of their work across the histories of, and challenges within, feminism that was the basis to a number of the presentations given, and conversations had.  At times too, we need to watch the language we use – so much of what was discussed had relevance across the board, but if it is only explained in inaccessible language and based on certain previously held (academic) knowledges, who is really being invited in to participate in this feminist project?  However, in noticing these continuing issues, it helps to remind us of the work that still needs to be done, and the sharing, noticing and reflection that is always necessary.

Some provocative articles:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/11/australian-feminists-need-to-talk-about-race

http://www.salon.com/2014/09/24/feminisms_ugly_internal_clash_why_its_future_is_not_up_to_white_women/

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/07/28/women-of-color-and-feminism-a-history-lesson-and-way-forward/

 

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