Prompted by Alan Jones’ admonition that women in parliament and positions of power are “destroying the joint”, which spurred the online feminist movement of the same name, feminist group Women Say Something brought their panel consisting of such high profile Aussie feminists as Tara Moss, Catherine Deveny and Gretel Killeen to the Thornbury Town Hall on Saturday night to ask whether we should, in fact, destroy the joint.
I must say I didn’t know much about Killeen’s feminist credentials prior to the event, but her total rejection of the Destroy the Joint movement, and most modern movements, was the surprise of the night. Killeen said she didn’t really believe in the premise of feminism and that she identifies more as an egalitarian. Tara Moss interjected here, saying that there’s not just one Feminism and that everyone has their own version of what feminism is. While I do support this notion to a certain extent, I think feminism is first and foremost about equality for all, not just for women. And I also take issue with different feminisms for the fact that this allows people like Tony Abbott and Sarah Palin, who are the furthest things from feminism out there, to claim themselves as part of “the club”.
This idea certainly didn’t go undiscussed, either, as Killeen raised the point that modern feminism is always looking for “aggressive marketing terms” like Destroy the Joint, SlutWalk and reclaiming the word cunt to recruit new members, like Abbott, no matter their ideologies and at the risk of offending the general public. Who cares about the general public? They’re always offending me with their sexist, racist and homophobic ways, so why not ruffle some feathers with feminism?
This lead Killeen to ask when feminism became a label that just anyone could apply to themselves. While I agree with this, and it’s the point I tried to make above, it is contradictory to what (my) feminism is about: equality. Moss then raised the argument of who’s more or less of a feminist, which is an issue I struggle with and which I’ve written about before. Someone then said that feminism allows room for discussion and disagreement, which the panellists certainly demonstrated; feminism isn’t a one size fits all movement.
It seems as though Killeen was playing devil’s advocate at first, with all her snubbing of most of the other panelist’s ideas. But as the night progressed, it became clear that she actually has some pretty radical views of human rights. As Catherine Deveny asserted, it’s not about feminism: it just comes down to being an “asshole and not [being an] asshole”. Here, here.
Some current pop cultural issues came up during question time, such as Beyonce’s recent underwear-clad GQ cover and accompanying article in which she espouses some feminist ideals, without actually saying the word itself. (Let’s remember in 2011 that she neither confirmed nor denied that she was a feminist, instead she suggested we create a new word for the movement.) Moss again reiterated the notion of many feminisms and that “if one of them happens to be in their underwear then that’s great,” which I wholeheartedly support (even if I don’t support feminism being thrust upon an undeserving pop star).
If Abbott’s declaration is anything to go by, seemingly every Tom, Dick and Harry are clamouring to get a piece of the feminist pie, what about all the damning of feminism as a “failed” movement? Deveny insisted that, as many a book, blog post, feminist or historian will tell you, feminism is the most successful human rights movement alongside the black civil rights one. Without feminism, we wouldn’t have the Pill, childcare, pay advances, or the vote, amongst a myriad of other rights.
So, should women destroy the joint? As one panellist said (who it was escapes me now), movements like Destroy the Joint and SlutWalk are “training ground[s] for activism”. Killeen suggested, again, that they’re just angry marketing ploys and that they don’t do anything to further our cause. Facilitator Kate Monroe and fellow panellist Casey Jenkins insisted that primarily social media movements are vital in “chipping away” at the patriarchal zeitgeist, and we need that as much as the “fireworks” of Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech, for example.
On anger, Gillard managed to harness hers at her treatment by pretty much the whole of Australia and turn it into one of Aussie feminism’s most important moments heard ’round the world, regardless of her personal or political beliefs. Many of the panellists (except, again, Killeen) agreed with an audience member’s assertion that anger is an important virtue when it comes to feminism. Far from the archetype of the angry, man-hating, hairy pitted feminist, anger can be fermented into passion which is essential for any feminist and feminist movement, wouldn’t you say?
What do you think? Should we be destroying the joint or do you think there are less radical ways to bring people around to feminism?
Image via Facebook.