Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thoughts on Feminism - a work in process

When I was a child I had a Barbie that I played with topless. My mother and aunt jokingly named her Michigan Barbie. Years later I stumbled on pictures of topless women in the 80s outside, somewhere. When confronted my mother explained they that was the Michigan Womyns Festival. Years later I heard the hilariously different versions of the time that my mother and aunt “accidentally” carpooled to the festival together. This is the association I grew up with to the Michigan Womyns Festival, tangled into the other stories of the women in my family, my mom and my aunt, feminists. I felt it like a legacy I was receiving and at the same time confusion with my own gender pushes me away from these definitions and associations with feminism.

When I arrived in college I was told a different narrative of Michigan. A transphobic space of rejection, not solidarity, told I would find myself more at home at Camp Trans. Michigan Womyns Festival became synonymous in this academic setting with the problems of 2nd wave feminism, no longer a place for me in the world that pushed me towards the third wave or no wave. I learned of 2nd wave feminism, and more generally feminism as an old wave, the movement of an older generation.

It is impossible for me to separate my work as an activist video maker from my experience growing up female bodied, white, Jewish, child of feminists, in a feminist synagogue. But when it came to my own personal identification this was never a term that I chose to use for myself.

As I form and examine the methodology of my current project I have come to realize just how much the 2nd wave feminist movement influences the core of my work. The lens through which I learned and have found myself to study oral history is through a feminist lens, examining the ways in which the personal is political, a crucial value of 2nd wave feminism.

Throughout my time at Hampshire I have found my work revolving around questioning the patriarchy, capitalism, and the systems of oppression they perpetuate. My work as an activist media maker is always anti-patriarchy and when it comes down to it I find myself drawn to that term more than to the term feminist. And yet, I feel, understand and know the pull towards feminism within my work. My current project centers around the concept of (his)Story, taking the ‘his’ out of history.

On Monday October 18th I partnered with Food For Thought Books in Amherst, and the Center for Feminisms, Queer Community Alliance, Trans Student Alliance, Feminist United Collective and Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program at Hampshire College to bring the Make/Shift Reclamation tour to Amherst for an afternoon workshop and evening performance. We spent the day in conversation with ourselves and each other dealing with the issues of contemporary feminism, what does that word mean and how does it influence our work? It was a good conversation, one that makes you think, that draws out the ideas that we have all been struggling with. The next day, as I was driving home after dropping the performers off at the train station to catch a train back to New York and continue with the tour I was texted by my 12 year old cousin, spurring an attempted conversation about what feminism is, opening up conversation on multiple levels in different spaces.

M- what show?

H- it was called make/shift reclamation

M- what it about?

H- feminism

M- it about friends?

H- what do you mean?

M- the show is about friends?

The moment she asked me if feminism was about friends (I believe she read it as friendinism) I realized the importance of my not brushing off this aspect of my life. Through the nature of my work I have often been forced to face the hipocracies within my life, if I advocate space for youth empowerment then who am I to shut my relatives, specifically, cousins, out of these conversations because they are not my intended audience. I want to teach them the values of the work that I do but this relationship is easily strained by family relationships. Knowing that I could not just dismiss this conversation I was then faced with the question, how do I explain feminism to this 12 year old?

to be continued…

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