Last night Fe-line‘s women’s group, Word of Mouth, met to discuss Feminism. I feel as a women’s group we have skirted f-word and it was time to tackle the subject head on. Louise Livesey, tutor in Women’s Studies and Sociology at Ruskin College was the perfect person to lead the discussion. Louise is also an important member of the Oxford International Women’s Festival and the Oxford Feminist Network.
Louise started with the amazing statement that feminism “isn’t about rules.” Putting to bed the myths that feminism is for only for women who look a certain way, act a certain way or from a certain background. There is no rule book about what a feminist should be!
The evening was called ‘How feminism saved my life’ and Louise went on to explain how feminism has always been a part of her life from when she realised that she was treated differently to her brother as a child, through growing up in the north with powerful female influences to reaching university and asking the massive question, “Why isn’t life fair?”
Once Louise had asked this question she started becoming very passionate about feminism and working for the women’s newspaper and getting involved in women’s campaigns. Not to build her CV but because this is what she was passionate about! Louise made a really important aside here and told the audience that we should always do things that we are passionate about!
She spoke about how the feminist community has supported her and what the importance of the community is to her. They support and push her, whilst giving her the space that she needs to think. Louise described how the feminist community brings together a variety of different view points and contrary to popular belief women don’t all think the same!!
Louise went on to ask the poignant question, “why would you choose not to be a feminist?” I asked Louise why she thought feminism has got a bad name? She answered because feminism is an interrupting strategy, no one knows what the outcomes will be when we reach a state of true equality. Feminists have always been portrayed as un-womanly/un-maternal because it is fundamentally hard to step out of line. With change, comes fear of the unknown.
Louise also went on to say that she is not surprised that young women are confused about what to believe in. She doesn’t think that young women have the positive female role models now that she had as a child. They are being told that they have equality but at the same time being treated like “baby making ticking time bombs” by employers and expected to look and dress like a WAG at the same time.
The discussion at the end brought up some really important points and questions. One woman described how it is difficult to make change and so you fall into the norms of being a wife, having children, doing the school run and looking back and wondering what happened to feminism? Which lead to Louise’s final point of what one thing would make the biggest move towards equality? Louise’s answer was equality in parenting and for father’s and mother’s to share paternity and maternity leave. This would have a massive impact on changing the world and for the next generation to a see a more equal society.
For myself personally last night’s discussion resonated with me on so many levels. I thought it was so great to hear someone say feminism isn’t about rules and it is multi faceted. It seems that the ‘fear’ of feminism comes from the unknown and I personally think a fear of matriarchy over throwing patriarchy, but what we are actually talking about is a true equal society where men and women share responsibilities and surely this is not so scary?
I have included the video below from Equals, a coalition brought together by Annie Lennox. I wanted to include it because it represents how far we have to go until we reach true equality. It is also culturally topical as it features Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench.
On Saturday we joined forces with the Oxford International Women’s Festival to put on the first Fe-line/Fringe Frock Swap. The aim of the event was to provide the women of Oxford with fashion on a budget. The clothes swap offered a way of getting something new without having to fork out lots of money and the beauty workshops equipped attendees with the knowledge to go home and do their own make up and style themselves.
There was a great atmosphere in the room as the clothes swapping kicked off and women eagerly arrived with their bags of unwanted clothes. Our first workshop was lead by image consultant and stylist Katy Dyer. The audience were keen to hear about what colours they should be wearing for the autumn and for their skin colour. Katy used items from the clothes swap to demonstrate what pieces could put together and what would suit different body shapes.
Our second workshop on beauty and make up was lead by Sandra from Boots No.7 range and make up artist Naiame Ronzani. Sandra demonstrated the importance of wearing the correct foundation and looking after your skin. The audience was captivated by what Sandra had to say and asked lots of questions. Naiame showed the audience a very practical demonstration of how to get the most out of your make up bag.
We got some really great feedback about the event. Marie said: “Thanks for organising a fab afternoon and frock swap, Fe-line rocks!” and Patricia said: “very positive and girly afternoon at the Fringe Frock Swap.”