“On being a feminist killjoy”

Freedom Fallacy

“I’m a feminist, not the fun kind.”

– Andrea Dworkin

As is customary at a launch, I’ll start with a list of people to thank.

Firstly, I must thank Miranda Kiraly who came to me with an idea for an edited collection all those months ago.

I’d like to thank Professor Sheila Jeffreys for so generously agreeing to launch this book for us tonight, and for sharing her reflections on the decades since The Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism conference, back in 1987.

I also owe a huge thanks to all of our contributors. You gave us such fantastic material to work with. We’ve got so many different issues covered in this book: pornography, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, corporate social responsibility, sexual violence, heterosexuality, marriage trafficking, prostitution, and neoliberalism. And that’s not even an exhaustive list.

You’ll notice that the book does have a noticeably high number of Australian contributors, and that is something I am very proud about. I have heard many times over the years that there are no young women writing good, sturdy feminist analysis in this country, but I’m happy to say we certainly found quite a few!

But we also have wonderful contributors from Canada, the US, the UK, and Scandinavia. While we don’t all share exactly the same perspective, what we do share is an intense frustration with what passes for feminism in much of the mainstream media.

Jessica Valenti’s piece in The Guardian today is an excellent example. It’s about the positive possibilities of commodifiying breast milk, or — as she put it — “pumping for cash,” and all in the name of “women’s choice.” It is almost as though she wrote it just to prove our point. Right on the day of the launch.

And I am very glad that we are launching this collection today, because I was very depressed last week. There has — understandably — been so much anger swirling around about the appalling rate of violence against women in Australia and how little those in the public eye seem to know about it and who is responsible for it. So I went to an event where I thought we could put that anger to good use. We gathered together in park. It was supposed to be an act of resistance, but also an act of mourning.

So I winced when I saw a couple, posing for a selfie, grinning while holding a sign about ending the murders of women.

There was definitely an emphasis on making the event fun.

“Make it fun.” “Make it appealing.” We hear that all the time. But I don’t think we require that of other movements for civil rights and liberation. It is the political equivalent of saying “give us a smile, love.” Now I’m aware that this isn’t exactly the greatest recruitment line, but why on earth should fighting against a tide of misogyny and male violence be fun?

And who is the fun for? A performance for the media? An attempt to persuade those who are maybe unsure if women are full human beings, worthy of equal consideration, by having balloons and bouncy castles? Well, it’s not going to work.

Dr. Meagan Tyler, at the Australia launch of Freedom Fallacy: The Limits of Liberal Feminism, (extract here), full transcript at Feminist Current.

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