Although the title of the discussion led by Sam Castro, Jess Harrison and Fran Morrell could have appeared rather ambitious, for the large group gathered at the Colossus courtyard there was no doubt that patriarchy is a redundant system that keeps women, and sometimes men, in a hierarchical system of oppression and disadvantage.
After a few points of introduction, Sam Castro was interested to hear from the participants what feminism means to a group of self selected women and men willing to enter into a debate that questions every aspect of daily life.
To frame the discussion Sam quantified that feminism is more than trying to achieve equality in a broken system; feminism is more than having 50 per cent of women sitting in boardrooms; feminism is more than co-opting women into militarism to go and kill people. It is a concept that looks at who we are as a community and as human beings, both as women and men; the issues that we face on the planet are founded on a structure created by patriarchy that it is just as repressive and oppressive to the men that dwell in that system as it is to the women.
“It is a fundamental structural issue in the society, both globally and locally, that hampers our capacity as human beings, campaigners, activists and engaged citizens to bring about forceful evolutionary change”, said Sam.
Jess Harrison recounted her younger days of activism in the West End, and how feminism allowed her to become more assertive, confident and, in her own judgement, “a bit arrogant”.
Jess also noted that sexual assault, and the silence around it, remains a major issue in every area of interaction between women and men. She recognised that sexual assault is a secret even in activist circles, and the need remains to get to a point where a woman experiencing sexual assault is believed immediately and the perpetrator leaves the organisation and is dealt with appropriately.
Fran Morrell took a more philosophical approach, claiming that as we’ve all grown up in patriarchal system feminism is not of a particular gender. “It is a way of approaching the world, and approaching others and approaching ourselves, and I think it has to be based in respect connection love and curiosity”, she said.
However, for at least one of the participants who works at the coalface of sexual assault service provision it was difficult to see feminism outside of men and women and the privileges that accompany that. One out of three women under the age of 18 is sexually assaulted in Australia and the devastating consequences on women and how they see themselves in the world affects them for the rest of their lives.
As the session drew to a close Sam Castro suggested that women and men should continue to meet regularly to discuss societal issues from a feminist perspective in a deteriorating environment, war and women disadvantage.
Sam Castro will speak at the G20 Peoples’ Summit Rally on Saturday 15.