Fitzroy High School Feminist Collective members have answered some of the questions we are often asked.
If you have more questions, let us know through the “Contact Us” page.
What do you do in Fitzroy High School Feminist Collective (or FemCo)?
In FemCo we have discussions about everything to do with feminism, including:
- Sexist advertising and the media,
- Sexual harassment, catcalling and violence,
- Sexism and racism,
- Dealing with discrimination in fashion,
- How to feel good about our bodies,
- How to survive social media as a feminist teenager,
- Language and feminism,
- Sport, bodies and empowerment,
- Women and politics,
- Anti-feminist abuse,
- How to stand up to sexism without breaking your relationships,
- Debates within feminism.
We can talk about anything that we would like to share with our class. Someone shares a topic, experience, article or an idea with the class, we listen, then we share our opinions. Sometimes we decide to take action together, other times we just think about the problem together.
We recently went to the International Women’s Day march. To prepare we made a big banner to carry around with us. It was a really empowering march! Some of us made our own signs to put up around the school to inform students about the march so that if they wanted to come they could. We also made badges that we’ll sell to raise money for feminist causes later in the year.
There are some cool projects that we do. We are recording and editing podcasts. We did a workshop about stencilling so that we can make feminists statements in public spaces. In previous years, FemCo has put on amazing conferences, held awareness raising activities, created feminist educational resources, presented to other year levels, and advocated for changes in school policies.
And every Friday we share food 🙂
-Asha and Aleisha
How do I know if I’m a feminist?
Being a feminist is as simple as committing to the aim of women and men having equal rights.
In order to be a feminist, you don’t nessercarily have to go to marches, or to know all the different theories of feminism (although this is great). If you believe in women’s rights and equality, and want to be part of the movement to achieve this, you’re a feminist!
Why are you a feminist?
People decide to identify as a feminist for many reasons. Some common reasons are;
- Believing in gender equality and wanting to help make a difference.
- Feeling angry or annoyed with an issue, like sexism at school or work, sexist jokes, sexist advertising, or anti-feminists hate. Wanting to help change these things.
- Some people were raised by a feminist or have been positively influenced by the feminists in their lives.
I chose to be a feminist because I beleieve that everyone should be equal and I get annoyed that in our society women are treated as inferior.
How and when should you call out sexism?
This is a topic that comes up a lot in FemCo.
Sometimes fending off a sexist comment with a witty come-back makes you feel on top of the world.
Other days, the smart and sassy one-liners don’t come out the right way, or there just aren’t enough of them to stop the patriarchy making you feel tiny. All too often, calling out sexism feels downright dangerous.
In FemCo, we celebrate the great conversations we have with friends and family; those moments we feel strong and in a position to speak up for women’s rights, the times our words have had an impact. But we also say no one should feel ashamed if they don’t call something out if it makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
Most importantly, we are stronger together. Sexism is systemic, and when we stand up together with campaigns, petitions, rallies and speak outs, our voices are amplified and we can take on the big, structural problems. This is much more powerful than individual call-outs. We are challenging the whole system of sexism, not just the symptoms of the problem.
What makes a feminist?
Despite the stereotypes, a feminist is not defined by the image of an angry misandrist. We are everyday people, from sincere young women, raised to understand the importance of gender equality, to boys fighting for their sisters’ rights. Feminists are people of colour. We count in our number people of every body shape, and every age.
Feminism is a very broad movement, and it involves lots of different ideas. In FemCo, we emphasise intersectional feminism. We see that women and girls have different experiences of sexism. Race, class and other forms of oppression intersect with sexism to create specific expressions of discrimination. But we are also open to, and influenced by many different kinds of feminism.
Can boys join feminist collectives?
Of course anyone with any gender identity can join the FemCo.
We want anyone who believes in women’s rights to join the conversation and the action! We want equality, and to get equality everyone has to come together and make that change.
Can feminists be feminine? What does a feminist look like?
Feminists are all masculine lesbians who don’t shave, right?
When I was young and first coming to terms with sexism and the strange world we live in, I became very anti-feminine. In my eyes, femininity = being dumb and the way to rebel against sexism was to be against ‘girliness.’ Being girly was what the patriarchy wanted, so to be a strong woman I had to be masculine.
But this isn’t true. After working through this I realised that my prejudice against things like makeup and pink wasn’t a strength, but rather internalised sexism against other women and girls.
The truth is that you can present however you want and still be strong, still be smart, still be a feminist. Feminism is about having the right to choose; to present how you want to present; to be whoever you want to be.
And if we all wore masculine clothes it wouldn’t exactly wave a magic wand and liberate all women––there’s a lot more work to change social systems than that.
So what does a feminist look like? A feminist can look however they want to look. The only requirement is believing in equality.
What are different types of feminism?
Here are some different types of feminism.
- Intersectional feminism: recognises all systems of oppression e.g. women, race, class are interconnected
- Anarcha-feminism: combo of anarchism and feminism, believes patriarchy and hierarchies control society and we need community based society.
- Black feminism: a feminism informed by the experiences of women of colour that maintains that sexism, racism, and class oppression are all linked.
- Equality feminism (neoliberalism): focuses on legal equality between men and women.
- Liberal feminism: is achieving gender equality through individualism rather than collective actions, women have the ability to choose the life they want with the existing system.
- Lesbian feminism: began in the 1960s, feminists who focused on lesbianism as an intrinsic part of feminism.
- Marxist feminism: believes women’s oppression has an effect on capitalism.
- Queer feminism: explores feminism and the lgbtiq+ community.
- Radical feminism: women will only be free from oppression when patriarchy ends, believes women’s collective activism will achieve this.
- Revolutionary feminism: men are viewed as the enemy of women.
- Trans feminism: movement by and for trans women and connects trans women to the feminst movement.
- Transnational feminism: explores the ways globalisation and capitalism affect and disempower people across gender, sexuality, nations, races and classes.
- White feminism: focuses primarily on issues that affect white women.
What do feminists have to say about trans rights?
Fitzroy High School Feminist Collective respects and welcomes transgender people and we stand up for transgender rights.
There are some feminists who express ideas that many of us consider transphobic, such as the claim that trans women are not women. They oppose transgender rights, and support the exclusion of trans women from women’s spaces and organizations. We don’t agree that transgender rights threaten women’s rights.
FHS Feminist Collective is opposed to sex and gender role sterotypes, and supports anyone whose life is restricted by them. This includes women and transgender people. No one deserves to be discriminated against just because they identify as a different gender than the one society assigned them at birth.
-Isabella and Sophie
Are all feminists lesbians?
No, not all feminists are lesbians, or bisexual, or queer.
Feminists are people who want equal rights for women. So feminists can be straight or queer.
Some feminist groups have rejected lesbians because they were embarrassed by the association with them.
However, feminist spaces, including FHS Feminist Collective, are welcoming to queer people because of the feminist message of equal rights, and because feminists tend to reject rigid sex- role stereotypes that also oppress people with diverse sexualities.
Why do feminists care about the language we use?
When you use words such as “pussy” or “bitch” to put people down, you are reinforcing gender inequalities and degrading women.
“Pussy” is slang for vagina. When men refer to other men using this word, it is meant to put them down and give them emasculating feminine qualities. When a man shows any sort of emotion, or cries they may be labeled a “pussy”.
The insinuation is that men shouldn’t have feelings and if they do, they shouldn’t show them. This isn’t great for men, as men should be allowed to show emotion. And “pussy” as an insult is awfully degrading for women. Traditionally female characteristics and attributes shouldn’t be used as a symbol of weakness or inferiority.
The word “bitch” has been used to refer to female dogs since 1000 AD, according to the BBC. When used negatively, against women, the term means she is too assertive, rude or commanding. When used against men, it implies he is weak or submissive. Either way, it is supposed to refer to unpleasant ‘female’ qualities.
“Bitch” can seem like a fun way to describe a good friend to tell them they’re powerful or strong. But the power of this word is drawn from it’s misogyny.
The worst insult for many men is being called a “bitch” or a “pussy” because these words are related with women. Femininity is used as an insult, as if it’s the worst thing in the world to be associated with.
Is it possible to reclaim these kinds of words? It’s true that language changes all the time. But language reflects and reinforces power dynamics in society. A good way to make these words lose their sexist meaning is to stand up to the sexist ideas and institutions that they symbolise.
Why don’t feminists have a sense of humour- my jokes are just jokes?
I hear this question a lot from people.
When a feminist stands up aginst offensive humour, you can get responses like; “you should stop being so sensitive” and “stop getting triggered so easily.”
I actually think it’s pretty obvious why feminists aren’t ok with humour that picks fun at minorities. These jokes make it seem like certain people’s experiences are something to be mocked.
Often, people make a sexist joke to merely ‘piss off’ a feminist. It’s almost like they feel threatened, and therefore must make the same ancient joke about oppressing women, to ‘redeem’ their masculinity.
Other times, people don’t realise they are relying on misogyny or racism or other kids of discrimination to get a laugh, because the ideas are so ingrained. But it doesn’t make the jokes funny.
There are plenty of feminist and anti-racist comedians. The jokes are funnier when they are on the patriarchy.
Can men be feminists?
Yes, men and non-binary people can be feminists
Feminism isn’t just for women. It is for anyone who wants the equality of the sexes and liberation for women.
There are plenty of feminist men, boys and non-binary people in our school community. Teachers, students and parents show their support for feminism by speaking out against sexist comments, and teaching feminist ideas, and listening to women’s and girls voices.
An example of one famous male feminist is singer John legend. He uses his celebrity status to publicly express his views on Feminism and equality. Legend said, “All men should be feminists. If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place. We are better off when women are empowered — it leads to a better society.”
There are many different views on what Feminism is, but I choose this one; “Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that aim to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes.” There’s nothing in this definition that excludes men!
Women are strong. We don’t need men to do this on our behalf. And we don’t need men to pretend to be feminists when they are just trying to look good. But we do want men to genuinely stand with us in this fight.
Do all feminists hate men?
I see this question a lot. The idea that we are all “man-haters” is an easy lie people tell to discredit our movement.
Feminists are fighting for men and women (and anybody else) to be free from sexist stereotypes. For lots of feminists, we want men to be part of our movement, and to benefit from the gains we make in empowerment and equality.
That being said, feminism is such a giant movement. Not everyone will share the same values and beliefs. There are people who identify as feminists who are angry at men, because men have been the agents of sexism and violence in their lives. It’s important to recognise that feminists are not to blame for this anger and hurt. The heart of this conflict is sexism, not feminism.
Is there such a thing as reverse sexism?
Like many other feminists, we don’t think there is reverse sexism, or sexism against men.
Women’s oppression is systemic; it is not just incidents of discrimination between individuals, it is the way the whole society is organised to keep women disempowered, and to limit our voices and choices. Men can experience appalling things, and can be oppressed because of race, class, sexuality and disability. But they aren’t oppressed because they are men.
While men don’t experience ‘reverse sexism’, the same system that produces sexism that hurts women has produced lots of restrictive expectations and stereotypes for men as well. Our society has normalised toxic masculinity, which creates stigma around showing emotions and asking for help. This isn’t reverse sexism. This is a result of the ideas deeply ingrained into our lives and systems that are targeted at controlling women