Feminism = ∞
Photo Credit: Sydney Opera House
Throughout the course of this month, TOS would like to champion the work of feminist academics. In doing so, we asked Dr. Fauzia Ahmad to explain how we can achieve feminist futures together. Here is her response.
I don’t believe it is possible for everyone to be feminist – there are legitimate reasons why many women feel unable to adopt the term ‘feminist’ – many because of its connotations with Western feminism, but we need to be able engage in these discussions and respect differing opinions on this. However, I think even among these differing perspectives, there is a fundamental belief in respect and equality, and from a feminist intersectional perspective, this fundamental belief in wanting to challenge inequality is important.
By recognising and respecting our differences. That there is not one definition of feminism and that we need to recognise how hegemonic colonialist structures can and have acted to silence women’s voice through the privileging of one form feminism over another. And recognising the intersectional nature to our identities and experiences.
It is therefore important to maintain solidarity in challenging the patriarchy and misogyny, through the forming of allyship and sisterhood – and brotherhood - in our personal and public struggles.
To recognise that there are many ways feminists and supporters of feminism can achieve the aims of gender equality, not just through engaging in politics, or teaching and research, but also through the telling of our stories through fiction, poetry, music, performance, photography and art, for example.
From an academic researchers perspective, a feminist perspective has helped me develop a greater sense of awareness of the realities of different women’s lives. We start from a premise that we, as women, are engaging in research areas that are important to our everyday lives such as the domestic sphere, gender inequality and patriarchy – areas that have been previously neglected by men – that is, we engage in research by women, with women, and for women. A feminist perspective is also about seeking to minimise power differentials inherent in malestream social research so in practical terms, this means talking with other women as a woman, not as an academic researcher. This allows us to draw on our own experiences and to connect with those we seek to conduct research with.
Feminism reminds me to foreground the voices not just of women, but of marginalised communities especially as I am from a marginalised and frequently vilified communities. I have become increasingly concerned with the politics of knowledge production and the hierarchies of knowledge that are inherent within academia. There is a worrying appropriation of expertise that stems from perspectives that are more about doing research ‘on’ rather than ‘with’ communities. In other words, the objectification of others; a feminist perspective, with its emphasis on reflexivity and ethics, has helped me to become more attuned to this. I also feel better able to observe and listen although I am also still learning to gain confidence in being able to speak out where there is injustice.
The Writer Behind the Writing