“Our work should equip the next generation of women to outdo us in every field. This is the legacy we’ll leave behind.” – Rupi Kaur
Like a lot of people, I’m having trouble taking in the news cycle these days. The narrative around women and the seemingly never ending media discourse can get almost too much to bear. These days it can be increasingly difficult to fight the feminist fatigue.
For me, I really started to feel it back in 2015 when the then-candidate for President of the United States called journalist Megyn Kelly a ‘bimbo.’ Regardless of your politics, there is no denying Megyn is a smart, accomplished woman listed by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in America. While it’s in no way the worst of his transgressions, the claim of ‘bimbo’ gave me flashbacks to previous jobs where I have been told to, “go get a pretty girl to be in this meeting,” and questioned “wouldn’t you be happier if you just got a boyfriend?” Such comments were, at the time, completely belittling and deflating, undermining any sense of worth in my work. Hearing the US President speak like that brought it all back. It reminded me that even women as smart and successful as Megyn have had to put up with this rubbish.
But it’s not just public figures in America. Earlier this year I was at an event with an incredibly lovely and smart man who runs a well-known charity. He was telling me about a party where he met two women who were both “nine’s outta 10.” This otherwise intelligent and informed human needed some further education, so I politely pointed out that not only is the valuing of women by grading their looks out of 10 completely derogatory, it removes our humanity down to being nothing more than decoration. It is redundant, distracting and incredibly hurtful. Yes – even if you give them a 10.
I know what I am saying is not new. But the constant reminder of global everyday sexism is now amplified by the megaphone of news alerts and a 24-hour media cycle that delivers click bait headlines into the palm of our hands. This constant white noise of it all is corrosive, it sneaks up on you little by little every day and it’s exhausting. Increasingly there are days when I open my phone, hear the roar of Twitter and just want to throw it in the ocean.
But, there is hope.
This week I found a balm to help balance the noise of the media’s screaming. I’ve found wisdom, strength and energy in words that help me to ‘nevertheless persist.’
I am the General Manager of the Australian Theatre for Young People. Each year we work with tens of thousands of young people across Australia from kindergarten to age 26.
One of my favourite initiatives is our scholarships to support emerging female leaders in the arts. We get hundreds of applications, all of which I wish we had the capacity to support. But, what I didn’t realise until recently was just how much they also support me.
All those applications are archived in our files for future reference, and today, which was one of days where the noise just got too much, I open them up to read through and became immersed in the ferocious, empowered and articulate words of the young women coming up the ranks.
Truly, these words were all written by Australian women under the age of 26:
“I’m working to bring Muslim women and non-Muslims together to talk openly and hopefully close the divide…Safe, free, open discussion, where we can get outside our worlds and get to know each other better.”
“I work to put women in the forefront, to showcase their diversity, demonstrate what they can achieve, and bring a female perspective to male dominated environments.”
“I believe successful leading has many aspects: obviously qualities such as innovative vision and forward thinking – but also patience, dependability, integrity, kindness.”
“Women in every sector have most success when we empower each other.”
And it’s not just these applications.
In the classes we run and the conversations I have, the global reverberation of Hillary’s loss and the new US President’s hateful rhetoric is clear. It’s firing up the young women of Australia. Call it a ‘feminist rejuvenation,’ call it a ‘new movement,’ regardless of the name if you take a moment to chat with a young Australian woman you’ll see what I see: the emergence of a generation passionate about a broad, issue-based, inter sectional approach to feminism.
While the constant barrage of noise in the media can be enough to make me run for the hills, the young women of Australia are being jolted out of complacency, they are taking up space and are excited to get to work. In turn, they energise me and push me to have inter-generational, multicultural conversations. To learn from insightful elders that have movement memory and to work with them to create pathways that are informed by those who have come before us.
So, when you’re feeling the Feminist Fatigue, just remember, there is a generation of Amazons coming up the ranks. They are smart, they are passionate and they are strong. It’s up to all of us to make space and empower them.