In this blog, I want to reflect on what I have learnt as a Lecturer in a ‘Feminist Politics’ classroom. Speaking to one of the core themes in this stage of the campaign; Understanding Politics & Democracy.
I want to outline why I am optimistic for the future and for this campaign.
I will also reiterate why I think this campaign is so necessary and urgent. There is such a long way to go before women will feel willing to take the risks that standing up in formal politics still sadly entails.
We have reasons to be optimistic about a wider context of feminism in progress. We have seen the changes sparked by #metoo, the marking of the centenary of some women’s suffrage in the UK last year, and have celebrities such as Jameela Jamil using their platform to critically reflect on, and raise the profile of feminism. Importantly reminding us that we are all ‘feminists in progress’.
None of us have our feminism perfect.
At the same time, we are reminded all to frequently of the misogynistic and racist abuse faced by women who try to bring feminist politics into the public arena. One recent example, the abuse Kimberle Crenshaw - the theorist and activist who gave us intersectionality - faced from an anti-feminist audience member at the LSE reveals how we are also in a moment of active push back against feminism.
Even, within education, the place of feminism - when tied to an active politics education - remains marginal and marginalised. We are at a moment where we need alternative disruptions and voices, but where the turmoil of this moment actively attempts to close them out.
Indeed, the students I work with often report that my class is the first time they have had the opportunity to study feminism in any meaningful way - and, more importantly, to gain a voice for their own feminist politics.
In my teaching, I adopt a reflective and creative process of assessment - asking students to link their voices and experiences to feminist theory and activism. Asking them to think about why feminism is urgent in addressing the problems we face. Encouraging them to move beyond the individual to the collective. Asking them to work together to write manifestos and make collages out of the anti-feminist politics they live. This process reveals how much appetite there is to learn more about feminism, in a judgement free space. And, how much learning there is to be done about what it is like to be a young person, a woman living in Scotland and the UK now.
The young people I work with are politically engaged and want to learn. To have the language to express their experiences. To begin to own their experiences.
We have so much to learn from our young people.
Feminism allows us this opportunity - lets not waste it.
For any campaign that wants women to come forward and stand, to enter into the multiple spaces that make up the political, we must have the tools not only to understand the maelstrom of structural, cultural, economic, and political constraints there.
We must also have the analytical and critical insights that feminism give us - so that we can see how current processes create opportunities for some, and resolutely exclude others. As Sophie Walker, the leaders of the Women’s Equality Party, said in her resignation statement ‘we need people that bruise’.
Yet, we also need spaces in which those bruises can heal, for the collective. We need new voices that will transform the current political context. We need to ensure that education plays it’s role here.
Not telling young women what they should do, but allowing them to tell those in power what they should be doing.
Dr Vikki Turbine is a Lecturer in Politics with research and teaching interests in feminism, human rights, education and class. She tweets @VikTurbine and is on Instagram as @vikturbine. She also blogs at: https://firstgenerationfeminist.blogspot.com