• Kristin Perissinotto

A note to the white women of Australia

In the wake of International Women's Day and the many white-washed events and panels you all would have seen on your feeds, it's the time to examine our place in the feminist movement as white women. For many people, this won't be the first time you've heard the phrase 'white feminism,' which unfortunately is the more 'palatable' feminism, and the feminism corporate entities and the like will be more likely to adopt.

It's the 'girl boss,' 'women can do anything!,' feminism that excludes many groups whose voices are vital for desconstructing the patriarchy and morphing into a more equitable society. A catch-all for feminism is equality, something that's completely unachievable without diversity in our collective voice. All women share many experiences. The experiences of powerlessness, feeling ignored, in danger, and left out of decision-making. But there are women around the world who, on top of those experiences, also experience racism, transphobia, abelism, classism, and many intersections of 'isms'.

Yes, our country is lead by a stack of men who aren't burdened by any of the 'isms,' instead are the upholders of them. And yes, more women of any description should increase how friendly our country's laws are towards women. But we should aim higher than that. While I am painfully aware of the power the Prime Minister of this country is, and should expect much better from him - I hold myself and people alongside me who wear the label of 'feminist' to a much higher standard. We can do better. We are better.

The patriarchy is our enemy. We mustn't be divided. Within our collective, it's our responsibility to lift up voices who aren't heard. We need to own our privilege in a way. The idea of 'acknowledging' our privilege always seemed lacking to me. Acknowledgement doesn't always equal action, and in my experience, often leads to embarrassment and withdrawal. Instead of 'I have x privilege so I'm going to take a step back from x movement,' it should be 'I have x privilege, how can I use that to support x movement?'

Maybe it's an introduction (we know the patriarchy thrives off those), maybe it's donating money or time, maybe it's offering a skill or a venue. As white women who are seen by many as something of the front line of feminism, it is our responsibility to pass opportunities to others and use our voices to point out inequalities and pass the mic. An example: maybe you're the head of a non-profit and are asked to speak on a panel. Ask who else is on the panel; ask if there are diverse voices represented; turn down events that refuse to highlight a range of voices; delegate your speaking position to someone who can offer a different perspective.

Don't be afraid of being silenced. We have our voices. Don't be afraid of losing something. What we have is here to stay. Uplifting diverse voices will only make us stronger. The Scott Morrisons of the country are so terrified to elevate women because they're afraid of losing something: power. For these men, it's often about individual power. The Prime Ministership, being a CEO or executive. The structures they uphold mean personal gain. But the women's movement has always been about the collective. Sure, there have been some theoretical bad eggs, but it's been about the marches, the wins for women, the power of us all coming together. How often do we hear of a 'pro-patriarchy' rally?

Our movement is not for personal gain. It's for the betterment of society. It's for equity. It's for the next generation and the one after that. Many feminists have fought for changes they didn't live to see. Many did it for their children, their sisters, the theoretical feminists of the future. Our movement isn't about standing on the stage and in the limelight. We must not be the same as the men we fight so hard against. We are better. Diversity makes us stronger. Diversity makes us more powerful. And to take down the patriarchy, to carry the torch that so many before us have carried, we need intersectionality.