Feminism: A Spoken Essay
Free Public Lecture
Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre
T: (03) 8344 2543
2019 Wednesday Lectures hosted by Raimond Gaita
I am going to try to do something here. I will approach this lecture as an essay, an act of figuring something out in real time. Unlike a traditional lecture, an essay carries within it ‘the willingness to be defeated’ (J. Eleftheriou).
The plan is to start in two different places at the same time and to walk towards a midpoint between them, the way Marina Abramovic and her partner Ulay did in the 1980s when they trekked across the Great Wall of China in order to meet halfway and break up. The midpoint can be a wild place.
On one side of my trek is a question. On the other – an uncomfortable feeling. The question is this: what are the forms of not looking away from histories of privilege, oppression and complicity that feminisms might offer us today?
Could we find parts of an answer in Rosi Braidotti’s assertion that ‘feminism is not a humanism’, in infrapolitics rather than politics; in Anne Anlin Cheng’s suggestion that the collapsing of (yellow) women and objects is precisely the place from which to blast through racialised gender; in Rachel Cusk’s obliteration of female-subjectivity-as-we-know-it in her Outline/Transit/Kudos trilogy?
An uncomfortable feeling is harder to articulate. Remember when in childhood you’d say one extra-familiar word over and over again till it started sounding first foreign, then kind of ridiculous? This is what happened to me with the word ‘feminism’, or at least with how the word lands in the expression ‘As a feminist, I…’. It’s so obvious what I mean. I no longer know what I mean.
I don’t know what will happen. And walking is not marching, so there’ll be detours, slip-ups, ‘roadside picnics’ (Strugatsky).