SIMON NATTRASS: Does feminism matter — who’s asking?

Pose the question to people you know: does feminism matter to you, to me, to anyone?

Does feminism matter?

Pose the question to people you know: does feminism matter to you, to me, to anyone? Answers will run the gamut from “unequivocally yes” to “absolutely not,” right through to “what’s feminism?” Answers also range from the visceral to the impenetrably analytical, making this a daunting topic for many who find themselves somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

It was these diverse opinions that editors Kay Gallivan and Fiona Schick set out to explore when they posed this question to local writers, artists, intellectuals and everyday folk. Their answers appear in the 32nd edition of the feminist periodical Thirdspace, launched at an event last weekend.

“We wanted to create something that was accessible for everyone in our lives, and for people in general,” said Gallivan, who noted that earlier issues often did not address the topic of feminism head-on, instead directing a feminist lens at more ephemeral topics like bodies and health. While the answers gathered in this issue are largely “Yes, feminism matters,” a wide range of exceptions, additions and clarifications illustrate that the debate is still very much alive.

For her answer, activist and educator Sarah Hunt detailed the limitations of a strictly feminist approach to her work on violence in indigenous communities. “Before there was anyone calling themselves a feminist, there were women resisting,” said Hunt in an interview. “Indigenous women, women of colour have always been resisting sexism, colonialism, gendered violence and the imposition of mainstream gender norms, but they just didn’t have this label of feminism.”

Local writer Austin Simpson responded with an emphatic yes, saying “Feminism taught me to accept people for who they are, not for their body parts or their disabilities or their differences.” Simpson related his experience growing up Jewish with a prominent queer activist mother, adding “All of this, of course, is why feminism matters.”

Whether we choose to think about it or not, whether we feel it keenly or at a distance, gender roles touch every aspect of our lives. From violent masculinity to sexualized femininity, from the sacred to the mundane, understanding gender means understanding ourselves. These questions should never be reserved for academics and activists alone. So ask yourself, ask everyone around you, and dare to wonder: does feminism matter? M