This Month At Moonlight
When I walk into our monthly Moonlight Feminists meeting, I’m overwhelmed with warmth. In so many instances, walking into a room full of people is confronting and anxiety provoking. When I walk through the doors of the Women’s library however, I feel the opposite and regardless of whether I know everybody or nobody in the room, I feel a connection with them, the space feels entirely open. You get to see friends you’ve connected with and shared your insecurities with, it’s a bond of overcoming fear and trepidation, of speaking out and being heard.
I hope we all feel this way.
This week Brenna opens the meeting as she always does, we go around the circle and say our names, our star signs and what we are loving at the moment - in the world, in ourselves. We celebrate each other’s achievements and giggle about that moment of that podcast that made us feel not so alone. This time is significant here and there’s no shame in celebrating yourself.
The opening question this month was “what’s your relationship to your gender at the moment and have there been any moments recently that made you consider gender or that brought it to the forefront of your mind. How do you define gender in yourself?”
We begin to talk about the conceptual shifts in our understandings of gender which occurred over the past 50 years. As feminists I think we all recognise this in the conflicting understandings of gender, fluidity, feminism, and inclusiveness that exist across generations. We discuss the arguments we’ve had with our mothers and older feminists, which speak to generational difference and changing understandings of womanhood. We acknowledge the importance of not being disheartened by difference, of understanding that the battles we fight today, whilst similar in many ways, are also distinct and different to those fought by the women that came before us. They opened the doors to the space where the conversations we have today take place, and left them open to be continued by us in the present. We must always be grateful for this, but we can also acknowledge we are the new champions, and we can and should shift the conversation in ways that better reflect and help us to dissect our own experiences of womanhood in our current context, the ways we experience being a woman now. We locate our own contemporary feminism in a broader history of feminism where there are elements of both continuity and distinctiveness.
In moonlight, our conceptual discussions often form and shift through storytelling, anecdotes of our life that we use the group to come to terms with. Finding common ground with other girls allows me to feel less isolated in the world: we are all women, we are all subjugated, but we are rarely given free atmospheres in which to talk about this without feeling like we take up a lot of space. Brenna explains that part of the reason she brought Moonlight into existence is that she felt the only conversations she had about feminism were drunk at the back of a party after someone said something vaguely misogynistic and she felt like the needed to vent her spleen.
Tatiana brought up the importance recognising that the patriarchy disadvantages women and men; it boxes us up and tells us how to behave, who to be, and how to feel (or more often how not to feel) in the world. She expresses that she doesn’t want feminism to leave men behind. I think in any polarised issues, whether they be gendered or racial, inclusive spaces are important to progression, and targeting the problem often means talking to the perpetrator.
Patriarchy is the enemy of equality not just the enemy of women. Alice talks about the grey areas left behind by the patriarchy, and the fucked up social hierarchies humans have operated in throughout history, now we see ourselves amongst the critical and conscious people working to pick up and configure the pieces, fill the cracks and pull ourselves, and each other up.
As a group, our recognition of the exclusivities of all movements, feminism particularly, is so important. I feel honoured to be part of a circle of women that is as conscious of our power, as we are of our flaws. In fighting for freedom as marginalised peoples, the achievements of your own group can sometimes make you blind to the struggles that remain for other people and the ways in which power structures disadvantage other groups. Our recognition of the fact that everyone’s struggle is embedded in an intersection of social hierarchies and practices which are ever complex and entirely distinct ought to be praised. One of the things said at moonlight this month that stuck with me was about the luxury of ‘not being a feminist’ played out by some privileged women who reject feminism and see it as unnecessary because they have never experienced a need for feminist action in their own lives- even where one may exist.
We discussed whether or not power structures like the patriarchy and socio-economic hierarchies are inherent to human behaviour, whether in dismantling one, another simply comes to take its place. This conversation scares me, coming from a place of passion for advocacy, where my feminist fight is as personal as it is practical, ideas like this are deeply harrowing. Sometimes I feel like I have to limit my reality and my consciousness to keep myself sane, I have to focus my energy on a singular, simple and easy to digest task, one layer of what is an ever complex battle for equality so that I can focus, so that I don’t become so disillusioned, so cynical and sad about the world that I can’t fight at all.
Poppy brought up the history of our instinctively putting others down, how long anthropological actions like this have been around, how our desire for survival and success has often resulted in a pattern of behaviour which undermines others ability to achieve these things themselves. I wonder if us being conscious of this, and critical of how it manifests in our own behaviour, will eventually enable us to overcome it, geez I hope so.
I often feel like even though I’m aware of certain subverted behaviours and cognitive processes in myself, they are so entrenched that I still allow their toxicity to permeate my body. I have to actively tell myself to stop acting in certain ways, stop comparing yourself to that girl, stop thinking that just cause she’s smart you can’t be too, don’t oppose yourself when you can align yourself. As much as I know that this girl on girl hatred, this competitive reactionary feeling is a deeply embedded element of the patriarchy, I still sometimes feel jealous or threatened by young women achieving greatness, even though I know this is cause for nothing but celebration.
Our night ended with a conversation surrounding the inclusiveness (or lack thereof) of our environment at moonlight. We all share the goal of wanting to make it a diverse and heterogeneous space, however we are aware of a lack of cultural and experiential diversity within in our group. We tried to think of ways to remedy this, and also acknowledged that whilst we may think we are inclusive, it is not up to us to make this conclusion. We would like to invite more discussion of intersectionality and incorporate the attitudes and distinct identities of women from all different cultural, ethnic and socio-economic contexts but we are often at a loss of how to act on this.