Taking it to the streets

7 Oct

When we took to the streets last Friday, I can tell you we had no idea what to expect. Neither Amanda nor I are the outgoing types, happy to accost people on the street about controversial subjects. Adding to this was our anxiety about representing a Feminist Network and what implications that would have on whether anyone would talk to us. However, thankfully, the glamour of being filmed and the potential to become a youtube superstar was enough for people to cast aside their unease about two young women asking questions about feminism leaving just enough time to capture their thoughts on tape.

Many laughed and scoffed about feminism before being filmed, but became suddenly serious when in front of the camera. Some people who told us flat out how much they disliked the feminist movement in off-camera conversations were then the ones to answer ‘yes’ to the million dollar ‘are you a feminist?’ question. But the two most interesting discoveries relate to what our vox pop participants knew, and it is here where we can begin with what I feel the Irish Feminist Network is all about.

Though many people identified in one way or another with feminist ideals, most found the concept of feminism difficult to define. Many answered an enthusiastic ‘yes’, ‘kind of’ or ‘im not sure’ to being feminist but then, when asked to describe what feminism meant to them, many participants became a bit bewildered. The second interesting part of the project, and something you would notice when watching it, was that very few people could think of any famous Irish women from history. The two most common responses were Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, and, I don’t know about you, but as far as Im concerned, as great as those two women are, they are hardly ‘history’. We found that in going out on the streets to discuss feminism, the hostility we expected was lost in a sea of miseducation and confusion. Very few people were vehemently anti-feminist, most just didn’t know what it was. And so it is here where I hope the IFN can step in.

The way I see it, the IFN is not an organisation aimed at ‘converting’ people to feminism. One cannot force a belief system on anyone, no matter how much one may at times like to. My aim is rather to make people have an opinion, even if it doesn’t align with my own opinion (though I’d like if it did!), Id just rather they have it. So, my hope with the IFN is that it provides an opportunity to learn about gender equality issues and concerns and to participate in events and discussions. I hope that through this process, people will gain a greater understanding about the complexities of feminism and also just learn about the fantastic contribution women have made to this country, and continue to make. Hopefully then they might, of their own accord, realise the relevance of feminism to their lives and to contemporary Irish society, but it would be their choice and their knowledge that leads them to this conclusion.

So, the vox pop gives a good insight but also a benchmark. With the launch and promising positive response of the over 900 women and men interested in the IFN, I hope that the next time Amanda and I go out on the streets, we might be even more pleasantly surprised by what we find.

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