Feminists: older and younger

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Feminists: older and younger

What can older and younger feminists learn from each other? Kamla Bhasin (Indian activist and author, 68), talks to Lilinaz Evans (16, from London), who helped start the Twitter Youth Feminist Army. Interview by Hannah Pool.


Lulu Kitololo/Asilia

Hannah Pool: How and when did you discover feminism?

Kamla Bhasin: I was about 24 when I first heard the word. But I was a feminist before I heard the word and before I knew that there were many other feminists. Now I say I am a feminist, but I know feminism creates problems and people say it is different things.

Lilinaz Evans: I found feminism in social media. In the British election of 2010, I was 13 or 14. I started asking questions on Twitter. People started telling me about politics. Mostly women. And they were talking about feminism. At first I thought, ‘Why are these strange feminists talking to me?’ But then I learnt more about it, from the feminists and reading their blogs, hearing their experience, and I knew this is really important, I really agree with this.

Kamla Bhasin: I believe that sexism is everywhere, it’s global. And if you’re born in a country that says that men and women are equal, then you find that that is not true. For example, today, everything has a gender: umbrellas, watches, handkerchiefs, everything. And in India our language has a gender. Everything small is feminine and everything large is masculine. So it’s getting worse; we cannot fight gender inequality if we don’t fight the economic system where people only want to make money.

Lili: I think men are in control because of capitalism. That’s one of the ways that people don’t understand feminism. People don’t say it’s the fight against capitalism: people say it’s ‘oh I want a job’.

Kamla: I think Lili is great – how can you understand all this when you are young? I’m amazed!

Hannah: Lili, what are the most important things to fight for?

Lili: We need to get younger women into feminism. We cannot accept that men harass women on the street, or that women cannot eat so they are thinner. But also, feminism should be for all women, not just for white or fair, richer women.

Kamla: I agree. I have spent my life training or talking to younger women. Men control so much and we have to see the connections. All issues are women’s issues. Rape is not just a problem for feminists; it’s a problem for everybody.

Hannah: What do you think about men and feminism?

Lili: I’m not a fan of men. But I think it’s important for them to help to fight for feminism. Feminism is to celebrate women, to make their voices louder, to improve things for them; so I hate talking about men. I know it’s necessary but I just hate it. If you say, control by men is bad for men too, they say, ‘Oh, I’m so oppressed’! Or they say, ‘I don’t really have a better life because I’m male.’

Kamla: I know many women who agree with the control of men, who are anti-women; who do horrible things to other women, and I have known men who have worked for women’s rights their whole life. Feminism is not biological: feminism is an ideology. Men who are against the control of men and who fight against this are also feminists. I agree with Lili that men cannot take over our movements and I don’t want them to join feminism. They should start their own organizations, to think about what the control of men is doing to them. But women can’t do it alone; we need to work with men who want to learn. So I understand what Lili is saying and I think it’s the right idea for her at her age, but my ideas have changed.

Hannah: What do you think of the idea of different ‘waves’ of feminism?

Lili: I like it because it connects suffragettes (who were fighting for the right to vote) to feminists. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s very confusing – are we on the fifth wave, the fourth, the seventeenth…?

Hannah: Do you think you are one particular wave?

Kamla: No, but I could say I am an eco-feminist, a socialist feminist. I see the links between rape of women and rape of nature. I see links between all other forms of oppression: class, caste and race. Feminism will keep changing because the control of men is always changing. The power of the control of men has increased so much. If we had to fight only our traditional control of men, it might have been possible to win.

Lili: The second wave of feminism did a lot to help laws and equality. But it was very racist, at least in the West, and hated homosexuals and transsexuals. The third wave started to help with violence against the woman, but again it did not include transsexuals and was quite racist, especially in America. And now it’s the fourth or fifth wave and we’ve got globalized media. More people can use the media and we can see what many people think. I hope these negative sides will leave feminism soon.

Hannah: Lili, would you like Kamla to use Twitter?

Lili: I’d love to tweet Kamla, but if she doesn’t want to, she doesn’t have to: it’s all about what is best for you. I found it good because I learned by listening to other women’s experiences, not through a book or a report. I’ve only read three or four, maybe five, feminist books, but I know a lot more than that.

Kamla: Lili, why do you call yourself Twitter Youth Feminist Army? I work on women and peace – I hate armies.

Lili: It started as a joke; we don’t really use the name now – we just call it TYFA. We’re not only on Twitter, and we’re not only young people, and we eat cake more than we fight, so we’re not really an army. But I think anger helps.

Kamla: Use anger, but don’t let anger use you. I think a lot of feminists cut off other women because they are angry. So that doesn’t help. But we can use anger to help: then we are using anger, the anger is not using us.

Lili: I like this quote, ‘Well-behaved women do not often change history’. We didn’t get the right vote by asking politely. The media says that feminist anger is not rational and ‘what are these crazy people talking about?’ Anger and passion are important in showing that sexist experiences are not normal. But we have to use it in a positive way and not just be really angry everywhere..

Kamla: Yes, I agree. Feminism is like water. It’s everywhere but it’s different in different places. My feminism is different from Lili’s feminism because I live in India, and the male control and technology is different. But if we want feminism to be successful, it has to be a global movement. This is because male control is global, capitalism is global and racism is global. So we need to fight them all together.

Kamla Bhasin is from Sangat (the South Asian Feminist Network) and part of the One Billion Rising campaign.

Lilinaz Evans co-founded the Twitter Youth Feminist Army and Campaign4Consent in schools.

Hannah Pool is a journalist and author. She is chair of UK Feminista and organises the talks and debates at the WOW festival, Southbank Centre.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/features/2014/07/01/feminism-women-edge-of-time/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).