The F Word and You: Wendy Lyon

What does feminism mean to you?

Feminism to me is an essential part of a broader struggle for a world that is run in the interests of all people and not of an elite few. It can’t just be about gender equality, because the vast majority of men are oppressed too, and we have to aim above being simply no worse off than them. It’s about recognising the role that women’s liberation must play in achieving the kind of world we want for all of us.

When did you realise you were a feminist?

I can’t remember not knowing I was a feminist. I never went through an epiphany or anything like that. I probably realised it the first time I ever heard of feminism, but I have no idea when that was!

What issue/area is the most important to you?

I dislike the idea of “most important” issues because women are oppressed in so many different ways – but obviously we all have issues that are particularly close to our hearts.  For me, I’m especially interested in two areas. The first is around women’s bodies as a site of struggle. This is a very broad area, because our bodies have been subjected to so many different types of controls – control of our sexuality, of our appearance, of how we bear children and of how we prevent childbirth. I think we need to take a deeper look at whose interests these controls serve. And the second issue I’m interested in is the feminisation of migration – the increasing “push” factors that uproot women from their homes, and how global capital and the state security agenda channel them into particularly dangerous and exploitative migratory paths.

What do you say to people who say “I’m not a feminist but….”

I think instead of saying anything to them, we should listen to them and find out why they don’t identify as feminists. We tend to assume it’s because they’ve bought into negative propaganda about feminism – and sometimes that is indeed the case. But there are also women who’ve been turned off by feminism, some of whom might have once identified as feminists, because the feminism they see doesn’t speak to their lives. The more prominent feminists/feminist groups have tended to prioritise issues that are particularly important to women from a more privileged background, sometimes to the exclusion or even detriment of more marginalised women. If feminism isn’t seen as relevant to those women, we need to ask ourselves why.

Where do you see the feminist movement going in the future?

Who knows, I haven’t got a crystal ball! I don’t see feminism today as being markedly different from when I became active in the mid-1980s, though obviously the internet and social media have made a big difference in the way it’s communicated. I’d like to say I see it being so successful that there stops being a need for it, but I’m not that optimistic. We’ll probably still be having this conversation in another 25 years’ time…

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