Text Elisheba Akalawu
Visuals/Concept Renée Saliba
What does it mean to be a feminist in our society today? For over 200 years feminism has been a powerful force that focused on equal rights for, and the advancement of women, but what happens when our definition of what makes a woman a woman changes? When the very movement used to uplift and make women stronger, actually becomes harmful and exclusive to those that also deserve equality, but who might not fit the antiquated definition of what it is to be a woman.
Now, more than ever, we are a diverse race of people and the development of our feminism should reflect this. Modern feminists and the feminism movement needs to take in to account that there are a more diverse range of experiences, lived by those that are oppressed by gender norms and stereotypes such as non-binary and trans people. Founder of community centred networking platform Lethally Her – which hosts four events a year and is focused on providing a space where young creatives can find community, belonging and openness – Renée Saliba, has identified that there is a ‘Fourth Wave’ of feminism emerging which represents all womxn and that recognises the many ways womxn can face discrimination. A fairly new concept, the term ‘womxn’ is used to explicitly include trans women, non-binary people, women of colour and anyone that identifies with fem ideals. It’s a powerful term that broadens the scope of what it is to be a ‘woman’ and reminds us that there are lived experiences that not all will understand but all those should come together and support as a community.
The concept of the artwork, styled and directed by Renée and photographed by Cé Coileáin, is to tell the story of the modern feminist and to explore the evolution of the historical feminist waves. The use of bodies and colour, identify the complex way the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap or intersect. Yes, the struggles may be different, but what brings us together is stronger than what sets us apart, and it is this that the new wave of feminism is rooted in: creating a community with a resurgent force of support. To be a modern feminist is to stand-up for trans rights, it’s to walk in solidarity with our sisters of colour and to speak up on behalf of those that have been silenced for so long, it’s to be a voice to be reckoned with.
All those involved in the shoot had their own ideas about community, and naturally they were all different. On one hand, community is all about having a safe space that is filled with people who uplift and support you, it’s about a group of people coming together in a show of mutual respect for one another’s differences and similarities – sort of like a family you choose. For others, however, despite the benefits of a community there are of course ways in which they feel like they don’t belong in any one community. When you are surrounded by different people in your life it becomes more about what an individual can bring to a group that matters and is what creates the feeling of being in a community. Communities are also made up of more than just the people you surround yourself with or groups you identify with, for example, whether you are gay or straight, black or white, male or female does not and should not define the community that you fall or place yourself into.
Of course, not everything is going to be perfect straight away and there are many ways in which communities need to be improved. If there is less focus on our differences and more focus on what makes us equal as human beings, we cultivate a space where there is room to grow, room for discussion, which hopefully leads to the building of a better society and the nurturing of our future generations. To move forward we must come to a place of mutual understanding and not just blindly dismiss someone’s point of view just because we don’t agree with it – real issues are not overcome like this!
By showcasing these intersectional stories and giving them the correct platform to educate people about differences and how their feminism can and should be more inclusive, we allow for people to be seen and heard and feel just as important as their cis counterparts. Feminism is not a movement that should be dismissed at the first sign of unease. Instead more conversations need to be had so that it’s rewritten and is inclusive of all and it’s up to our generation to rewrite what feminism means and what it looks like. Problems will always arise but moving away from a cause completely will never be the answer. It’s not about being perfect or right the first time, it’s about coming together, supporting our community and making change. We’ve come to a time where nothing is as black and white as it appears, and so we need to stop looking at issues through this lens – there is so much in between, so much that falls through the cracks and that isn’t given enough attention – this is what we must focus on now.