Image by Kevin Banatte: https://www.instagram.com/p/
BY KATIE WINTEN AND ISABELLE HORE-THORBURN OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS
It’s been a big start to the year for political upheaval, activism and feminism. It feels like we’re in a singular and potentially very important period where many of us are confronting some of our assumptions about our own political identities and the efficacy of protest. While on one hand we have Trump fatigue, on the other we can never be doing enough. It seems like every podcast we listen to, every article we read and every social media update we see is about Trump (which is not to say that people shouldn’t be talking about it). The question is – where do we go from here?
The Women’s March on Washington on January 21st following Trump’s inauguration was one of the largest demonstrations in US history, with Australian marches taking place in solidarity in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Australians have also just had the Invasion Day March on January 26th, which grew from a few hundred participants in Sydney last year to a few thousand this year. Something we’ve been wondering is whether that growth reflects a broader movement of increasing political engagement, as well as a growing capacity to empathise with intersections of oppressions outside of your own experience.
While these demonstrations invoke an important sense of community and awareness, we’ve also been wondering who doesn’t go to the protests and whose voices are erased from these movements. Feminism has a long history of recreating oppressive patriarchal structures. While The Women’s March had an inclusive and quite coherent message, it was still dominated by pink pussy hats and subsequently treated with caution and apprehension by many. Many museums and libraries in the U.S. collected the Women’s March protest signs and ephemera to archive, but signs and posters only tell one side of the story. The act of remembering is incredibly complicated and political, and we’ve been thinking about ways that we can create an archive that resists the historical space of an archive as colonial and authoritarian.
In an effort to hear from people who did and didn’t go to The Women’s March on Sydney, we held a meeting at Frontyard Projects in Marrickville, as an open invitation for anyone to talk to us about their experience. Given the different responses to the Women’s March and the fractures in feminism more generally, we thought it was interesting to look at the ways that people resisted and embraced the Women’s March, and what that reflected about feminism in our communities. The meeting looked at alternate and contemporary ways of remembering, including materials like poetry, text messages, facebook rants and oral histories, questioning what an archive that captures that breath of material would look like.
One of the recurring observations from the meeting was the importance of oral histories, including storytelling and poetry. There’s a multitude of ways that artists and writers have been engaging with activism in the wake of Trump. Here’s one of our favourite poems by Wendy Cope that’s gone viral (poetry is going viral now!);
He tells her that the earth is flat –
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong
But he has learned to argue well
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell
She cannot win. He stands his ground.
The planet goes on being round.
If you’d like to contribute to the conversation surrounding the Women’s March on Sydney, please get in contact with us – email@example.com