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Feminism: A new wave? Impact interviews Finn Mackay

Having looked into the heart of student activism at UoN, Impact found feminism is quickly becoming one of the most the most hotly talked about topics on campus. With the hashtags #FreshersWeekSexism and #EverydaySexism trending on Twitter in the last few months, this movement is also gaining ground nationally. We decided to speak to Radical Feminist Finn Mackay about the strength and structure of what some are calling a ‘new wave’ of feminism. Is this recent interest really new, or is it a continuation of the 70s movement?

Firstly, how would you define a feminist?

A feminist is a woman who accepts and understands that we live in a world of male supremacy and does what she can to challenge, change and hopefully end that status quo. Feminism is not about man-hating, it’s not about saying women are better than men. It’s a radical movement for change.

I’m a Radical Feminist because I believe in the existence of patriarchy and I think we need to challenge and end that patriarchy.

Why do you classify yourself as a radical feminist?

I’m a Radical Feminist because I believe in the existence of patriarchy and I think we need to challenge and end that patriarchy. I believe in the potential and promotion of women-only space.  I recognise male violence as one keystone of women’s oppression and I also think that pornography and prostitution can be analysed as forms of violence against women.

Do you think in 2013 the new interest in feminism is a new ‘third’ wave or are we still struggling in the second wave?

People just use it [third wave feminism] as a chronological reference point – they mean feminism that has taken off since the 1990s. For other people when they say third wave feminism, it is associated with mixed activism, pro-pornography, pro-sex work and is quite influenced by queer theory.

I myself identify more with the second wave. If we look back at the second wave’s seven commandments of the UK Women’s Liberation Movement none of these demands have been won, so I don’t see how we can have a new one.

 I recognise male violence as one keystone of women’s oppression and I also think that pornography and prostitution can be analysed as forms of violence against women.

How can students become involved in feminist campaigns?

Founding Feminist Societies in universities is obviously very important. Creating and maintaining women only spaces are also vitally important.

Students should be using new communication technologies, writing their own blogs, writing on websites, submitting articles or writing letters locally. Keep campaigning – creative, energetic campaigning.

 I think it is a symptom of our unequal society where it seems perfectly normal for a man to order a woman like a takeaway pizza.

How do you feel the issue of prostitution should be tackled?

In 1999 Sweden adopted a law which decriminalised everyone selling sexual services. Alongside that they put a lot of money in welfare and housing services to help people leaving the sex industry.

Some  people say the law has worked – it has reduced the amount of  trafficking and young people involved in prostitution. There are governments around the world that have taken it up and like many other feminists, I also believe that is the law we need in the UK.

I don’t think that any woman should be for sale. I think it is a symptom of our unequal society where it seems perfectly normal for a man to order a woman like a takeaway pizza.

I really valued creating spaces where women could get together and come up with ideas for direct action.

What made you establish the London Feminist Network in 2004?

When I was first involved in feminist groups during the early 2000s, most of the discussion was online. I would go along to various events but there would only be a few people. Having learnt my political activism in the Women’s peace movement I really valued creating spaces where women could get together and come up with ideas for direct action.

So in the Summer of 2004, I sent a message to these forums saying what we need is some sort of London Feminist Network. I said that I would be sitting reading a book in the free meeting space in the Royal Festival Hall and if anyone turned up we would try and found some sort of network.

About six women turned up, then we had another meeting the next month and about 12 women turned up and then it jumped to about 30. That November we organised the Reclaim the Night March.

 Keep campaigning – creative, energetic campaigning.

Why did you feel that a revival of the Reclaim the Night movement was needed?

In 2004 Sylvia Walby did a report on the British Crime Survey. That really popularised about how 1 in 4 women were affected by domestic violence. It also highlighted the terrible conviction rate of rape which hovered around six percent. When women first started the Reclaim the Night in 1977 they were appalled that 1 in 3 reported rapes led to conviction.

In 2004 that figure was 1 in 20 and I thought we need Reclaim the Night more than ever.

[Lads’ mags] are demeaning and patronising. [They are] not a feature of an advanced and progressive society.

Do you think that lads’ mags will still continue to have a future in our society?

They are demeaning and patronising. You don’t go into the corner shop and see David Beckham bending over with his mouth open with some derogatory text about his arse written alongside him. It is not a feature of an advanced and progressive society.

Zara de Belder

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