Harpreet – President
The Women’s Collective is a dedicated community space for all women and non-binary students and staff of all degrees and backgrounds at Macquarie University in addition to activists outside the university community. We fight for gender, racial, and educational justice. We break the shame and silence of social issues impacting women and non-binary people in Australia. We create spaces to hold dialogue on ‘taboo’ topics, sharing the freedom to express, learn, and grow our passions and dedication; progressing the safety, sustainability, and security of our future. Always paying our gratitude and respect to the traditional owners of this land, elders past, present and emerging and our own ancestors who’ve led and fought for us to get us where we are today. We are a space that will not accept sexual harrassment, sexual violence, ablism, racism, transphobia, discrimination, oppression or tokenism.
The Womens Collective is today an activist community built upon intersectional feminist principles and values. Established in 2016, the collective has done a lot of restructuring to be what it is today. Previously it was a collective with white feminism principles, unawareness, tokenism, and racism. I’d like to apologise on behalf of the Women’s Collective members who have come before and/or have experienced tokenism, racism, or patronising behaviour by either collective members in leadership positions or by general members. I too stand with you, having experienced tokenism in this collective when I first became an executive member with the role ‘diversity and inclusion officer.’ We are continuously working hard on our journey of learning and unlearning, to be a collective that is inclusive, that will not further discrimination of any kind. We fight for our right for political, educational, and social spaces, and dialogues on race, gender, sexuality, social justice, feminism, and against the oppression of our campus and the communities we are a part of. Hegemonic masculinity, toxic masculinity, white hegemony, white supreamacy, neoliberalism, hierarchy, patriarchy, racism, discrimination: Be. Gone.
Libby – Secretary
I got my Australian citizenship in 2017. I breezed through the process, the person reviewing my application waved me from doing the citizenship test. Some of my papers weren’t original copies but they processed my application anyway, stating that I lived here my whole life so it was obvious that I was practically a citizen anyway. As a young white woman it was an easy tick box process. Those in the application booths next to me were questioned about name changes, the countries they had lived in, and then asked to do the citizenship test. My white privilege was never more apparent than in that process.
Last semester I did the Anthropology and Indigenous Australia unit (ANTH3005) and I cannot recommend it enough. This class encouraged me to visit sites in my local community, and to reach out to people who may know information about them. During this pandemic this has been my source of reconnection, both with the land I grew up on, and with the elders in the area that provide a wealth of knowledge. We also tend to only consider Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory, pretending we did something to help them by undertaking (frankly) super colonial internships in a community for 6 weeks. I have been working through this tendency of believing that Indigenous people only live in this imagined far away community. A community that doesn’t exist in your local area. This is bullshit. We, as colonisers, need to start looking around us and appreciating the land we are on and the people it belongs to. My biggest learning experience has been in connecting to my community, to the Darkinjung land, and visiting whale carvings, and birthing sites, listening and learning.
Being an “activist,” I am cautious of how I post online and the ways in which it can be seen as performative. I think this was clearly seen in the amount of people who jumped on the #Blackouttuesday hashtag, drowning resources in a sea of black tiles. To avoid this I have often not said enough, or not known how to engage properly to avoid tokenism. I think as students we are often afraid to put our money where our mouth is, but sharing the same Instagram post is not enough, it’s time to pay the rent (put that youth allowance to good use), to show up to protests, to sit and listen. I am still only at the start of my journey, and I don’t ever expect to be finished, but that’s okay. I need to own that in order to do better, and ensure places like the Women’s Collective don’t continue to be exclusionary, but a place for all women and non-binary folk to come together, connect, and learn from one another.
Jasmine – Treasurer
White feminism refers to feminist actions which majorly or entirely focus on white women whilst excluding minority groups. The Seneca Falls convention was the first women’s rights convention in America and was held in 1848, however not one person of colour was invited to the event. Near the end of the suffrage battle leading activists utilised racism in order to appeal to legislators. It was argued that allowing white women to vote would help to maintain white supremacy. It was only in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that it was illegalised to discriminate based on race.
Intersectional feminism on the other hand recognises feminism as a movement for all races, ages, sexualities, clases, ethnicities and religions. It transcends the idea that all women are the same and instead celebrates their individuality and focuses on progress for ALL women.
As a woman of colour who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, LGBTQIA+ rights have always intertwined with feminism for me. Marsha P. Johnson for instance was not only an activist for the LGBTQIA+ and drag community but was one of the most prominent figures of the Stonewall uprising, with close friend Sylvia Rivera. Stonewall, even though not the first or only riot of its kind, was one of the most defining. Unlike previous movements, Stonewall was pioneered by women of colour within the LGBTQIA+ community and in this way became the start of a more inclusive branch of feminism, which still impacts feminist movements to this day.
The Women’s Collective in the past has, much like feminist movements in broader society, been focused on white feminism. As a proud woman of colour and member of the LGBTQIA+ community I would like to see WOCO committed to the eradication of stigma around female empowerment and strive towards inclusivity and equality for all women, as well advocating for creating safe spaces, open discussions around feminism and promoting diversity.
Georgia – Marketing and Communications Director
Feminism is the innate belief that all people, regardless of their sex or race, should be given equal opportunities. This concept has been ingrained in me during my upbringing and I am extremely grateful for that. Growing up with a brother, my parents always encouraged us to pursue our interests, regardless of gender. They raised us with the perspective that nothing was ‘off the table,’ that opportunities, experiences and expectations were the same regardless of our gender identities. For this, I am exceedingly appreciative and hope this is an attitude that can extend to all. This is where my journey with feminism began.
Although I have always been passionate and interested in learning about equality, at the age of 19, I still have a lot to learn. In order to do this, I plan (and encourage others) to listen to the experiences of others with a receptive and interested mindset. Some of the most useful knowledge I have gathered thus far has been provided by listening to the powerful and resonating experiences of other women and men of all ages, sexualities, and race. Unfortunately, racism is a topic I understand from experience. I was adopted at the age of 6-months-old from South Korea and grew up on the Central Coast where I have encountered numerous racist comments and attitudes. It is an unfavourable experience to have had but my hope is to take that experience, be a supportive ally to all and use this to further drive my passion for equality.
Finally, as a part of my journey, I want to acknowledge that I do not completely understand all areas of feminism, but I am committed to continuing to educate myself: through books, resources, people, and podcasts. I want to ensure that gender equality is an issue we continue to talk about, and that no voices are excluded from the dialogue.
Tash – Events Coordinator
Feminism should be for everyone. I am ashamed to admit I once believed equality in feminism was one in the same. It was not until I started to really listen that my eyes opened to the heartbreaking reality that equality in feminism is not so black and white, that tokenistic white feminism exists. Feminism is not just about disarming the patriarchy. It is about fighting for justice and equal opportunity for all, regardless of differences. This year alone we have seen how powerful we are when we stand in unity, to fight for justice.
There are a multitude of complexities that female-identifying women face and that I admittedly, cannot relate too. For now, I choose to be an ally. To take further responsibility and pay closer attention to my words and actions. To educate myself, truly listen, and not talk over those who need their voices heard. I also want to learn how I can truly support others. WOCO’s principles are to create a safe space for ALL women and non-binary individuals and to celebrate who they are, together. Interwoven social engagements and interactions with women and non-binary people of all backgrounds creates less segregation and more awareness of the journeys of others. I am proud to be part of a committee who is striving to maintain and fight for equality and justice for all. True power is not hiding behind ignorance but is educating yourself, having uncomfortable conversations, and listening to those that can teach you. That is striving for true equality.