The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Cherchez la Femme #2 – Get Your Feminism On At The Fox Hotel

Posted by hannahcolman on June 1, 2010

Bad news. The first Cherchez la Femme has happened already. You missed it. Or maybe you were there. If you did miss it, you can read Mel’s post here.

Good news! Installment #2 of this rolling panel of thinkers, performers and commentators is happening tonight at The Fox Hotel in Collingwood, from 7pm.

Tonight’s event will be more structured than the first, because it has a dedicated topic – Women and Raunch Culture – whereas salon number one saw discussions range from how you feel when a bartender refers to you and your female friends as “girls”, to the notion of ‘choice’ for women in the workplace – in particular, a non-religious woman being required to wear a burqa on her teaching rounds at a Muslim school. As enjoyable and interesting as it was to engage in a range of issues connected to the feminist cause, I reckon having a topic to work within will allow for much more depth in discussion at tonight’s event.

So, what is Cherchez la Femme all about, you ask? What better way to get an idea than to have a chat with the lady who is making it all happen – Karen Pickering.

Me: Hi Karen. Tell me this, please. Why is feminism, for some, still a dirty word?

Karen: I think there are so many reasons people shy away from calling themselves a feminist. I had a male friend say to me recently “I can’t be a feminist, can I?”. Interesting question, but I think the answer is ‘hell yes’ because we need everyone to be one to effect change. There is no one kind of feminism but I think the one that most people think of is second wave, which has gotten itself a bad reputation in some circles ie. the mainstream media. The best rejoinder to anti-feminists is the cheesy 70s slogan that I think politicised me in one fell swoop: Feminism is the radical idea that a woman is a human being.

Me: Great slogan! So, why did you start Cherchez la Femme? What’s the ideal outcome of holding these events?

Karen: I said at the end of the first Cherchez la Femme that everyone should look around the room and pinch because it was true! A hundred odd people came out on a cold, rainy night to an event that nobody had any idea of the quality of (but maybe the potential) to meet some other feminists! If we get together once a month, talk, listen, be heard, get educated, feel empowered, laugh at each other, make contacts, and generally crack open some ideas that we can’t anywhere else, then this event will succeed in its aim.

Me: What was the most exciting and/or surprising thing about the first Cherchez la Femme?

Karen: I was terrified that nobody would come, and when I saw how many had, I was frightened that nobody would want to talk in front of such a big group. Happily, I was wrong! There seemed to me a real hunger to communicate, a confidence that came from knowing why we were all here, and a… joy? Generosity? I don’t know what, but a good vibe that kept the conversation flowing freely. That was pretty exciting – the spirit in which people engaged and listened.

Me: It was exciting! Finally, what’s in store for people who might come along to the event in the future?

Karen: The next Cherchez la Femme will look at ‘Women and Raunch Culture’ and what it means for the feminist project. From now on, each month will have a broad subject of discussion, so we can cover more ground in more depth, but still keep the focus on audience-driven content – either by asking questions, commenting, or submitting ideas on paper. Upcoming CLFs will look at ‘Women and Sport’, “Women and Work”, “Women and the Law”, children, bodies etc, as well as featuring an ever-changing panel of feminists with good brains and big smiles. How does that sound?

Me: That sounds great. Thanks Karen!

I think it’s pretty obvious how good that all sounds, no?

Head to The Fox Hotel (351 Wellington St, Collingwood – corner of Alexandra Parade) at 7pm tonight, for what promises to be a frank and fearless discussion of what raunch culture means for all feminists. Does it exist? If so, who does it serve? And what might be its consequences for women of all ages, and the girls who are growing up into it?

These are tonight’s panelists:

Clementine Ford – writer, blogger, activist, singer, roller-derby initiate, flame-haired vixen and all-round fierce woman. Also, feminist.

Jeff Sparrow – editor of Overland Magazine, writer, Twitter-maven, activist, and general thinker of impressive thoughts. Also, feminist.

Megan Evans – multi-award winning visual artist, academic, curator, activist, and long-time land rights advocate. Also, feminist.

And the effervescent Kate Boston Smith joins Karen Pickering to host the proceedings and solicit your input.

See you there!

Also, join the Cherchez La Femme group on Facebook if you like! Any enquiries can go straight to Karen Pickering – 0427 381 527.


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