Femmepire – The Kaupapa of Sharing
By Dina Jezdic
Katherine Mansfield said “Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different”.
I like to think that we should be more honest and vulnerable with each other. My strong epistemic impulse always tells me it’s best to share the interests, passion and love of what I do with truth and with other women.
The year 2018 marks the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand Aotearoa. Our spaces, physical as well as online, are already full of commemorative events highlighting women that have struggled through and achieved success in many ways. As a feminist, and as a woman that has been looking forward to contributing to this important year, I have felt fatigued and often thought there would be no need to add more. What has been lacking in our commemorative diets this year has been the space for friendship. More importantly friendships with people that bring you outside your comfort zone and most definitely outside your echo chamber. According to Vic Crone (absolute queen btw), that is the space that enables the best learning outcomes and growth. It’s an opportunity to hold a position where you can consider multiple opposing views and float the ideas that are not the warmest to you. “I learn a lot more when I hold my opinion back” said Vic.
That is what Femmepire was like for me, an opportunity to flex a muscle that has not been flexed before. As a creative that is firmly entrenched in feminist activist theory and discourse, during my time at the conference I took advantage of this rare opportunity to explore new territory, and hear new ideas from women unlike myself. I learned how to get out my own bubble and temporarily silence those voices that are usually loudest in my head, my own personal influencers.
What fascinated me about this hui and the expertise that was shared, was the absolute commitment to the possibilities of an authentic mode of expression, creation, and entrepreneurial desire to believe in the product/dream. Authenticity became a touch point for the way speakers conveyed the reason for their success…that, and hard work. Acknowledging that most women today still have to work harder than most men, to be specific. But the gathering never became a space of negativity or bitterness, even when sexism was brought into it.
“I have so many issues already; I try not to make my vagina one of them!” said Holly Smith.
In today’s world of #metoo, women have learnt to embrace their feminist killjoys, speak through their tears and earn their hero titles. But this was not what brought 400 women together last week. The gathering was snappy, dynamic and the messages I heard were relentlessly positive. Antonia Prebble told us all to embrace these “exciting times to be a lady and say anything is possible”. Usually, my sceptical eyes would be rolling back deep hearing something like this. But, I’ve learnt how to unroll my eyes and keep them firmly centred in my eye sockets, where they belong. I combined it with believing others in their acts of truth and making effort to affirm them. Especially when I heard (the very wise and funny) Megan Hutchison say “You can do anything once you know how to use Google!”. She’s also very good at definitions. Megan’s quick-fire impromptu definition of The Impostor Syndrome got the loudest clap of the day. Not surprising considering that at some point we’ve all felt it, especially when we’re aiming high. So, queens of my heart…keep aiming high and don’t you dare stop to think why you shouldn’t. If the cynical me could create a loving relationship between this very bold affirmation and fragility of its support…so can you!
The act of Femmepire is simply the first phase. In the words of Maggie Marilyn…here is to “women winging it every day” and to having happiness being the primary measure of success! Here is to legacy of innovation and collaboration, supporting NOT competing, to being generous, kind and loving and most importantly working smarter and not harder.
Dina Jezdic is the current curator of LATE at Auckland Museum series in the role of Audience Development and Engagement Specialist, with a background in medical neuroscience. She is the creator of the curatorial creative label Ms Interpreted that engages with anti-racist, feminist art. Her work is framed by the values of intersectional thinking and ‘sovereignty’ and the principles behind her practice are about creating networks and spaces to articulate the inequalities of gender, race and class aspects of the world we live in.
Dina is also pursuing an EdD doctorate in the area of Serving Society: Creating Equity, Diversity and Justice, focusing on research within arts and culture. She is a founding member of FoAM, Feminists of Auckland Museum and an occasional writer for Smithsonian Asian Pacific American and The Spinoff.