Fetal Feminism


A rising tide lifts all boats. This especially rings true in the feminist movement. If we’re going to strengthen the force of each wave then we need to support each other. So in the spirit of women supporting women, we’re proud to republish this piece, written by Brenna Harding that originally appeared on the new site Moonlight Feminists. If you like it, check out their other fantastic work.

In 2015 the YWCA Victoria got in contact with me via twitter and asked if I’d be part of their upcoming TinaTalks alongside Clementine Ford and Caitlin Stasey. This was around the time of the launch of Caitlin Stasey’s fabulous feminist website, herself.com, which had left me awestruck at her awareness, courage and brilliance. It was also around the time (which also happens to be all the time) that Clementine Ford was speaking up about hard to touch topics and fighting the good fight in support of women everywhere. Needless to say I was honoured to be included beside them.

Needless to say I was shitting my pants.

I felt nakedly under qualified to be included alongside them, and to be given the microphone in what I knew would be a room full of hundreds of the coolest, most well-versed feminists in Melbourne. I felt unworthy and I felt like I was going to screw up big time and everyone was going to witness it.

On the plane on the way over I scoured through Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay hoping I’d read a sentence that told me everything I needed to know and say to get through this event without everyone realising I was a fraud. I’d only been following feminism closely for a few months and still got vocab wrong, still didn’t know all the acronyms, still retreated from arguments with angry misogynists online, still didn’t understand exactly the sensitivity I needed to have because of my privilege, still didn’t know exactly how to articulate what I knew to be my truth: that we all deserve the same amount of love and respect, regardless of the body and circumstance we were born into.

Although when I got there I was still so nervous I peed at least six times and in the process jumpstarted my period, Roxane Gay did give me that one sentence to hold on to:

‘I’m a bad feminist because I never want to be placed on a “Feminist Pedestal”. People who are placed on pedestals are expected to pose, perfectly. Then they get knocked off when they fuck it up. Consider me already knocked off.’

At the state library I waited anxiously with Caitlin and Clem, I knew that Gay, with a published feminist text, felt these expectations too, and that she announced plainly and with pride that she would fuck up.

It was that day, as I listened to Caitlin and Clem talk eloquently about ideas I’d never even heard of that I realised that I was a ‘fetal feminist.’ I was new, I was growing, I needed all the help and nutrients I could get from beautiful feminist community. I couldn’t yet enter the world on my own, feel confident on my own two feet, and that was okay, because that day I was umbillecally connected to the two women beside me and the whole room of people who smiled in encouragement and wanted me to succeed.

In many ways I am still in that stage – I still get the vocab wrong, I still don’t know all the acronyms, I still feel a pressure to be a ‘perfect feminist.’ But by surrounding myself with feminists that I love and trust and continue to support me even through my fuck-ups, I’ve found myself looking in hindsight at the fetal stages of my feminism. I feel an enormous surge of pride for the courage I had to push through the insecurity and vulnerability to find a place where I now feel confident and stable. I feel so much appreciation for the feminists who supported and sheltered me and helped me to grow. All this has given me a passion to create environments which can be loving and supportive space for others.

That’s the Moonlight Feminists: we are the group who want you exactly as you are. We want to support you and value you and help you grow. And in return we hope you’ll do the same for us. Because we are all on a different part of this journey and we all have different perspectives to bring. Together our conversations are richer and our cause is stronger. Let’s not tear each other down but instead build each other up. We are each other’s greatest allies.

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About the author

Brenna Harding

Brenna is a student, actor and activist based in Sydney. She is best known for her role as Sue Knight in Puberty Blues, winning the 2012 Logie for Most Popular New Female Talent. Brenna worked with anti-homophobia organisation Wear it Purple, is an ambassador for Young Vagabond and convenor of the Women’s Library in Newtown. This year she founded Sydney-based feminist discussion group, The Moonlight Feminists, recently launching a podcast and a blog.

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