Approaches to design for change, design-led ethnography [post 5]

For the interview I had the privilege of interviewing a class mate who had a strong interest and passion on the issue of gender equality and womens rights and therefor was an endless bank of knowledge and insights.

For the initial interview I prepared the questions:

•Would you consider yourself a feminist?

•What do you consider a feminist? and if you classify yourself as a feminist why?

•What is your opinion of men in feminism?

•Would you ever desire being the bread winner in the relationship?

•Do you see there as any social challenges being a feminist?

Her responses to my questions were very informative. She classified her self as a third wave feminist and showed a strong care for the socio-economic and social issues of all women. She understood the negative ‘wrap’ that feminism can have attached to be rooted from men seeing feminism as a threat against them and the patriarchy. Although she see’s men as part of the problem she also understands that they are important in creating positive change for women, acknowledging that you can’t power a movement with just the oppressed. She said there is a distinct line though however between men being allies and supporting feminism. She shared an interesting point which stuck with me:

“I really dislike when men decide that a women is doing her feminism wrong” 

This really struck me as a very interesting angle. Just acknowledging that its wonderful to have their support, however they are not the first hand oppressed in the situation. Coming from a strong family with feminist beliefs, it was no wonder she would desire being the bread winner in the future and after her dads role model example she joked about her expectations for her future husband.

She said that her feminist views can play a different role in different situations. She enjoys comfort to express her views in certain environments such as uni and at home, however sometimes can be found in uncomfortable situations in the work environment where she can run into the more conservative types. She raised an interesting point that men that consider them selves ‘feminist’ when in a group mentality especially when alcohol and drugs are in the situation they forget to give women a voice.

I found this task very successful. She provided me with a really strong understanding and example of a new wave feminist and was generous enough to share her story. I thought for my probe I could have asked her to search articles for feminist mentions etc. but I was more interested in her rich experiences. I asked her to share with me some of her stories. Stories of her own experiences, things she has witnessed or heard that have evoked her feminism.

These were the results

1.

I was walking home after my birthday with my best friend; my boyfriend was walking about 10 meters behind with another friend of mine. We walked past this group of boys, and as I went past one of them put his hand out an grabbed my breast. My and my best friend yelled at him and called him filth. By this time my boyfriend had caught up and he started yelling at the guy and kicked him in the shins. One of the guys tried to cool the situation down as it was obviously getting out of hand.

2.

This is just something that I’ve noticed when people drink and socialise in pubs. I hang around with a lot of men who called themselves feminists, as progressive men of the left. However whenever we go to the pub together and they drink they talk over me or ignore things I’m saying. Sometimes I internalise it and think it’s because what I’m saying isn’t particularly intelligent or interesting. Then a man makes the point that I tried to make, and low and behold the male chorus arises in ‘yeahs’ and ‘good point’.  Sometimes my partner, who I’ve voiced  my frustration about this to says ‘yeah that’s what Rose just said’, however it’s meant that I’ve stopped socialising with men to the point where my friendship group is almost exclusively women.

3.

A recent incident where I noticed men engaging in sexist behaviour was at a party I was at. Two boys and myself were sitting in a circle when one of them used the term ‘pussy’ and ‘bitches’ as a pejorative. When I pulled him up on it, him and his friend said I was over reacting. When I argued that that was a sexist stereotypes used to manipulate women’s’ emotional response to oppressive acts they told me to ‘drop it and that it was a party’.  When my partner walked into them room they called him over to ‘calm me down’ despite just voicing my opinion. My partner chose not to interfere as he had been drinking and didn’t want to get involved.

4.

Working in hospitality has been a huge eye opener for me in terms of how sexist the general population is. Sometimes it’s obvious, men will flirt with me, touch my hand or shoulder, talk to me much longer than I want them to, think that because I’m being paid to be polite I’m interested in what they have to say. I had this customer who told me that ‘I looked like the kind of the girl who would lick it up’ then accused me of not being able to take a joke when I banned him from the venue. Sometimes it’s less obvious, that customers won’t listen to me when I say no but when my male coworker says something it’s respected. People will generally be more aggressive to me than to the men I work with. I’ve called silly and stupid or slow and after all that told to ‘smile more’.

I found this a really interesting probe, providing me with really qualitative data and instances that I could relate to. I think it has helped me realise how many other women would relate to such stories and how it is a really powerful way to create a powerful movement or change. It has helped me to acknowledge that men in the group mentality is a ‘hotspot’ for derogatory, oppressive behaviour from males and that could potentially be a spot to work with in my future assessment.

 

Most interesting points:

Men in group mentalities forget to give women a voice

Social situations inform ones comfort to express their views freely

Men are comfortable in the patriarch

Feminism is a response to socialised behaviours

Many females feel similar about mens behaviour it is just not spoken about often

WRITTEN BY ANNA CARMODY

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