FWF QUARANTINE Q&A: Winnie Dunn & Ferdous Bahar

Winnie Dunn is the editor of Sweatshop Women: Volume 2, a collection of stories from culturally diverse women from Western Sydney. Ferdous Bahar is a contributing writer.

What does feminism mean to you?

Winnie Dunn: I actually don’t prescribe to feminism, which I believe was a movement built for white women and white women only. I prefer to be called a Womanist, who ‘is committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female [and non-binary]. Not a separatist, except periodically for health.’

Ferdous Bahar: It is a movement that is most effective for women for whom gender is the first (and often, only) barrier to equal rights.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?

WD: An old school Greek tutor in the third year of my Bachelor of Arts degree got us to read Alice Walker’s, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens. Through that tutor and that book, I had my first lesson in how the intersections between race and gender shape ourselves and our world.

FB: In one of my jurisprudence classes at law school we studied two foundational feminist texts, Susan Okin’s Feminism and Multiculturalism: Some Tensions and Catharine MacKinnon’s Sex Equality: On Difference and Dominance. We were encouraged to view Okin as a ‘liberal feminist’ and MacKinnon as a ‘radical feminist’, and yet neither of these canonical texts adequately incorporated the views of women of colour. If anything, Okin seemed to suggest that multiculturalism was incompatible with feminism. The discussions in class made me query whether it was possible for such a movement to meaningfully represent anyone but white women.

What do you think feminism has to learn from movements seeking to address racism and other forms of prejudice? 

WD: Read Ruby Hamad’s White Tears / Brown Scars.

FB: Read Kimberlee Crenshaw’s 1989 journal article Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.

What advice would you give others who are facing daily experiences of micro-aggressions and overt aggressions that are given permission with the rise of populist and far-right rhetoric? 

WD: ‘Freedom, justice and equality by any means necessary.’ – Malcolm X.

FB: If taking action in a situation will not cause you harm, then take action. In such a situation, I would give the same advice that the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) gave us Muslims when confronted with evil:

‘Whoever among you sees an evil action, let them change it with their hand [by taking action]; if they cannot, then with their tongue [by speaking out]; and if they cannot, then with their heart [by at least hating it and believing that it is wrong], and that is the weakest of faith.’ (Sahih Hadith)

Which women, queer, or non-binary writers (and their books) should everyone be reading right now?

WD: Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang, The Lost Arabs by Omar Sakr, Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman, Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau, Throat by Ellen Van Neerven, Does My Head Look Big in This? By Randa Abdel Fattah, The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and of course Sweatshop Women: Volume Two.

FB: I can recommend the following books that I am currently reading: Home by Toni Morrison, Growing Up African in Australia edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke, The Hijab Files by Maryam Azam, as well as Sweatshop Women: Volume 1 and Sweatshop Women: Volume 2.

Sweatshop Women: Volume Two; cover art credit: Amani Haydar and design credit: Elaine Lim. 
Winnie Dunn photo credit: Tyler Aves.
Sweatshop Women is funded in part by the Australia Council for the Arts.

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