FWF2020 Q&A: Laura La Rosa

Laura La Rosa is an FWF2020 panelist on Being Feminist, Staying Bold.

Laura is a proud Darug woman, published writer, emerging critic and graphic designer. She has been heavily involved in a number of grassroots activist initiatives, and numerous ongoing projects that seek to deconstruct issues spanning white feminism.

Is there a moment you recall that shaped your own idea of feminism/what does feminism mean to you?

I have always been a feminist, but it wasn’t until well into adulthood that I found ways to contextualise and articulate my thoughts. To me the word feminism is somewhat matriarchal and just one of many words used to encompass the struggle for liberation across numerous intersections. I don’t buy into the commonly used language of ‘gender equality’ because I believe it belongs to a corporate culture that limits and overshadows other complexities such as factors of class and race.

In terms of shaping my feminism, I typically immerse myself in the works of Blackfellas – be it that of custodians, writers, protestors, poets etc. Especially the works of those who came before us to whom we owe a great deal. bell hooks’ work was also one of my earlier influences in delving into cultural studies and feminism.

In terms of street action, I turn to and pay tribute to Blak movements in Australia.

How do you manage being vocal and ‘bold’ in the public/social media sphere? How do you take care of yourself?

I believe in the work that I do and I have a deep sense of pride in who I am as a person, but it has been quite a process getting here. I am big on self-honesty and I think if you are honest in the way you work and engage with country and with people both privately and publicly; if you continually check in with your ego and your intentions and are willing to self-reflect, then for me it’s easier to deal with the stress and noise that comes with this kind of work. I couldn’t imagine operating in any other fashion, in all realms of both work and life. 

At 36 years old, I am still learning how to best take care of myself. I have always been pretty tough, but I am working on being kinder to my body which includes properly listening to it and honouring what it needs. I learned the hard way that ‘mind over matter’ is not at all a feasible way of coping because even though my mind feels resilient, my body will eventually tell me otherwise. 

Explain a bit about ‘lived activism’ – where simply getting up everyday and living one’s life can be an activist act.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. In the current climate the lines between community obligations, advocacy work, and traditional modes of grassroots activism, have become increasingly blurred, particularly among Blak and other marginalised communities. For some, being on the picket line and/or assisting with and running campaigns is their activism. For others, resistance lies in embodiment and existence. It could be as simple as getting up each day, boiling an egg and caring for country and loved ones. All of it is work. And that workload is getting heftier and more complex as the state of politics and the planet go further into chaos.  

In your FWF2020 essay ‘White feminists, what are you willing to give up?’ you speak about the problems and paradox with corporate white feminism – can you speak more to this? Is there a way to use corporate exposure and/or a high profile/social media platforms to genuinely amplify grass roots movements? 

There is a particular kind of white feminism that I believe is essentially just an extension of white supremacist patriarchy. Unfortunately, this culture continues to dominate mainstream feminist spaces and discourse. The result is a grossly commodified and watered-down version of feminism that many white women are quick to soak up. 

I genuinely believe that movements in this colony should primarily be Blak-led. If white feminists genuinely respect us, our history, our realities, our agency, our diverse lived experiences and what it means for us to be sovereign, then they will willingly move right over. They will ask how they can assist and serve our movements without putting their names and faces to it.

In terms of high-profile figures and organisations using their media platforms to amplify movements… I believe they can and probably should, but most are not culturally equipped to do so. Moreover, when white feminists and celebrity figures are apologising for their racism one week, and then capitalising off Black movements the next (and repeat), that is not what that is. That is theft and its manipulation. Sharing Black content does not negate you from being racist. Using the correct scripts and presenting as ‘intersectional’ does not exempt you from co-opting what is not yours. It’s a massive issue in this colony and it is enabled by a culture of apathy and silence coupled with the bizarre belief that we should avoid calling other women in and respectfully holding them accountable.

I’m not suggesting white feminists can’t or shouldn’t achieve or run feminist projects. I tune into the work of a handful of white feminists and critics who selflessly slog away and agitate in ways that continue to inspire me. What I’m trying to say is that there needs to be a greater and prolonged self-interrogation of whiteness from white feminists as a whole.

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