Raelee Lancaster speaks on Feminism for All, as a part of our FWFTalks podcast series.
Raelee is a writer, collaborator, creative producer and co-director of the National Young Writers Festival and was the recipient of a Copyright Agency First Nations Fellowship in 2019. Raised on Awabakal land, Raelee is of Wiradjuri, Biripi and European descent.
Is there a moment you recall that shaped your own idea of feminism?
My idea of feminism is constantly changing and evolving. I think that’s the beauty of feminism — everybody does it differently.
I can pin point the beginning of my journey to feminism: I was at O-week, my first year of university. I had just moved to Sydney, I had no friends, and I was about to start a degree in an institution I thought I had no right to be in. That day, I met some people who were championing feminism. They helped me rid myself of that ‘not like other girls’ mentality and taught me that women didn’t have to be ‘competition’ — some very common conceptions I held at this time that had been ingrained in me from childhood. They taught me the value of female friendships and they openly discussed queer theory (I was still in the closet at this stage).
I think that was an instrumental introduction into feminism, but their camaraderie and support also helped me become a more confident and courageous person.
What does ‘Feminism for All’ mean to you? What are some of the barriers to feminism being ‘for all’?
I feel like a lot of people feel uncomfortable with calling themselves ‘feminist’ because a lot of the feminism they’re presented with doesn’t represent them. Those feelings are incredibly valid (I feel them myself!) especially when white women are still seen as the quintessential feminist archetype. For example, when celebrating key milestones, such as women gaining the right to vote, a lot of feminists forget that non-white women were excluded from these historical events and that our rights came much later in the game.
While representation is obviously a huge barrier to feminism being ‘for all’, so are things like education, class, and other privileges. I have the privilege of being a university educated person where I was afforded the time to study feminist literature and theory. While I grew up in a low socio-economic, low-income, single-parent household, I now have financial stability that provides me with further access to feminism because I’m able to afford tickets to attend festivals and talks and conferences.
For me, ‘Feminism for All’ means everybody had access to feminism, everybody feels represented and respected in the feminist space, and nobody is excluded. I understand this is an idealistic goal but, hey, I’m an optimist!
In the FWFtalks podcast, Feminism for All, you talk about the inherent strength in growing up Aboriginal and how that gelled with the ideas of feminism, but without the label — can you share some more about that?
All the women in my family grew up faster than the men in my family. It’s a very binary way to look at it, I know, but growing up there was a clear binary distinction between men’s business and women’s business. A lot of women’s business was done in the home; we often took on nurturing roles within the family. Growing up, I saw this as the antithesis of feminism.
It wasn’t until I learned more about feminism that I realised the strength in the women who raised me. The strength of birthing people into this world, rearing them, sharing love and compassion and forgiveness, maintaining discipline. Taking on the physical and emotional labour of the entire family, instilling cultural values into kids who didn’t want to or couldn’t connect. Seeing that cycle of intergeneration trauma and violence repeat and remaining steadfast through it all.
What are some useful ways people can broaden their understanding and practice/s of feminism?
Empathy, education, and elevation.
It’s important to put yourself — as best you can — in someone else’s shoes. Really examine your privilege and work to take down those barriers (like class, race, ethnicity) that might be preventing you from empathising with another person. Empathy also means removing your own feelings for a moment and not thinking, ‘I would feel terrible if I were in this situation’ but thinking ‘This situation is terrible on a human level’.
Being sure to educate yourself, do your own due diligence, have a quick Google search before asking your friend, for example, to read over your uni assignment to ensure your Indigenous studies essay is culturally sensitive. The closest friends I have are people who are willing to do research before asking me sensitive questions, who respect my decision to say no to answering any of those questions, and who listen and take on feedback if and when they make mistakes.
Finally, elevating the platform and voices for other people is fundamental. It’s an active practice I incorporate in every role I’m in, especially as my own platform and privilege continues to grow. This isn’t just about passing the mic, it’s about getting off the stage altogether. It’s about stepping out of the room and having other people lead. Sharing or handing over the ‘spotlight’ to someone else doesn’t diminish your own work, it provides room for other work.