The political is personal
My daughter, having grown up in a radical feminist environment of the Haifa Women’s Coalition house, mainly surrounded and supported by the community of Isha L’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center and Aswat, has grown up to become an assertive young feminist herself. It is a wonder seeing her growing up and forming her own opinions on different issues. I always learn from her, as she keeps reminding me in so many ways that there is not one feminism, but many feminisms. We have discussions on issues affecting women; sometimes we agree, other times we don’t.
The most recent disagreement between us reflects the disagreement within the radical feminist movement in general, and that is the use of our bodies in our struggles. Women have chosen to use their bodies throughout the years in different political struggles, which can be seen in recent years in the protests surrounding the Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot and the SlutWalks.
My daughter took part in this year’s Haifa SlutWalk, and she decided to dress in a certain way, thus using her own body to make a political statement. For those who don’t know the history of the Slut Walk, it started in January 2011, following a remark by a “representative of the Toronto Police” who “gave shocking insight into the Force’s view of sexual assault by stating: ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.’” (http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/).
When I saw what my daughter chose to wear, my first reaction was to try to persuade her not to dress in this way. Here I had to negotiate my own identities as a feminist and as her mother. Here I also realized that the feminist saying we always stress, “the personal is political,” also works in the opposite direction. In this case, the political became the personal.
Of course we both agree that women should have the right to dress whichever way they want and not be sexually harassed. Our disagreement was on the way we each choose to make our political statement. I myself don’t use my body in my activism, but I respect women who choose to do so. And thus, ultimately I had to respect my daughter’s choice. She is, after all, a grown young woman who received feminist education and all the tools to make her own choices. She is free to choose to use her body in her activism.
It was not easy seeing her during the SlutWalk procession as on the personal level I had mixed feelings about it. However, I was so proud of her. Proud of her courage, proud of her assertiveness, proud of her choice to stand up for women’s rights.