Something I’m thinking about this month is the film Brazen Hussies, a documentary of
second wave feminism taking place in the 1970s in Australia, that’s now showing at a
number of cinemas. I was fortunate to meet the director, Catherine Dwyer, as well as the
two producers, Andrea Foxworthy and Philippa Campey, at a panel discussion I moderated
for the Melbourne Women in Film Festival. Feminist public figure Pat O’Shane, who is
featured in the documentary, also contributed her time to the panel. Pat O’Shane is known
for a lot of ‘firsts’: she was the first First Nations person to be a teacher, barrister, then
We had a bunch of technical issues as it had to be online but it was still really wonderful, in particular, to hear Pat speak. I’m reflecting on her views when I asked her if there was
anything that surprised her in the portrayal of events at this tumultuous time. She noted
little surprise, but observed that there wasn’t enough engagement with Indigenous women; and went on to note that a number of the women that spoke in the film to give their accounts ‘still’ didn’t get it when it came to Indigenous issues.
Brazen Hussies brought to my attention a number of activists with whom I was not familiar; something that is all too common given we are often more knowledgeable about big names and celebrity feminists than local agitators. I appreciated the evident archival labour and excavation undertaken by the creative team behind this film. However, Pat’s comments also reverberated with me. The film does feature some of the tensions around racial ignorance and inequality, but given that these are actually a continuing issue, rather than being confined to the ‘second wave’, I would love to have known more so we’re better able to see when we are falling into the same patterns.
In Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Black American writer and poet Audre Lorde talks about the 1970s – the same time period – in a parallel context, in the United States, and how it was only in queer circles that Black women and white women were really talking to each other (though not always on equal terms, for sure). I would be so interested for more of a focus on both the meaningful encounters and exclusions of the racial politics of feminism – so as to connect and continue feminist work in the present.