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Byron Shire
June 14, 2024

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Love letter to my feminism

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This is the charming and captivating true story of a stubborn, self-centred Australian man who decides to walk the 800-kilometre-long Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route through Spain.

I breathed in hope and love and I understood, on a cellular level that this was a life’s mission.This was the ‘women’s work’ that I would do. 

Becoming a feminist changed my life.

For me it was like finding home. It was fiercely intellectual. Fiercely compassionate. It was fiercely just. Feminism showed me that the world I’d viewed from the margins, which excluded me, could be inclusive. It told me I was not broken, that I was okay. It told me to believe in myself, to realise who I thought I was, wasn’t necessarily who I was. It told me to speak up and to claim space. It told me that every breath I drew, every step I took was a radical political act, as a feminist woman in the patriarchy. Feminism allowed me to see not just the play, but the puppets, the puppet makers and most importantly who was pulling the strings. And why.

I was 17. I was conventionally beautiful in the way society applauds as some sort of achievement; tall and willowy and blonde. I left home to attend university and also found myself at a modelling agency. While I studied psychology, semiotics and Derrida at uni, at the agency I was learning to walk the right way, how to hold my mouth, how to be looked at. It was like the human version of dressage. Instinctually it felt wrong. I felt wrong. As beautiful as I was, I was certain I was not. I was not thin enough. My nose was wrong. My hair wasn’t right. My self-confidence was non-existent. Instead, my self-loathing was an aching chasm where my country girl’s heart used to be.

At university I was learning about the male gaze. About how the ideas of what it meant to be female and male, feminine and masculine were social constructs. I learnt about the patriarchy. I learnt that women had only got the vote less that 90 years before I took my place at an academic institution. And it was 100 years since women were first able to access university. I learnt that women were objectified and that was an intrinsic part of our value in an oppressive system. I looked at myself in the mirror; miserable and lonely and self-hating in tiny bikinis and stilettos, with a slash of red lipstick, and I thought WTF?

I became a feminist that day. It wasn’t a group. We don’t have secret ‘man-hating feminoid’ meetings. It’s not a religion or a cult. It’s not a hierarchical organisation. It’s a way of thinking. Feminism is the word for waking up. Waking up to realise the structures of our society were built to favour men and disadvantage women. That the world I lived in was not built on ‘natural’ principles, but systemic control and oppression. It was not inherent, so it could be changed. It must be changed. I breathed in hope and love and I understood, on a cellular level that this was a life’s mission – for me, for my mother, for my daughters, for my sisters, and for my sons. This was the ‘women’s work’ that I would do. Not the washing and cooking and ironing and child bearing, but this; truth telling and change making. My feminism was evangelical. It made sense. 

I was Bluebeard’s wife. I had taken a key and I had found the room where the bodies were hidden. I had put myself in danger. Once you have glimpsed inside that room, you cannot go back. If hidden, the key will bleed through in your pocket. Once you know where the bodies are – everything changes.

Some men are scared of feminism. And they should be. Feminism disrupts power systems that favour men, systems that see only one per cent of all rapes end in conviction, systems that see us dying in our homes at the rate of one woman every week, that see us hold only 30 per cent of the world’s wealth, that see us earn nearly 23 per cent less and do nearly two-and-a-half times the unpaid work in a home. And do almost 60 per cent of the world’s voluntary work.

I say, ‘This is wrong!’ and they call me a ‘man-hater’. I am a feminist who pushes for peace and non-violence and for equality. My feminism is about making the world a more just place for women and non-binary people, and in the end, for men too. 

While we are killed, predominantly by men, men are killed by other men. Or themselves. We’ve noticed your suicide rate is almost double ours. Toxic masculinity is killing men too. The patriarchy is broken and we are all living in the ruins.

My feminism is the antidote. It is the machete that cuts a path where there was none. It is the light that shines into darkness. It is the blanket on the shoulders of the injured. My feminism is a breath of fresh air. It is joyous, and funny and self-reflective and kind. It is warm and nurturing. But it is also angry. And it’s had enough.

My feminism is amazing. It links me to my tribe and also to a broader community I have never met and reminds me that we are in every street, every town, every country in the world, standing in quiet solidarity… so beware. Or be excited. Intentional, radical, and accidental feminists are everywhere.

Happy International Women’s Day. Hug a feminist. We still have much work to do.


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21 COMMENTS

  1. Onya sister and happy IWD, but in the interests of truth telling:
    “And do almost 60 per cent of the world’s voluntary work.”
    As they say in Wikipedia, Mandy, [citation needed]

    • I think they are counting taking care of their own children and cleaning their own house and cooking their own food as being enslaved to the patriarchy. Men produce more than 60% of world productivity and on average give the woman 90% of their earnings to raise the children. Slaves and feudal serfs only had to give 75% to their masters.

  2. Our perceptions are born from our childhood experiences
    We all have an obligation to heal our own wounds otherwise we may inflict them on others
    Men don’t always have it easy
    Conscription in the world wars killed millions
    Male suicide from not been able to see their kids is real
    Internal Balance and peace ,not fear of the other, will restore human equality of opportunity regardless of biology skin colour gender and all other perceived them and us-isms
    But first we must heal our own wounds ,imagine if Hitler had

    • Feminism contributes to the liberation of both sexes and all those who don’t want to identify exclusively with either. Patriarchy is not just a challenge for women. No one polices a man’s masculinity quite as stringently as other men – or that’s my experience.

      • Well that’s why that type of ‘Liberation’ has been tried before throughout history by many civiliisations. For a little while the degeneration seems to work until the social, demographic, and financial wealth that had been built up runs out. Then reality comes rushing in, which is ‘unpleasant’. But the party is fun until then.

        • What “type of liberation” are you conceptualising, Mrs Steinberg? Where in history has a “type of liberation” led to social, demographic and financial decline? If you explain we might get a better understanding of what the hell you’re on about. Do you know or are you letting someone else do your thinking for you?

          Do or you have a “Christian” name or do you define yourself by where your troth is pledged?

          • End of the Roman Empire is usually the standard example. Me being me points at the 18th dynasty and second intermediate periods of Egypt. Check out Akhenaten’s boobs! But if you just get an understanding of Hellenic history you can see it happen repeatedly. Stone-age fertility cults disturb modern people so much we don’t like to teach about them, especially their version of new hallows eve. Some of us were nerds growing up. Maybe you should have partied less and hit the books more.

          • Assumptions, assumptions Christian! I would have thought someone of you logical purity would be wary of them. But I asked Mrs Steinberg to answer – curiouser and curiouser!

            All empires tend to come to an end and I’m sure the explanations are more complex than the interpretations that are conveniently twisted to suit a particular hobby horse. Sure the struggling for supremacy phase is probably more conducive to holding power than the distractions of enjoying the fruits of conquest phase. But despotism generally doesn’t achieve indefinite power. Closer to the present though, the British Empire is hardly much of a thing now, nor the once Russian Empire. Has that all been down to wine, carnal incontinence and song?

            What I was looking for was some sort of indication of your vision of feminism which I’d suggest isn’t all about fornication and debauchery. And I hate to point out that there’s a bit of a contradiction in your examples: elsewhere you seem to suggest that feminism is a very recent invention not something responsible for the downfall of ancient empires.

            Did my inclusion of “ all those who don’t want to identify exclusively with either” – which was about not assuming a binary paradigm rather than central to the point – send you off on a tangential Pavlovian frothing at the mouth?

            Maybe if you had balanced some socialising with your reading, you would have a broader outlook. Confirmation bias is easier from reading. To twist an old proverb, you can choose your reading material but you can’t choose the opinions you’ll find in the serendipity of those you meet.

            The odd party might also have helped you to keep yourself nice.

          • Signs your civilisation as transitioned from the Intellectual phase to the terminal Decadence phase are, Defensiveness, Pessimism, Materialism, Frivolity, An influx of foreigners, the Welfare State, a weakened Religion. There are a standard plethora of degenerate and disgenic behaviours these are expressed through that get mistaken for social progress.
            Republics decline into Democracies decline into Despotism.
            Feminism is recent to modern western civilisations, not all of human existence.
            Feminism and its analogues are simply replacing the family with the state.
            You will need to read up on these subject as I can not details these fields of study on this platform, and I not inclined to on an old article.

  3. So you did something degenerate when you were a teenager and then got propagandised with hyper emotional non-sense at Uni. You’re supposed to figure it out as you get older and grow out of it. Objectifying women was illegal before feminism. Modelling agencies, beauty contests, women strutting their looks on stage for money, poll dancing, pornography…all created by feminists who demanded they be allowed to exploit their looks if they choose. Once they manged to get society to view them that way, they then said it was the fault of the ‘patriarchy’ and demanded it be stopped. Same old same old

    • Your highly imaginative interpretations of history are a constant source of entertainment. So good of you to amuse us so!

      • Remember that in Shakespear’s day, all the female roles were played by men? It wasn’t men that demanded women be allowed to be actors, or any of the other immodest forms of parading around in public such as public bathing, that was the feminists. Now they complain about being objectified on there OnlyFans channel, and the young men complain about being seen as an object known as an ATM. For some reason our birth rate has crashed to the point of endangering our economy, and the kids won’t even look at each other as OnlyFans/ATMs anymore because they can’t even be sure what they are looking at anymore. Great social engineering job guys. What could possible go wrong!

  4. Most of the physical and conceptual structures in our society – which we predominantly benefit from, what we all benefit from, are the result of millions of hours of work by (white?) men – the roads, the buildings, the technology – even the language we use. But it amounts to nothing without each of the great women that birthed them and fed them and loved them. There is no Yang without Yin, no coin without sides.
    This divisive stance which perpetuates separation of sex to make news is boring and old.
    Also, when people speak to behaviours rather than groups (or individuals), they may be heard. Until then, it’s identity politics motivated by fear itself.
    It is not men who abuse, it is abusers, it is not women who are assaulted, it is victims.

    • Group averages inform political decision quite well. When you meet an individual, they are probably mostly like the group, but you get burnt on the individual traits, cause you can’t be sure the ways they happen to be aberrant. However if you take aberrant behaviour and promote it until there is a perception that it is the average for a group, that’s demonisation. And yes…White

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