While away on retreat with the DRAW (Departing Radically in Academic Writing” group at the end of 2020, we were tasked to create a writing manifesto, a statement which clearly set out our beliefs in who we are as writers, what we write and why. I immediately thought of Valerie Solanas’ 1967 “S.C.U.M (Society for Cutting up Men) Manifesto“, on the one hand inspired by her mission to establish, not unlike Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies and Virginia Woolf’s A Society, a utopian society of women, and yet on the other, immediately horrified by the violence inherent within it. My thoughts wandered this way and that, searching for the right writing rhythm and I found myself humming the tune of Baz Luhrman’s “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” song. Written 30 years after Solanas’ manifesto and lacking any of her feminist rebellion, I couldn’t help but focus on the idea of freedom inherent Lurhman’s spoken verse and began thinking and wondering about words that might inspire us to live, love and write in this world as feminists. Imagine then in-sisters and our brothers, gentle backbeats and smooth harmonies, set to these words as you read – my feminist palimpsest of Luhrman’s piece “The feminist song”.
Live, love and write feminist. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, living, loving and writing feminist would be it. The long-term benefits of writing in this way have been proved by those feminists who have come before us and whose work we know hold close, whereas the rest of my song refuses rationality, reliability, reason and returns them all. I willfully replace them with relationality with life, love and writing.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your words; they dwell in your body and heart. You will not understand the power and beauty of your words until you make them whole again. Life and love and writing is too short to do otherwise. In 20 years you’ll look back at words and writing you wrote and and fall in love all over again with possibility that living and writing feminist brings and how fabulous it really is – and it is more beautiful than you can imagine.
Yet try not to worry about the future of living, loving and writing feminist; the worry is always already there, troubling. The real troubles in your life are bound to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that creep up, catch and contain you, and when they do, fling your inkpot at their heads, open your mouth wide and laugh like the Medusa.
Write one dangerous thing every day.
Throw dead leaves on bonfires and dance.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s heartlines; don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Stay close, so close.
Don’t waste your time walking the mainline or trying to get a head start at the raceline; tie your heartline around your waistline and put yourself on the frontline and refuse the deadline.
Remember to always pay attention.
Keep the writing you love. Throw away the writing that doesn’t love you or anyone else back.
Spread your wings and fly.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know yet what living, loving and writing feminist even means. It doesn’t have to mean anything because meaning is knowing and perhaps not knowing is kinder. Besides, most feminists I love are still trying to work it out.
Read plenty of books, they are the lamp which light the spine of your feminist living, loving and writing.
Be kind to your brain, body and soul, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll write words with feminists, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll write words as a feminist, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you won’t find your feminist words until you’re 40.
Maybe you’ll find your sisterhood when your 75th birthday arrives and shout your feminist words loud and proud. When you do, don’t be afraid, don’t be shy and never apologise; here is your chance, take it.
Enjoy words. Use them every way you can. Don’t be afraid of words, or the ways that other people use them. Words are the greatest friend you’ll ever have in your feminist world as a writer.
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but behind the closed door of your sixth-floor office.
Know whose and what the rules, so you can break them ruthlessly apart.
Do NOT count your research citation metrics; they will only make you feel as though you are not good enough and will always be lacking.
Think with and back through your sisters, mothers and grandmothers; they are your best link to your past and the those most likely to stick with you in the future.
Get to know books, go to the library, you never know when the gates to knowledge will be locked – again.
Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few who remain in-sisters you should hold on.
Work hard to place yourself in those moments where words and the world meet, because the more your write, the more urgent finding those moments of being matters.
Write willfully with patriarchy once, but leave before he breaks your will. Write willfully without patriarchy, but never forget he is waiting to break your will.
Accept certain inalienable truths: you will be locked in, you will be locked out, but rejoice in the rebellion of knowing there is no lock they can set upon the freedom of your mind.
Respect the suffragettes.
Don’t expect anyone else to carry the pen that writes the words to smash patriarchy for you.
Maybe you are tenured professor with your title on the door, maybe you are waiting for the position to arrive; but remember that naming and claiming the “f” word will place you in precarious possibility.
Wear the little black dress in your writing if you want to, or don’t; whatever you choose, own it, become it and write towards it as thought your life depended on it.
Be careful whose words you listen to about your feminist writing life; be patient but be prepared to toss away those who wish only to silence yours.
Advice can be cruel or kind in the right measure. Deciding which part is worth keeping in the pages of your notebook is yours for the taking.
But hold hope with me in this worlding refrain for living, loving and writing feminist.
2 thoughts on “The feminist song”
In-sister, I am with you! I am also trying to live, love and write a feminist life.
Your manifesto is reminding me of Virginia’s claim that there is” no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind;” (the “you” being “they” and “they” being reviewers of my writing). I am holding these words of your close: “Be careful whose words you listen to about your feminist writing life; be patient but be prepared to toss away those who wish only to silence yours.” How I need the words of my sisters on days like today when I feel my writing is misunderstood. Thank you for sharing yours with us here x
Thank you K! I had so much fun being fearless, feisty and forthright writing this manifesto. It was inspired by a wonderful writing activity in late 2020 shared by an equally wonderful PhD student – wait, that was you! I hope it inspires you over and over and over.