Malaysian feminism in 2012?

As I write this in Jakarta, my thoughts are about what we can do to get feminism buzzing in the Malaysian public discourse this year. When I say getting feminism in the Malaysian public discourse, I mean getthing people talking about feminism and gender inequality, and hopefully do something about gender and intersectional injustice. In this month and the last, I have been observing feminism in Singapore and Indonesia. As some of you already know, Slutwalk took place in Singapore on 4th December 2011, with great success and even greater media coverage. Having a friend who was one of the main organisers of the event gave me insights into a genuinely grassroots feminist movement, a movement made up young women and men who did not the legitimacy of the state, institutions, and organisations to get sexual violence and victim-blaming on the Singaporean discursive map. Sure, they faced a huge backlash from the public and local media, but their success and ongoing efforts post-Slutwalk demands applause and mad respect.

During the brief time I’ve been spending in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to observe the local feminist discourse and the means through which it is propagated. Here, there are regular talks about gender issues by local and international speakers. There is an active feminist journal called Jurnal Perempuan with startlingly beautiful prose on gender related issues, topical – media and sexual violence, and conceptual ones – power and class. Books about feminism written in and translated into Indonesian find a welcome home here; they are books that continue to be reproduced and engage with current trends and in conversation with global feminist discourse, rather than stay stale and static – an assumption unhelped by the fatigued idea that women’s oppression is as old humankind, change occurs one snail’s-paced milestone at a time so why produce many books about it every year?

This year, I will continue to contribute to the online (and hopefully offline) discourse about gender and intersectional injustice. As writer of various other online outlets both in English and Malay, I intend to cast my polemic further afield from feminist forums and talk with a largely non-(or not yet?)-feminist reading audience. There is still much to do and I hope you too will help get the message of gender injustice across to as many who are willing to read and listen. We need to work together with various feminist NGOs in Malaysia by raising public consciousness in as creative, easy to digest, persuasive, and effective means as possible. Make 2012 a year in which feminism can begin to root itself in the Malaysian public discourse. Take action; read, listen, speak, perform, and write.

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