Q&A: Rosie Stevens, Festival Muse

Ahead of next week’s Festival Muse, we’re catching up with some illustrious festival guests to get a sneak peek at what we can expect from their sessions. Rosanna Stevens is hosting The (Feminist) Week that Was, a ‘sassy panel of broads’ that will give you the lowdown on what’s been happening in the world of women.

Get a teaser of Rosanna’s advice for the aware feminist and what current affairs you should know about below:

What are the current issues that every feminist should be aware of/possibly angry about?
Feminism reminds me of the internet (probably because it’s very active on the internet – case in point, literally this interview). It’s really easy to open up a million tabs online, and then do nothing with them, but then what? Feeling overwhelmed is not reading the tabs, or actioning the tabs, or enjoying the tabs, or extracting meaning from the tabs. I often forget the internet isn’t a burden – it’s a useful tool. For me, feminism is the same. I don’t think every feminist should be aware of the same issues, or that I should invest anger into all the possible issues. I’m kind of relieved when I go online and see clever people doing feminist work that I’m not – I think, thank crap there’s a lot of us.

One issue very worth thinking on, is that the ecosystemic environment we need in order to sustain human life, is up shit creek. Without that, it’s pretty hard to address any feminist issues, because we’re collectively dead. So I think being aware of the state of our environment, and taking localised and personalised steps to change our own destructive habits, without falling into a doom narrative, is a giant current issue. Hot tip: Listen to First Nations Peoples. Give the oldest environmental experts on the planet the power of the choices you make in your life. Here’s a great article by Tony Birch to get you started – thanks Tony!

How do you think that women today can channel their feminist outrage effectively? Are there organisations they can support or causes they can get behind?

At the moment, I find I’m ineffective if I’m fuelled by outrage. You could almost call my relationship with outrage a form of channeling my outrage effectively for me.

Reading publications that channel outrage into stories that are educational and instructive, and support minority writers, is totally worth getting behind. In Australia, Overland is doing a great job of that. In the US, it’s always worth checking out anything Bitch Media is behind. And also, there’s always delicious, delicious Teen Vogue.

It’d be great if we could listen to each other without being afraid that we might discover some issue we didn’t know about, and subsequently feel guilty about our own ignorance: that’s a useful way to channel outrage. Oh, and if you happen to menstruate, find a way to own your period. Seriously, I think it’ll change the world. I love the work Cass Clemmer has done, and is doing, in this field.

These days it feels like there’s more bad news every day when it comes to the treatment of women by our political leaders, and the slow erosion of our sexual & reproductive rights – how do you stay motivated and not just succumb to pessimism as a feminist?

I channel my outrage by learning from my despair. I believe in and support others however I can. I’m strict on not getting jealous of people succeeding: we need people in feminist communities to succeed! And then we need to allow them to be critiqued and criticised, and know that that’s a really important and normal part of this process of working toward a better standard of living and being for all things.

Also I really think endlessly entertaining the narrative that everything is horrible is a shit thing to do to ourselves. Clearly if you’re living your life according to your feminism, you’ve already identified that the world needs to change, and that things are hard. Many, many things are deeply horrible, and I’m not advocating for naivete. But succumbing to pessimism diminishes the work and achievement of our peers if we don’t uphold their hard work and celebrate it.

What can people expect from your event at Festival Muse, and what do you most want to hear about from the panelists?

Well, speaking of upholding and celebrating the work of extraordinary people working toward new feminist realities, you’re going to see a lot of interpretations of what feminist news is in our event. We’re taking all kinds of news stories from the week, and essentially serving our audience an interactive smorgasbord of the world this week, in all its hilarity, pain, joy, hate, love and difficulty. Yes – there will be audience participation. I wish I could tell you that pants were optional, but I think I have to reserve that kind of freedom for my personal feminist utopia.

The (Feminist) Week That Was will take place at Muse Canberra on Sunday 11 March, 1.30pm. You can book in to hear more from Rosanna and fellow panelists Jude Burger, Jennifer Wong and Laura Campbell here

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