We had the pleasure of speaking with author, writer and feminist Rosita Sweetman. Author of Father’s Come First – which we reviewed in issue two of Cinders – Rosita gave us her impression of feminism today, how it has changed since Ireland of the 70s.
What with the strides that the feminist movement has taken in recent years for privileged women of the developed world, it can be easy to forget how much more change is needed – but also how recently in Ireland that women’s power was os much less and so reliant on the men in their lives. But that is the world that Rosita Sweetman’s Father’s Come First is set in. Rosita wrote the small but powerful novel when she was living in East Africa and thinking of home.
The book is the coming of age story of Lizzie while she tries to figure out how to fit in, how best to be a woman and live up to the expectations that are put on her by her family, her teachers and society. It’s a very different world from the one we have now. Rosita see’s some changes as extremely positive, “Isn’t it brilliant that more young people are more willing to say that they are feminists,” she said. She saw this through the reaction from people after the book was rereleased.
“It was one of the things that has been a really nice surprise after Lilliput republished it, was that young people really got it. I thought it was going to seem really weird to young people but it did seem to have some relevance for them so that was really interesting.”
Rosita pointed out that feminist energy is returning among young people, young women care about being seen as feminist in a way they haven’t since the 60s and 70s. “I felt really strongly that the feminist energy which has been dormant is really coming up again. More strongly even than before because there are so many more young educated women dying to have a voice. I feel it’s a really optimistic time to be a woman. We know so much more.”
“I felt really strongly that the feminist energy which has been dormant is really coming up again.
I asked her does she still think that, given the outcome of the US election? “Even with Trump look at the Women’s March – it was fantastic. The Trump win and everything is pretty horrendous and the big business that he’s pushing around him but what’s amazing is seeing how many passionately real feminists there are in America, people who really care about values for a good long time – there’s Trump trashing around but there are hundreds of thousands of people saying ‘not in our name’ that’s up lifting at the same time.”
“I look at my daughter Chupi now and I think wow- a daughter of the revolution! She’s got her own business, is thriving, you know there was never any question for her that she would make her own way,” she continued.
It can be very easy to forget just how recent it is that attitude for women. While reading the book I really identified with Lizzie and with her perspective as a young women but the struggles that she was going through that were a product of the time – her whole reliance on men that felt like something I hadn’t experienced. Rosita agreed, “It was just the reality, the guys had all of the money it was a totally skewed equality and relations. The women movement’s has certainly opened up relations but there’s still a long way to go.”
It was just the reality, the guys had all of the money it was a totally skewed equality and relations.
And while double standards still exist for many women, particularly those who are in less privileged positions, Rosita smells the winds of change.
“Double standards will exist until the end of time! I think it’s loads better, so much of the hypocrisy has gone , there are pebblestones in it but we are growing up as a nation slowly. Look at the marriage equality referendum, I think the eighth amendment is going to be repealed, it’s on its way it’s not going to go back now.”
She sees that as coming from an improvement in attitudes from young people today.
“I look at the openness and clarity of your generation and my children’s generation and it’s just so different. Positively so. It’s centuries ahead of most people in power. I suppose every generation is a new generation and a new reality.”
This is interesting as I pointed out to Rosita that most young women, myself included, who identify themselves as feminists now, wouldn’t have always done so – everyone had their own journey to becoming one. It took time and learning for our attitudes to become inclusive.
“The book I’m working on at the moment for Lilliput is called ‘Feminism Backwards’ and its about exactly that, the journey towards becoming a feminist. It’s a development of consciousness. It’s sort of like becoming politically aware.”
That balance is central to Rosita’s beliefs, the balance between these two energies, between any two energies. “I think that it’s the core of the world it’s yin-yang, it’s the balancing opposing energies that are equal, male-female, whatever you call them, that is where the balance is. It’s absolutely necessary for both powers to be equal to have the right things to happen. One of the things with the alt-right I feel is it’s just so male. All of these guys just look so desperately male – it;s not the way that we’re meant to live – we’re meant to live mixed up! All ages, all sexes, all groups, we’re not meant to hive off of a particular energy, then it just goes mad!”
I think that it’s the core of the world it’s yin-yang, it’s the balancing opposing energies that are equal, male-female, whatever you call them, that is where the balance is.
The way forward she believes is acknowledging that feminism and female energy go hand in hand. We can’t help but completely agree with her. “I think feminism it’s right there at the core of our own female energy, and moving forward it’s about taking cognisance of that fact.”
Photos of the Women’s March by Roya Ann Miller and Jerry Kiesewatter.