Five Questions for a Feminist: Molly Frankham

Throughout 2017, we are going to introduce our followers to the One Woman Project team by asking them five feminist-related questions. Here we have Molly Frankham.

What is your name and role with the One Woman Project?

My name is Molly Frankham, and I am the Deputy Director (QLD) of the One Woman Project. My role is to be the people person of the organisation, to make sure all the volunteers have what they need to function effectively within OWP.

What does feminism mean to you?

Feminism means everything to me. It’s become the framework through which I live my life, the lens in which I view the world.

C.A Woolf said it succinctly when they wrote “What has been seen cannot be unseen, what has been learned cannot be unknown.” This is what it means to be a feminist, to see the world as it is. When you free yourself from learned bias, you begin to see the complicated and oppressive social structures that form the basis of our society. This knowledge underpins so much of everyday life. I remember reading about the concept of the world being men’s space, and that men tend to take up more room in the world than women.

I read that when walking, if a man walks into your line of path, he will subconsciously expect you to move, even if you hadn’t changed your direction, women are the ones who have to make room for men. I thought it was absurd when I first read it, then I tried it out, not moving, and smacked into three men while walking around uni. At no point did I walk out unexpectedly, or in front of them. It’s similar on public transport. Men will often spread their legs, taking up lots of space, and women accommodate for that, making themselves smaller.

Once I realised this, I began to make a conscious effort to take up more space, making lots of people (read: men) uncomfortable and confused around me, only for mimicking their behaviour. It may sound trivial, but this is symptomatic of a wider social phenomena; that this is a man’s world.

Why did you become a feminist? What personal experience drew you to feminism?

I grew up around, and have always been surrounded by strong women. The women in my family are country folk, and are made of tough stuff, while being incredibly supportive. I am so often amazed at all the tragedies that have had to endure, while continuing to look after their families, or just themselves, and still just powered on. The strength that they possess and so willingly shower on me and the rest of the family is truly astounding.

My grandmother is the matriarch of our quite large family, and I try and emulate her in many ways. My mother is at once the strongest and most compassionate person I’ve ever known, who always has time and energy for the people she loves. So I guess I have always been a feminist, but wasn’t aware of the weight of the word until I was 19, and working in security in a remote location.

I met a wonderful friend called Shalini who introduced the concept to me, and gave me the tools and language to express how I’d always felt; a framework to understand and push against my oppression. It was a light bulb moment, which has come to define most of my time at university.

What is your biggest focus within the movement towards global gender equality?

It’s difficult to pinpoint one single biggest focus, as there are so many areas of feminism that are important to me. One area I am particularly passionate about is women in politics, both domestically and internationally. I study international relations at uni, and have been exposed to feminist theory within the international context, and it was the theory I most connected with. If women are not at the table, how can anything ever change?

If women, half the population, are excluded from every level, including decision making, from on-the-ground work, and high level negotiations, how will conflicts be resolved?

There is one example in Liberia, where women galvanised to stop an awful civil war. Women were so fed up of the fighting, they decided to take action on masse. The movement was called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. Women across the country all decided to do what they could, despite having very limited civil rights. They implemented many tactics at their disposal, and one was that they stopped having sex with their husbands until the war ended. They were also involved in conflict resolution decision-making, and restorative justice measures. Without the women, the conflict could have killed many more people.

Countries that have higher levels of gender equality and equal representation of women in government do better. They have all round better outcomes, financially, socially and politically. It seems so obvious that this is the direction that we should be heading towards, but we’ve stagnated.

If there was one feminist resource you wish everyone would read or view, what would it be?

Honestly, I think the most effective resource at our disposal is conversations. Conversation is what helped me learn to use the word feminist, and to begin the process of education. Providing spaces where women of all creeds can meet and discuss their experiences is incredibly powerful, and incredibly useful.

And not only women, as men need to be part of the fight for equality as well, though they should take a back seat, they need to be there.

This is one aspect of OWP which really drew me in, that there was a weekly meeting where I could discuss and analyse my experiences with people who shared similar frames of mind, and to learn about areas of the fight I wasn’t even aware of.

This year we hosted a ‘Women in Leadership’ series, and I was lucky enough to co-facilitate a workshop in Logan. The women there were of a quite different demographic than I am currently exposed to, and hearing their stories and the mutual exchange of learning was amazing.

Everyone felt so close after the workshop, there were tears of pain and compassion, and it was a really reaffirming moment in why organisations like the OWP are so incredibly important. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic organisation.