A group of Far South Coast women have banded together and taken inspiration from the Greek goddess Mnemosyne in their efforts to celebrate and promote female storytelling.
Frustrated by the lack of representation of women’s stories in local narratives and local history, Jodie Stewart and Noe Lumby decided to start their own publication.
“We didn’t want to sit around and continue to be frustrated and angry, we wanted to marshall that energy into something productive,” Ms Stewart said.
The two women sent an email out to women from all corners of the Far South Coast and what resulted was a team of enthusiastic women coming together all with the goal of giving local women a new voice.
“We were all similarly frustrated but very hopeful about the possibility of a journal that would represent women on the South Coast,” Ms Lumby said.
And from this mNemosyne: South Coast Women's Journal was born.
mNemosyne: South Coast Women's Journal
Taking the name mNemosyne, from the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the Muses – who were the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts in Greek mythology – the South Coast Women’s Journal will be a collaborative publication space for women to write, create, inform and share.
“We wanted to make sure we had a diverse representation of women including Indigenous women, young women and LGBTIQ women,” Ms Lumby said.
The women who have now joined the mNemosyne team include Jodie Stewart, Noe Lumby, Lorna Findlay, Melanie Horsnell, Lois Haywood, Jodie Dickinson, Tallara Andy, Lisa Stott, Linda Albertson, Trish Thompson and Nancy Blindell.
“It’s about creating a safe space, empowering women, building women up, supporting them and giving women a published space,” Ms Lumby said.
Meeting for the first time in February this year, the group hopes to have the first journal published in time for Summer and for it to then become a biannual publication.
But to do this the group needs money, at least $6,000. So in an attempt to raise the journal’s profile in preparation for their upcoming kickstarter campaign the team behind mNemosyne hosted a public forum discussing Feminism in the 21st century.
What does feminism mean in 21st century Australia?
Around 60 Bega Valley people attended mNemosyne’s first formal event, the Feminism Forum on Wednesday, July 26.
The roomed was packed, with standing room only available as young women, older women and men from as far as Towamba, Eden and Bermagui came together at the University of Wollongong Bega Campus to discuss the relevance of feminism.
Leading the discussion was Ms Stewart, joined by panelists PhD qualified ex-vegan abattoir worker Dr Annie Werner, advocate for social justice, political enthusiast and local Country Labor candidate Tasman Fitzer, 16-year-old entrepreneur Indigo Walker and Feminist Historian Lorna Findlay
“I was surprised by how many people were interested in Feminism,” mNemosyne committee member Linda Albertson said after the event.
Panelist Lorna Findlay, who at 68-years-old describes herself as an old feminist, said she was glad to see a feminist discussion here in the Bega Valley.
“I’m part of Second Wave Feminism, so I’m a feminist and I don’t give a shit who knows,” Ms Findlay said.
“It really has invigorated me but feminism needs to keep going and it is going to change. It may not be the change I used to want, from burning bras and sit-ins because that’s not where it is now, but I think it has to keep going.”
The panelists and those who attended the forum discussed their desire to see feminism become the new norm.
“Every woman should be a feminist,” Ms Findlay said.
“We should be questioning the structures, instead of accepting things because “it’s always been like that” we should be always questioning why we believe what we believe,” Ms Albertson said.
The mNemosyne committee say that one of the things they are proud of is that they are unapologetically feminist.
“I think that there’s too much of this “I’m feminist BUT I don’t hate men” and what prompted the forum was the ongoing conversation we have had within the committee about what feminism is, how you are feminist and how you embody those feminist ideals in 21st century Australia, specifically in a regional area,” Ms Stewart said.
“Because for me, I am like Lorna, I have been openly a feminist for a long time and I couldn’t understand how other people or women wouldn’t be and that’s why we started to have this conversation.”
Each member of the mNemosyne committee said they are constantly looking at themselves and reevaluating what feminism means to them.
“There are different types of feminists and everyone embodies feminism differently,” Ms Findlay said. “But as long as it’s questioning patriarchy and is about the empowerment of women – that’s feminist.”
Ms Albertson said there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about what feminism means.
“There’s a fear that if you’re a feminist you hate men,” she said.
“People say you can’t be married and still be a feminist, I’ve had people say to me, isn’t it great that your husband is letting you be a feminist?”
Engaging young women
The mNemosyne committee also have a goal of engaging and empowering young women.
“At the forum I was blown away by Indigo,” Ms Findlay said.
“I thought she was amazing. She is 16-years-old and the highlight for that whole forum for me was her answer when she spoke about post feminism. She said ‘Yes when I can walk down the street at night and I can feel safe, that’s post feminism’.”
The group aims to build the capacity in young women and give them a voice to share their stories, their problems, their complaints and their dreams.
“For me I didn’t have my feminist awakening until I entered into tertiary education because I didn’t have the language to articulate what was happening to me,” Ms Stewart said.
“Obviously with Indigo, she’s found her way of voicing her discontent. For a lot of women the frustration is ‘well I know there’s something happening but I don’t know how to voice that, or who to tell’.”
The women hope to expose girls to these ideas from a younger age and to help them learn through discussions.
“When Tallara Andy spoke at the Giiyong Writers Forum she said she felt really comfortable among us women,” Ms Lumby said.
“It helped her do things she may find daunting, it’s through the support and mentoring that she’s been able to articulate that. And it has now gone further to empower her to have these different ways of thinking about life and women.”
Ms Stewart said they hope to show local teenagers the power of women coming together through supporting each other to reach their potential.
“What’s really disappointing to me is I see the rise of young women eschewing feminism and a growing backlash against the movement, they don’t want to be feminists because there is so much misunderstanding,” she said.
“People have strength in numbers and the quintessential part of patriarchy's toolkit is to divide and conquer. But if we come together, there’s strength in that. So we are looking at how we can bring young people into the conversation.”
Ms Findlay echoed Ms Stewarts comments saying “once women come together in a group and you take all that competitiveness away they realise how strong they can be”.
FLASH FICTION FRIDAY
Another way of lifting the profile of the South Coast Women’s Journal the committee has start up Flash Fiction Friday.
Each fortnight there is a call out on Facebook for people to email submissions which can be anything poems, short stories, lyrics, historical pieces, art whatever sparks the imagination of that theme.
These submissions are then uploaded to the mNemosyne website.
“We want to build what we call a creative community,” Ms Stewart said. “This is free, it doesn’t cost anyone anything except for their time and creativity.
“It’s underpinned by the central tenants of the journal which is to foster and encourage story telling amongst women
Committee member Nancy Blundell is a regular contributor to Flash Fiction Friday.
“I haven’t done much creative writing for many many years, since probably high school, so it’s actually been good to get me thinking that way again.”
“We all have stories to tell and I think that’s what we are looking to celebrate and enable in this journal. So whether you are telling a story through scientific research or telling stories through poetry or imagery,” Ms Stewart said.
“Sometimes I think that we have stories to tell, it’s that next step to finding a safe place to be able to tell them. and Flash Fiction Friday is a part of that safe space that we are trying to create.
The women also acknowledge that not all women or girls in our community are equipped with the tools to be able to tell their stories so along with seminars and Flash Fiction Friday they hope to eventually have workshops for creative writing, editing or photography.
“Because we have all these amazing skills and we want to share them with other women as well.”
To submit something to the South Coast Women’s Journal or to get involved see the website www.mnemosynejournal.org or email email@example.com. They have also started up a kickstarter campaign which can be viewed at https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/1522983999/about.