Maddie’s Impressions of The Carnival of Feminist Cultural Activism

I love CR’s description of the carnival, it was a really, really special event for me. Being able to be together with everyone think, question, explore, dance together , it was three days of revelling in possibilities and potentialities, of learning together. So why isn’t ‘real life’ like this all the time? Returning home from the carnival I had that feeling of ‘back to reality’ back to the grey, to the stifled creativity, the not-opening-up-for-fear-of-whatever, of being too busy to really listen, back to real life and the futility of everything . Send that email, jump through that hoop. Don’t talk too loud. Don’t laugh. Don’t cry.  But then the carnival was real life, that is what real real life really is or can be, the joy and emersion and sharing and learning and doing things in a way that means you are really there doing them, because you want to, because these things are so important, vital, for life and living.

The carnival was really life-giving. Affirmative and transformative. Affirmative because I think it is so  valuable to be able to come together and say “Yes, look at this, look at all this stuff that happens, look at how it makes us feel, this is what I think about it, this is what you think about it, this is what we’re doing about it together.” A beautiful island of “it is okay, you’re not crazy. Go crazy”. Also I love spending time with inspirational, awe-inspiring feminists. I love being in women led spaces. Realising [again] how amazing everyone is and feeling a little bit more like you know who you are. It feels like a big fuck you to the pervasive sexism and misogyny that sometimes seem inescapable, unchallengable. Things like the carnival are an escape, and a challenge, but more than that too, a radical alternative to ways of being. Conferences CAN AND DO include wrestling and quilts and knicker bunting and there is no real reason for them to be any other way, really.

The carnival was fundamentally unsettling too. It shook things up. It shook me up. I said a radical alternative to ways of being. I should qualify. A radical ways of being a feminist in academia. I felt that the carnival was personally transformative, in spaces like that you can’t ignore and you can’t pretend. It is like a call to arms. But I am also always reminded of my friend who said she quit politics and activism because she was bored with all the personal awakenings/revelations/transformations. She was frustrated, she wanted to do things rather than, or certainly as well as, talking about them. So the carnival filled me with life and hope and a thirst for new seeings and doings and beings but I still feel stuck in the space between thinking and doing, between the passion and the action. But then the carnival was a doing, like CR says: “Like it was a real thing – not a dreaming thing – not a thing for the future – but a way to be in the world today.” And I guess these things are perhaps an inseparable part of each other, maybe never even discrete from each other to begin with, but necessary components of each other… you can’t have one without the other and that was why the carnival was so good, because it was troubling and challenging and celebratory and affirmative and inspirational all at the same time, without compromise.



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