Senator Mehreen Faruqi recently launched Michele Seminara’s new poetry collection Suburban Fantasy, delivering a powerful speech on the intersectional marginalisation felt by women in Australia, and her personal fight for equality in the parliament.
Seminara’s poetry collection explores themes of family disfunction, motherhood, misogyny, and mental health.
“No one can really deny that when needed, we’ve simply rolled up our sleeves and got to work,” Senator Faruqi said in her speech, referring to the power of women throughout history who have fought for equality.
“It was this risk and courage that led to things like voting rights for all women, the right to work and the right to become parliamentarians.”
Faruqi spoke about the recent allegation of sexual assault in the Australian parliament, and admitted that it’s been hard to work there since.
“My skin has crawled with disgust every time that I’ve walked in there. And I can’t even imagine how survivors of sexual assault must be feeling,” she said.
She said parliaments across Australia are “dripping in patriarchy and privilege”, and it is high time we changed the system and those within it.
“The whiteness, the maleness, the staleness and the sameness of parliaments must make way for colour, for diversity and variation.”
Senator Farqui also questioned whether the experiences that have come to light recently would have emerged at all, if they weren’t coming from the most privileged section of society.
“Stories of women, who are for the most part, white and upper class are in the spotlight. I think it is really important that we include the stories of women of colour and others who are ignored by the media and the political establishment,” she said. “There are still so many voices that we need to hear, that we need to believe, and we need to amplify.”
“Women who are undocumented, migrant and refugee women, trans women, Aboriginal women, students, and sex workers who are failed by the system over and over.”
She shared that in her experience, the culture of sexism in Australian parliamentary life is compounded by racism and white supremacy.
“For women of colour, the direct racism and constant challenge to our belonging to this country and its parliaments is matched with indirect marginalisation of our perspectives,” she said.
“The rough and tumble of politics has real consequences for those of us who refuse to behave like white men and show no interest in conforming to their system.”
Despite it all, Senator Faruqi said she has decided to just be herself.
“So amongst all this chaos, because Michele is talking about self expression in her poetry quite a lot, I’ve decided to be myself and refuse to change to fit the hypermasculine, white culture of the place, despite the toll it takes.
“It does take immense courage to speak your truth in a world where the perpetrators have the power and influence.”
It’s essential that the fight for parity, is for and with, all women, not just the most white and privileged, Senator Faruqi says.
“It does strike me that parliament’s moment of reckoning on sexism has coincided with ever escalating racism. So, if our fight for equity is to be with and for all women, this must be our moment to build both a feminist and anti-racist country and society. This is our opportunity to coalesce the rage we feel against injustices and to unite in ways we’ve never done before.
“I for one, am sick and tired of chipping away at the wall of patriarchy. I know that we are ready to bring that wall down once and for all.”