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[Blog] Is refusal a feminist possibility?

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posted on 2023-06-10, 00:04 authored by Emma Harrison
We might characterise the following actions as ‘refusal’. - Refusal to shave your bodily hair - Refusal to submit to the neoliberal work ethic (only carrying out the hours stipulated in your contract; no unpaid overtime; non-participation in arduous ‘wellness’ schemes intended to heighten your economic output; prioritising solidarity above competition; prioritising mental and physical health above imperatives to overwork; etc) - Refusal to vote - Refusal to move (wilful obstruction of the highway; squatting an unused property, etc) - Refusal to partake in surveillance infrastructures and bureaucratic networks (attempts to live ‘off the grid’; obscuring elements of your face to subvert CCTV, etc ) Following this, we might take ‘feminist refusal’ to mean the refusal to partake in ideological and political formulations that contribute towards forms of discrimination on the basis of (non-exhaustively) gender, race, class, sexuality, nationality and disability. From the short list I’ve compiled above, we can see that acts of refusal can be more individualised and symbolic (for example, ‘I’m not going to, out of principle’), or they might be constitutive of/require collective action (‘with these other people, I am not going to move from obstructing this highway because we are undertaking direct action’). There is a lot of variation in what refusal can be, and the scope of its consequences. There is also a lot of variation in terms of who might experience violence as a result of undertaking some of these acts.


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