Liz Bondi reflects on being and becoming feminist in the academy

Órla Murray: What were your experiences coming into the university as an undergraduate, as a postgraduate, as a woman at that time, and as an activist, was there a sense that they were accepted identities within academia at the time, or was there resistance, or challenge to that?

Liz Bondi: Well I had no concept of a feminist academic… I didn’t see that. It didn’t occur to me. I was involved in student networks and I was involved in citywide networks… For much of my undergraduate time, I lived in a women’s collective where for some of the time I was the only student, some of the time there was another student, people were doing lots and lots of different things. So I simply didn’t recognise that possibility. It began to become real for me only after I became a PhD student and met feminist geographers, and I’d begun to read a bit of their work. But I still wasn’t quite getting it, and I needed conferences and networking… I was taught entirely by men. I was supervised entirely by men. I wasn’t particularly troubled by that. But I identified a bit as a troublemaker or risk-taker. I got into arguments with people. That was just who I was… Once I had literally a stand-up argument with a lecturer in geography in the foyer of the building. And I think he probably bashed something that was going on in student politics, and I’d retorted. And I stood my ground, and I can’t remember exactly how he communicated this to me after that event, but I won his respect. And that was really important… He might not have liked the manner in which I did it, but he was willing to go along with somebody who was prepared to argue and make a case…

ÓM: I can’t really imagine that happening now, but yeah!

LB: So I didn’t feel excluded. I felt there was a lot to protest about. Also, in a sense, I felt I had a voice. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to use it. I think that was the challenge: not knowing how to – not being sure.