Finnish Feminist think-tank Hattu brings Feminist Swearing Night to London on 16th and to Brighton on 19th of November. One of the founders and directors of the Hattu, Saara Särmä, tells us what to expect.
What an earth is a swearing night? How did the idea come about?
“I chatted online with a colleague of mine about unequal treatment in the academic world and we sort of sweared a lot. At one point my colleague apologized for her behaviour but continued by saying, that swearing actually felt rather empowering. Around that time, one of the three directors of Hattu, Rosa Meriläinen had just crocheted a vulva, which you could wear as a hat, and I had this vision: I wanted to see Rosa swearing on stage wearing that cunt on her head. Rosa immediately wanted to make it happen. The purpose of the swearing night is not to shout cuss words at the top of your lungs, but to unravel things that are not right in our society.”
Swearing nights have been enormously popular. What is the secret of the success?
“I have come to the conclusion that it is linked to a certain type of a feminist tradition. In 1960s, women started to organize groups where they would come together and share their experiences. In these meetings they realized, that certain experiences were not just their own but shared by other women, too. They understood, that there are structures that put women in unequal positions in society. Back then, these structures were called patriarchy. I’m still very fond of the concept of patriarchy.”
Will the patriarchy be smashed by swearing?
“Yes, at least momentarily. It is really important, if swearing night invoke feelings of joy and empowerment or, if someone realises, that the fault is not always in oneself, but in surrounding society. This kind of realisation matters and it can even make changing society easier.”
To some, feminism in itself is a swear word. What would you say to them?
“Rosa and I are in a habit of citing former Prime Minister and a Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Finland, Paavo Lipponen, presidential campaign slogan:’Boo, there is nothing to be afraid of’.”
What is your favourite swear word and why?
“It is without a doubt ‘perkele’ [equivalent to devil in Finnish]. The way the letter ‘R’ rolls is really satisfying. The word is nice and raspy.”
What was the last thing that pissed you off?
“Internet hate. The attempts to silence female researchers and journalists by online hate messages or by publicly mocking them. It really pisses me off.”
The swearing nights have previously been organized across Finland and in Brussels and Dublin. What do you expect from the swearing feminists in London and in Brighton?
“I am looking forward to learning new swear words in English as well as hearing what kind topics pisses feminists off in the UK. Are they the same as in Finland or possibly other issues.”
The Feminist Swearing night in Brighton is arranged in co-operation with Funny Women.
The Feminist Swearing Night in Brighton, The Nightingale Room at Grand Central, 29-30 Surrey Street, Brighton BN1 3PA. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/feminist-swearing-night-brighton-tickets-50685260980?fbclid=IwAR3A-r8ulAsErhTiByNNXfKqCX9Dg0F8FvfoVnWffQppK_LlzwKG9eS-fww. Monday 19th of November 2018. 7pm–10pm. Admission: £5.
The Feminist Swearing Night in London, Entrance Hall The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB. https://www.bl.uk/events/feminist-swearing-night. Friday 16th of November 2018 at 7:30pm–9:30pm. Admission:£7–£10.00
Text: Nirosha Pöyhölä Photo: Mirkka Pihlajamaa