Sunday, 1 August 2010

come together

I went to a feminist summer school this weekend.  You may laugh, if you like.  There were things that made me laugh, like the badges for sale saying ‘Menstruate with Pride’.  I didn’t part with the pound it would have cost me, I figured if I really wanted one, perhaps @simontkey could make it for me next time he is feeling generous with his creativity.  To be honest I prefer to menstruate with subtlety.  I’d rather have one saying ‘it’s not PMT, I just really hate you’.
I digress, because I am tired.  Empowerment is exhausting.
I won't attempt a review but these are my thoughts and responses after two days of #femschool.
I signed up for the event some time ago because I have been interested for a long time in women’s issues but had no idea how to get involved, or what sort of involvement I wanted.  I knew I didn’t want to shout slogans and wave placards; I also knew I didn’t want to have endless negative discussions about things that were unlikely to change.  I’m not a ranty person but I still wanted my voice to be heard against the injustices I saw in the world.
So this seemed to be an opportunity to find out what was out there and if there were any people thinking similarly to me.  Also, it was free.
I nearly didn’t go: after a low week the thought of spending two days in the company of strangers was terrifying.  What should I wear?  What should I say to people?  Will I be judged or branded unfeminist for some of my views (or indeed for worrying about what to wear)?
The event was being held at the Amnesty offices in Shoreditch.  One of the sessions was led by a woman from Amnesty who had led a campaign for a change in law to assist women who need to leave a violent partner but are ineligible for public funds.  During this talk it occurred to me that saying one is a feminist often results in an eye-roll or derogatory comment whereas saying one is a supporter of human rights issues does not.  Sitting in the auditorium, the stage flanked by banners featuring the barbed wire-wrapped candle, it suddenly seemed blindingly obvious to me that feminist issues are human rights issues.
This thought stayed with me all weekend and coloured my views of everything else I saw.  This morning I found myself watching a film on female genital mutilation, which was less funny than the menstruation badges.  A recent Guardian article about this happening to British girls highlighted the subject which is often my counter to the assertion that feminism’s job ended with the vote and the pill.
I will admit that I had bought a packet of ten Marlboros on the way there as a prop: smokers’ corners are good (if unhealthy) places for the networking-shy to hang out in the hope of either joining a conversation by osmosis or else looking nonchalant about not joining one.  In the event I overheard someone mention Snog Marry Avoid and accidentally blurted out the opinion that it is quite a feminist programme, thus finding myself mid-debate.  This led to a discussion about inclusivity in feminism: should it welcome people who are anti-abortion, glamour models, men?  This was a conversation that seemed to be popping up all over the place and one that particularly interests me.  Unless you are interested in feminism, or you know me, you are perhaps unlikely to have read this far (if you have, thank you).  But that is what I would really like to change.  Being at the summer school clarified those thoughts for me and made me feel that it is possible to take some action that I can identify with.
I'm glad I braved it.  I met interesting, thoughtful and welcoming people.  Recently I reviewed a play from which my favourite quote was ‘we shouted, not shrieked’.  There was a lot of laughing, debating, clapping and cheering this weekend.  But no shrieking.


  1. Good for you LadyMC! Seriously, I might not have made it passed the registering stage for all of your reasons above. But what is it you would like to change? More please. Don't breast your cards, reveal them.

  2. A very honest account, thank you for speaking out about the inclusivity debate and also the networking-shy aspect that undoubtedly keeps many of us away from activism. I had a similar realization on women's rights being human rights, it needs to be said out loud more often. And I love the quote on shouting, not shrieking - brilliant.

  3. Love the idea of the menstruation badge :). And agree empowerment (or at least, planning to fight for empowerment) is exhausting. But all worth it.

  4. Thanks for the comments, I was quite nervous about publicising my thoughts but the response has been very encouraging. I'm thinking deeply about where I want to go next with my germs of ideas. Watch this space...