Monday, 15 August 2011

Feminista Summer School 2011

This weekend was the Feminista Summer School, 2011, which was held in Birmingham. This Guardian article, which I'll come back to later, describes it as a training camp for Suffragettes, which is a very inaccurate description. They also describe feminism as "a set of decades-old beliefs being repackaged for the 21st century", which is not how I'd describe it.

The Summer School, despite the name, didn't have "classes" as the article describes, and those attending weren't new recruits who were being trained in our way of feminism. Rather, the two days consisted of a variety of workshops, and were more of a way of getting together like-minded people to discuss issues they cared about, or to offer information on issues that some people may not have been able to find out much about, or may not have thought of before.

Saturday consisted of a few rousing speeches, with an introduction to the way a few different women are living and working as feminists. One of the speakers was Hannana Siddiqui, who brought an interesting point to my attention. She represented Southall Black Sisters, a group of non-white feminists. It seems that the group uses the word 'black' to describe all non-white people, and I asked about the thought process behind this.

I am writing this from memory, so it's possible I misunderstood, or misrecalled some points, but, as far as I can gather, the reasoning is that, as minority groups, non-white feminists in the seventies found it easier to band together under one collective name, for solidarity.

This isn't something I feel comfortable with. For a bit of context, my father is Indian, while my mother is a mixture of English, Irish, and Welsh. I am a Balti - part Indian, part British, all Brummie. I am not black, in the same way that I am not a man, or I am not Chinese, or I am not in my thirties, and I feel that labelling all non-white people in that way is rather like putting the Smurfette label on all women. Of course, I am coming from a very different perspective - I was born at the end of the eighties, I have no idea how the world looked in the seventies.

Later, there was a choice of workshops to attend, as you can see in this scan of the day's timetable (this is my marked-up copy, so apologies for the scribbles).

On Sunday, I spoke as part of the Everyday Activism panel, as a member of the Birmingham Fems, and as 'the one who wore pyjamas at the SlutWalk'.  I think it went well.  My desire to have EVERYONE LISTEN TO ME far outweighed any nerves, and I hope I got my points across.  I had quite a lot to say, and I'm not sure it always came out in fully formed sentences.  Most of all, I hope people enjoyed the weekend, because I certainly did.

Going back to the Guardian article; many of the commenters, apart from those who mutter darkly about lesbians trying to take over the world,  seem to feel that a feminist is a hypocrite if he or she is not concerned with male rights.  In fact, many seem to feel that the fact that the feminists commenting do not mention male rights until asked means that what they say doesn't matter.

That is bullshit.

I've seen the exact same argument in veg*n forums, against vegetarians.  The fact is, everyone does what they can.  There is too much to tackle in the world, and it's not hypocritical to not be too worried about leaving someone out to do anything.

Personally, as I mentioned (I'm Bartelmy), I would be very happy to work with Father's 4 Justice, or similar groups.  This idea, that men are the "lesser" parent, while women are, naturally, the "primary care givers" is damaging to both genders.  It means women think of themselves as failures if they are not natural earth mothers.  It means men find it harder to gain custody of their children.  However, as a twenty-three (as of last Friday) -year-old, childless, single (in the sense of unmarried) woman, this is not an area that often comes to my attention.  It does not naturally pop up on my agenda.   That doesn't mean I don't care, or I don't agree, or that I wouldn't help if asked.  Just that I, like everyone else, don't have the time or energy to do everything., so, yes, I do focus primarily on the issues that I am most concerned with.  Just because you can't clear up the whole world doesn't mean you can't take care of your little bit of it.

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