I'm finally back from all of my travelling and galavanting about... I'm shattered but its been amazing. First off, let me recommend that you try and find a time when you do a few days of travelling solo. There's something incredible about travelling on your own, especially via public transport. You get to meet so many more interesting people than you do when travelling in a group or even in a pair - you instantly become more approachable... obviously it's important to stay safe when travelling solo (maybe I'll turn this into a longer blog post at some point) but seriously, go do it. I ended up chatting a a Brazilian guy who'd just been travelling in Sweden, a Slaughterhouse worker who does photography in his spare time and read The Sun purely for Fabulous magazine, a nice man who was intrigued by the unique colour of my dress, some wonderfully tattoo'd PHD students, a whole group of amazingly crazy silly people that looked after me for a whole weekend, two fantastic London based feminists who I bonded with over burger choices and an extremely interesting socialist-anarchist-feminist whilst waiting for our far too late trains. I possibly missed some people out there, but you get the idea. You travel solo, you meet amazing, random people.
I'm probably going to bring you a few blog posts about the stuff that went on at the Uk Feminista Summer School I've just been to - there was so much to take in and I'm still trying to process half of it. I filled an entire notebook and that doesn't include some of the random conversations and action planning things that happened.
I doubt anyone from Uk Feminista is reading this, but if they are, I really want to thank them for making this a free event. I mean, what can you get for free these days? Really not that much... but a whole weekend of listening to amazingly inspiring speakers?! Incredible.
Over the course of the weekend, I had the chance to attend 9 sessions on various aspects of feminism... some I found incredibly inspiring and useful, others less so. I know a list isn't the most interesting thing to read, but to give you some idea of the variety on offer, this is what I attended: Feminist Resistance: the past, present and future of activism; Every Movement needs a Front Line: the role of non-violent direct action in feminism; How to do.... Non-violent Direct Action; Women and the Revolution; what the Arab Spring holds for women; Under Attack: defending women's reproductive rights; How to... run an effective campaign; Activism in Theory and Practice: from research to the "real world"; All in It Together? How the cuts are hitting women hardest; The Global Struggle: International Feminist Resistance. See why my brain is exploding now?
For me, one of the most empowering things about this weekend was being able to see first hand that feminists really don't have a specific mould that they fit into. I mean I knew that, but I figured I'd be rejected because I'm not "feminist enough". Stupid right? But also totally understandable - I think any philosophy that you're choosing to adopt can induce such fear. What if someone asks you a question that you can't answer? What if you need to defend yourself and can't? What if the Feminism police decide you're not good enough to be representing their ranks? Screw it I say. If someone has an issue with what you're choosing to believe in, that's their problem, not yours. It's SO incredibly important that we take a pro-active stance in not just our futures, but in the futures of the future generations. The rioting last week has only highlighted the need for change in our society.
I think it's crucial that we stop thinking of Feminism as a dirty word - we need to stop thinking of it as something negative and separatist and as something that's important to people of all genders, all backgrounds, all people everywhere. Don't be afraid to call yourself a feminist. Don't worry about what people will think - it doesn't mean you're crazy. It doesn't (necessarily) mean you're a troublemaker. It doesn't mean you have to fit yourself into a certain box or proforma of what a Feminist looks like or how a Feminist acts. It doesn't mean you have to start going on protests or reading lengthy academic texts. It does mean that you care about the need for equality for all, about fairness, about basic human rights. I can see no reason for a logical, rational person to not claim the word Feminist for themselves.
I'm going to leave you with two quotes from the weekend that have really struck me:
"When someone asks "Why are you a Feminist?", your reply should be "Why aren't you?" - Rosalind Miles (Men, this applies to you too)
"If you aren't on the table, you're on the menu" - Really, really important for us to think about. Where are we as women when the decisions are being made about our futures? If we don't speak up and speak out, we'll just get devoured in the process.
Would you call yourself a Feminist? If not, why not?