Photo: Carrie Bradin
Specifically designed to connect feminist activists, spark debate and showcase the diversity of the movement, the inaugural Go Feminist conference took place in London at the beginning of February. As the organisers stated in their F Word blog post:
‘We do this as a response to feminism’s most sustained critique: that it is not for all women. Although women from all backgrounds and communities identify with feminist beliefs, the movement still does not completely take into account their needs and realities. Too often in our feminist spaces, the voices of a few are privileged. Race is inadequately dealt with. Our spaces, both physical and virtual, are inaccessible to women living with disabilities. Trans women’s involvement is actively discouraged.’
To that end, this was a conference that at its core was concerned with how to make the movement accessible to all. From the availability of speech-to-text and signers for the hearing impaired at every plenary session to the range of workshops on offer, the aim was to reflect the multiple faces of feminism today.
Attending other feminist conferences, I have often left feeling that my identity as a woman was deemed more important and treated separately from other important elements of who I am. For me, this has resulted in leaving my identity as a working-class black immigrant at the door. This lack of dialogue around how various forms of oppression act upon an individual, as well as how many of us, myself included, experience other areas of privilege we do not readily recognise, was something the morning workshop, ‘Ensuring feminism is a movement for all women: the way forward – intersectionality’, aimed to confront.
The workshop sought to tackle head on issues around oppression and privilege. One of the ice-breaker activities involved attendees stepping forward or back according to whether a particular statement applied to them: ‘I grew up in a household with more than 50 books’, ‘My parents were professionals such as doctors, lawyers, teachers etc’ and so on. The activity was a learning exercise for participants who had not previously considered themselves as having any privileges. It also demonstrated how assumptions about the makeup of an individual’s identity are invariably two‑dimensional. We are all much more complex and share far more connections than we first believe.
The group discussion that followed allowed people to talk through ideas on how they could actively place intersectionality at the core of their feminism. Importantly, the facilitators were themselves challenged on how the workshop had not been entirely inclusive in relation to people from single‑parent households and with physical disabilities. This was something that they acknowledged and promised to rectify in future sessions. All of us can and do make mistakes, but we must, as a movement, provide a space and atmosphere in which such challenges are greeted not as antagonistic but as helpful and therefore acted upon.
One of the highlights of the conference was the penultimate plenary session on sexism in popular culture, chaired by the writer and broadcaster Bidisha, which looked at the skewed and sexist representation of women in this arena. Beginning with an analysis of women and sports, Bidisha succinctly stated that coverage invariably focused on ‘boobs, bums and bikinis’. And a question from a young participant around how the movement can engage more with those who are not already converted was thought-provoking.
Panellist Kealy Hastick, from the women’s organisation Platform 51 (formerly the YWCA), eloquently told us that young women find it difficult to identify as feminists because ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. This gave something of an answer as to how and why the movement seems to only speak to the same select and, often, privileged few. Despite the fact that feminist ideas and ideals are broadly supported by, dare I even say it, the majority of men and women I know, they would nevertheless be loath to label themselves feminists. Yet few would agree to championing violence against women.
It is apt, then, that the conference towards its close opened up a space to discuss this most important of issues: how do we engage people who are receptive to our ideas but outside our ‘normal’ feminist circles? It seems to me that we must go back to both the aims of the conference and Kealy Hastick’s idea. We, feminists, have to show the wider public that the movement is made up of people exactly like them, and debunk the myth that a feminist looks and speaks in a particular way. We have to prove, through our inclusive practice, as bell hooks put it, that ‘feminism is for everyone’.
Lola Okolosie is an English teacher and journalist
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry
Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram
Momentum Kids: the parental is political
Momentum Kids is not about indoctrinating children, but rather the more radical idea that children have an important role to play in shaping the future, writes Kristen Hope
New Cross fights new wave of housing privatisation
Lewisham residents object to a new trend in local authority housing developments
Stand-off with prison profiteers at the Tower of London
Marienna Pope-Weidemann reports on disruption at the European Custody and Detention Summit