UK Feminista Summer School (7/31 - 8/1/2010)
UK Feminista was started by Kat Banyard, the author of The Equality Illusion: The Truth About Men and Women Today, who gave a particularly inspiring speech during the first panel, "The Importance of Feminist Organising."
The enormous strength of the first day of summer school was its focus on practice. The afternoon was split into workshops on different levels of involvement: from how to organize a Ladyfest to running effective campaigns, organizing demonstrations, and planning direct action. All the materials from the workshops will be available at the UK Feminista website in the coming days.
Simultaneously to the events, UK Feminista volunteers were tweeting, providing quote selections and links so well that I didn't feel the need to take many notes. Instead, I have an online record of what was being said under the #femschool hashtag on Twitter. It is a goldmine of news, information, and people!
What struck me about the event, aside from supreme organization, was the enthusiasm of everyone involved, organisers and participants alike. People were chatting away and forming new alliances all the time. There's no better feedback for an event than when people just don't want it to end.
The second day was a lot more opinion- and discussion-based, but great training was still being given. We learned how to use media and influence politicians, how to fundraise and include disabled people in campaigning, the importance of promoting diversity within feminist groups, and why is climate change a feminist issue. The two arguably biggest events of the day, however, were the opening and closing panels. The first was with Jess McCabe of The F-Word, Hannah Pool, and Kira Cochrane. All three talked about their experiences with the media, and all agreed that to be a female journalist takes more effort and more talent, but their examples showed it was possible, and important.
The closing panel, "Feminist Question Time" with Bidisha, Dr. Aisha Gill, Sunder Katwala, Karon Monaghan QC, and Julie Bindel, provoked a lot more controversy. Bindel said there was a lot of terrible anthropological research concerning women in the sex industry, and that they should not be treated as an anthropological field research group; she went so far as to say that if she had one bullet in a gun, it would not go for the pimp, but for the academic who's all into the sex industry. Bindel also said, "we make a lot of excuses for men to the point where we praise them for not being fuckheads," which made everyone laugh, but later someone angrily said that the men in the audience must feel very excluded in the current talk, to which both Bindel and Bidisha reacted heatedly.
Overall I am inclined to say this was the best summer school I ever attended. It was a really inspiring, great opportunity to learn, meet people, and acquire skills and information to proceed with conviction and fury.
Photo credit: Kirsty McCall-Thornley