UK Feminista Brings Us Summer School For Feminists
What are you doing on the 15th September? Fancy going to summer school for the weekend? Not keen? How about a feminist summer school?
UK Feminista is organizing just that: a weekend summer school programme that aims to organize and mobilise feminists in the UK. Over the two days, the organization is holding practical workshops, panel discussions, and spaces to exchange ideas about how feminists can work efficiently and peacefully to get their message heard.
Founded by Kat Banyard, author of The Equality Illusion, in 2010, UK Feminista aims to “provide unique training and resources to activists and groups, organise campaigns and events, and offer a powerful, passionate voice for feminism.” They are tightly organised into regional groups, and have held numerous protests over the last year. They have rallied to protest against the opening of a new Playboy Club in London, they have rallied outside a trade conference for the pornography industry, and they have rallied outside Parliament to highlight the effect of the coalition government’s cuts on women. They staged a “Muff March” on Harley Street, renowned for its highly paid cosmetic surgeons, raising awareness of the nationwide increase in labiaplasty (link NSFW). They are campaigning for the voices and issues of women to be heard, and they are doing it peacefully and inspirationally. The problems they tackle – rape culture, cuts in the government’s budget for victims of rape and domestic abuse, abortion rights, sexual exploitation, democracy and the representation of women, inequality at work and at home, inequality in the justice system – need to be publicised in order for our government to take them seriously. Changes can be made if awareness is raised and UK Feminista have decided that now is the time to take action.
The summer school started in 2010, and by 2011 it was attracting hundreds of visitors. This year’s summer school, held in the University of Bristol Student Union, is anticipated to be even bigger and better, with tickets selling quickly. Weekend tickets for students are only £8, and one-day tickets only a fiver. UK Feminista is providing a free crèche for mothers who are unable to find childcare (a problem all too common in the UK), and the weekend is fully wheelchair accessible. Panel discussions include: “Building a movement across diversity,” “Reproductive rights: Ending the assault,” and “How to build a feminist economy.” Meanwhile, practical workshops teach media skills, setting up a local group, saving local women’s services, LGBT campaigning, non-violent direct action, engaging men in feminist activism, effective social media, and so much more. Panellists include leading ladies from diverse organisations, including UK Uncut, Triangle Deaf Feminists, a professor from London School of Economics and, via Skype, the Initiative of Greek Women against the Debt and Austerity Measures. This is a transnational and inclusive weekend for a feminist movement that becomes more transnational and inclusive as it grows and develops, marking the resurgence of a new wave of feminism that women like you and I can identify with.
To be a part of this resurgence – which we both are, since we are writing for and reading Feminspire – is an experience made more meaningful by groups like UK Feminista, who make feminism important, public, and difficult to mock. You know you live in a patriarchy when the very movement for gender equality has a bad name, right? It’s incredibly frustrating to hear young women say “Oh God no, I’m not a feminist” to avoid disapproval from their peers. Just a few days ago, an entirely well intentioned man referred to my “feminist tendencies,” inadvertently making it sound like a mental illness or a frighteningly authoritarian political viewpoint. Although I will unfortunately not be able to attend the summer school – and please let us know if you will be, we’d love for you cover the event – I will be rallying with UK Feminista in London on October 24th. Signing up to this event, which comprises an afternoon of workshops, followed by the march, followed by meetings with our individual Members of Parliament, was one of the most efficiently organised experiences of my life. You enter your details online, and you enter your postcode. You’re told who your MP is and provided with a template email you can send to them then and there requesting a meeting on the day. There are links to your MP’s history with women’s rights, including what they’ve voted for. On the day, participants will be educated on the best ways to approach their MP and the particular issues UK Feminista is campaigning for. The importance of peaceful, non-violent protest is stressed. Helen Pankhurst will be there.
It’s official, neat, and logical, and so far the press have found nothing negative to say about UK Feminista’s work. How could any self-respecting journalist describe the process outlined above as irrational or driven by emotion, the usual rhetoric applied to feminists (read: women)? My prediction is that UK Feminista will be taking centre stage as feminism in Britain becomes more widely discussed and respected.
Would you attend a feminist summer school if you had the chance? Is there an organisation in your area doing inspirational work for women? Let us know in the comments.
Written by Abbey Lewis
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P.S. If you plan to attend the summer school and would like to cover the event for Feminspire, please send an email to [email protected]!
Header image courtesy of David Hoffman