Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Ladies and Gentlewomen..

Saturday I went to Euston[London] to attend Fem11, UK Feminista's national conference.

Upon arrival, I was handed a booklet including timetable of events for the day, which started with an opening session at 10am, including a 30min talk from Sandi Toksvig. I went to the event purely for research on modern feminism as I do not consider myself a feminist. I certainly have strong beliefs about a lot of issues however nothing compares to the spirits of the feminists I was sat with. Through the day, I found myself clapping, laughing, welling up and also silently disagreeing during two of the talks that were held.

After the introduction, which also featured interviews with feminist activists who spoke about their groups and what they are doing.
Cllr Rania Knan [CAPE]
Isabella Woolford Diaz [Camden School for Girls Feminist Group]
Bjorn Suttka [Anti Porn Men Project]
Roxanne Hasley [UK Uncut]

It was quite inspiring to see Isabella, a girl who has set up a feminist group in her own school and has already raided a local Tesco's to move Porn magazines as it is in the eye of all the school children who go there on their break. Fabulous young spirit from a girl of no older than 16 who only started her group in October.

At 11.30 I made my way to see London Feminist Network talk, however the room was full so I made my way to the next room which happened to be a brilliant accident. The room was Endangered Bodies hosting an interactive talk about Ditching Dieting. A really interesting 10 minute talk about how the industry is feeding off peoples anxieties to diet and look slim as media dictates is 'perfection'. After their talk, they opened up to the 100 or so ladies and few men in the room to talk which became very emotional and heartwarming. I will blog more later.

After lunch, I stayed in the main Meeting Hall to hear Object talk about how they are challenging and actively protesting against the sex object culture. This was something I was really interested to see, to see what they are challenging in society and how they are making a difference. I was also interested because they had been a part of the Miss World Protests held on 6th November, which was against the objectification of women. My earlier post on the matter explored their reasonings, however since posting that, I disagreed with their view. These woman strive to achieve a unique post were they help charities worldwide. The way in which they have to prove themselves is definitely up for question, but I think they need to realize that good comes out of the cause. I personally would prefer them to target mothers who put their daughters as young as 6 through pagaents- I think this objectifies the girls from a young age and actually has them body conscious and self aware of their image when they should be children playing on swings, in mud and with lego. Young girls do not need to be dressed up and paraded as objects. [More on a later blog] 

The afternoon consisted of two question times, both of which really didn't interest me that much and would have preferred to go to see more talks. The first talk was a Feminist Question Time, chaired by Cllr Rania Khan and featured:
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty.
Bea Campbell, writer and campaigner
Zoe Williams, Guardian columnist
Carlene Firmin, Writer
Matt McCormack Evans, founder of the Anti-Porn Men Project.

The debate featured lots of discussion about issues facing women in todays society. As interesting as it was, I wanted to hear more from the small societies and how they are making a difference with their cause. The session of questions got heated a couple of times when women wanted to ask questions to the panel whilst other people in the audience were just making points rather than asking direct questions. This is when I became highly uncomfortable sat amongst the feminists, as although these women are passionate, when strained a few start to shout unnecessarily at their fellow feminists. Manners became lost for this minute which was noted by the lady I sat next to me and we were quite annoyed at these ill-mannered and impatient women.
The second question time was between candidates for Mayor of London, where we were all fairly saddened about Boris Johnson, the current mayor, didn't turn up. More questions, this time directed more at how the candidates could potentially help groups and sort out issues that were raised including Female Genitalia Mutilation in the UK, housing for refugee women and cycling safety in the capital city.

The day was long and full of interesting discussions and people throughout the whole building. During the day, it was reported during the morning session that #fem11 was the second highest discussion on twitter which was quite overwhelming when there felt like only a handful of us there, but overall must have been a thousand of us.

I am going to blog more about the issues raised in the two sessions I attended, as they are very key to the work that I am currently researching and very interested in developing for a piece of work. I hope to attend next year and thank all the organizations and other women for a very fascinating day.


UK Feminista  - Organizer of FEM11
Object - Challenging sex object culture.
Endangered Bodies - Ditching Dieting
Rania Khan - CAPE[Campaign Against People Exploitation]
Pink Stinks  - Campaign for REAL Role Models
London Feminist Network - Women only Organising Feminists
Anti-Porn Men Project - Men supporting Women's Rights

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