The first part of this review, covering some of the events taking place on the Saturday, can be found here.
On Sunday, I attended the Trans Identities panel, featuring, Jane Fae, Munroe Bergdorf and Kate O’Donnell. I often feel that it is difficult to fully understand the trans experience without having lived it, yet put simply, the audience was asked to raise their hands whether they knew their gender at the age of five, alluding to those who transition as desiring the opposite to what they are referred to by others. As the panel highlighted, I’m of the view that to be a Feminist, you need to fight for all women, and that includes trans women. As Crenshaw argued, that is the crux of intersectionality. It’s not really the same if it’s only certain women for whose rights you fight. So, all I can do is listen and search to find out more about what it means to be trans, or gender fluid, or any other non-binary gender identity. It’s a complex topic, and I think most people in the audience could have stayed at least an hour longer. To explore more, you can catch Rebecca Root and O’Donnell in BBC drama Boy Meets Girl, which for some reason, BBC iPlayer don’t have to view.
It’s not really the same if it’s only certain women for whose rights you fight.
The next topic may seem a boring story: Chore Wars and Domestic Life. What was highlighted here was how difficult is is to change a culture, especially when embedded in heterosexual relationships. As well as women still doing a majority of housework, there was also the idea of ‘emotional labour’, something of which I am guilty of taking on in my own relationship. “Organised” is my middle name, and this overspills into organising my partner’s life. During the discussion, I turned to my Gran and told her about a text I had received earlier from my partner: “Was my exhibition on Monday 4th or Tuesday 5th?” (this will be in Norwich, so do pop the date in your diaries, Norwich-dwellers). It’s a catch-22, because it shouldn’t be our responsibility, as women, to not do birthday reminders, to not speak to the bus driver to ask for the stop, to not book the flights and accommodation and so on. Surely, men can take some responsibility for actively taking these things on board? The frustration I think a lot of women feel is that we know from experience that if we don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.
Unfortunately, this might also apply to the not-doing, and it seems vital that in order to achieve equal labour with this, there does need to be some pull-back. In order to change our stories, and not become locked into the same habits that generations before us have played out, there needs to be a shift. This imbalance is obviously not true for all heterosexual couples either – a man on the panel was a househusband – but it is still true for too many couples in 2016. One audience member spoke about a small survey they did at university, and found that this is something young women were extremely concerned about for their future, in terms of how they would balance their career with domestic work and childcare. How many of the men surveyed had the same concerns? Zero.
Lastly, I attended Feminism Eats Itself, which drew up a big crowd. Perhaps most people there, like me, can see that there are some key issues that divide Feminists, and can see that publicly shaming other women on social media is not helpful. Yet, in the same breath – and I got the impression Jude Kelly felt the same way on this issue – I don’t know where I stand on the sex work/prostitution debate, and we still need a way we can critique those who have massive platforms to share their views, without being as bad as the trolls we chastise. We might cry out in mass on Twitter about something, and this is too because of a power imbalance. If a Feminist mistakenly oppresses another group (hello intersectionality), how can we speak out against it if our voice is so small? It does no good to bombard the individual with tweets, yet how else will we be heard? As Jane Fae (also on this panel) asserted, she made a choice not to speak at Feminism in London amidst security scares, but she ended up having a platform with a far larger audience. Thankfully, there wasn’t time for questions and it overran regardless, because there were already murmurs of disagreement about certain issues such as the suggestion of rebranding Feminism to make the name sound nicer to men…
If a Feminist mistakenly oppresses another group (hello intersectionality), how can we speak out against it if our voice is so small?
What is important is that we have these spaces for discussion. I had been wondering why the only event on sex work/prostitution was a discussion on a performance piece by Rosana Cade showing both of these sides of the debate. It appeared to me as the elephant in the hall, so perhaps for the future, we will be able to find a way to discuss these matters whilst respecting those who have battled with trauma due to this work, and maybe one day we will be able to make progress towards the best solution, for I cannot think of issues that divide Feminists more.
I also took the photo above with an organisation that was at WOW, and it seems like a good time to end on a bell hooks quotation: “It is important and vital is to keep that education for critical consciousness around intersectionalities, so that people are able to not focus on one thing and blame one group, but be able to look holistically at the way intersectionality informs all of us: whiteness, gender, sexual preferences, etc. Only then can we have a realistic handle on the political and cultural world we live within.”
Featured image © Pete Woodhead; WOWLDN