FF Workshop @ Climate Camp 2008

The aim of the workshop was three-fold:

i) an introduction to socialist feminism
ii) exploring the oppressions, particularly gender-based, that operate even in radical political movements and spaces, and,
iii) looking at practical ways to challenge these.

Seven women and one man attended the workshop. This was less than we had hoped, but given that many workshops on this day were cancelled because of energies being concentrated on defending the camp from the police, it was good that we managed to run the workshop. It also allowed time for everyone to contribute and there was a lot of very useful discussion.

The workshop was very participatory and we started by giving out cards with stimulus words on and asking what they meant in the context of feminism. This worked well and we were pleasantly surprised that so many women there seemed to have a socialist feminist perspective!

The main part of the workshop involved reading a piece called ‘No Escape from Patriarchy’ that was taken from Do or Die, the Earth First! magazine, in the ’90s. It looked at sexism on a road protest camp. Whilst we felt that there was a lot that the author said that we identified with, we had problems with the (lack of) solutions she proposed – and we were interested to know what other people thought about this, as well as seeing how it connected with their own experience.

The piece sparked a lot of discussion – there was a lot of identification with some of the issues about sexism raised in the piece, such as male-dominated meetings, sexual division of labour on the camp, whilst most people thought that Climate Camp was a better space in this regard than many other. It was also raised that whilst the sexual division of labour on the camp was a problem (such as men doing most of the building, women the cooking) it was difficult particularly in the early stages where things had to be done quickly because of the police etc.- not the best environment for learning in. There were also women who wanted to take more direct action but felt they needed more skills in order to develop the confidence to do this.

We ensured there was plenty of time to talk through some practical steps for change. Some useful, concrete proposals emerged:
– Direct Action training for women, by women
– Skill-shares/ training before the next camp on how to set up a camp
– Having a space at the camp which would have some women-only times, and other times which were open to men with sessions running on exploring power/ privilege and what steps men can take to challenge them.
– Some people wanted to see a women-only caucus at the national meeting.

We would support these proposals and it is great that the first one is already on the way to becoming a reality.