Valentine’s Day was the perfect day for an anti-capitalist feminist conference held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). The theme was Gender, Race and Class and there were workshop sessions that addressed these themes with varying degrees of success and abject failure.
When Will the Socialist Workers/Trade Unionists Say Something New?
I can only speak to the session ones I went to until the trade unionists did my bloody head in. Gotta take a moment to vent. Now, to be clear, I grew up in the home of an autoworker and have healthy teeth that are the envy of Britain—all because of the UAW. But once I got to college I encountered the socialists/trade unionists that always made me wonder: are they agent provocateurs? Because they’re really good at disrupting shit. They make these long nonsensical speeches about “the workers”all the while completing stepping over anything people of color have to say that runs contrary to their Socialist Worker-inspired pedantry. In short, they make me rant-y. They were at this conference in full force. Them and those bloody newspapers.
For example, in session on what’s happening in Gaza and what we might do to support women’s groups there, one woman spoke eloquently about the privileged nature of the conversation that was happening in the room. A white male trade unionist had the nerve to say we shouldn’t be talking about privilege! Oh. Okay. Thanks for permission to carry on business as usual. And he then had the nerve to get huffy when someone tried to hurry him along with his same, tired litany of the necessity for aligning with the workers speech that they’ve been banging on about through the ups and downs of capitalism. I didn’t need to be reminded of this particular sect’s approach to organizing which is to turn up and try and take over.
The Opening Plenary: Feminists and the Economic Crisis
Despite a number of women of color in attendance as evidence of our feminist committment, the opening session featured three white women and their take on the need for feminism today. Now, I’m not saying that white women don’t have anything relevant to say on the topic, but <ahem> if you’re gonna subtitle the conference gender, race, and class, one might have at least one woman color up or even a white woman who would talk substantively about the connection between the three themes. For example, why weren’t any of the women from the Deaf Ethnic Women’s Project, who supplied sign language translation, invite to speak?
This omission aside, I didn’t hear anything new or a particularly feminist approach to the economic crisis. It seemed a shame since there are so many strands to this debacle that can be pulled together, ranging from a deconstruction of the masculinist corporate culture to the real impact of the crisis on women’s employment to the dispropotionate violence inflicted on women and children as a result of economic pressures and patriarchy’s failures. Even some sort of perspective on how the economic mayhem will impact women’s rates of incarceration for economic survival-related crimes would be welcome.
Next Post: Lunchtime Gaza discussion
And the one after that: Queer Sex and Prison Abolition Workshops