Anti-Capitalist Feminist Conference, report back

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

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4 Comments

Filed under anti-consumerism, economy, feminism, financial crisis, race, sexism, Social Justice, work

4 responses to “Anti-Capitalist Feminist Conference, report back

  1. Gwen

    Thanks for your comments about the anti-capitalist feminist event. I was one of the organisers, and spoke at the plenary (I spoke about why intersectionality is important), and your criticisms are definitely fair. While we did invite some women of colour to speak who declined (it’s ironic that you specifically mentioned DEWA, because they had told us they didn’t feel they had the resources to provide a speaker for the day), we did not prioritise having a woman of colour as a speaker for the plenary. Clearly, we should have. I will pass your comments on to the rest of the organising committee, and we will do better next year.

    As for trade unionists and the concept of privilege – I usually get a similarly hostile response when I bring up white privilege with socialists (or with radical feminists, for that matter). I’m a transplanted Canadian (Toronto) and it does seem like the whole concept of white privilege isn’t nearly as prevalent in activist circles here as it is back home. Perhaps next year we should have a workshop titled “White Privilege: if you’re white, then you have it. No, really. Really.”

    I look forward to hearing the rest of your thoughts about the day. If you want to email me to discuss it, please do so. Thanks!

  2. jke4

    Thanks for the post and to Gwen for the reply. It’s wonderful to hear about what went on and to hear responses from organizers. Looking forward to the next update.

  3. crissie54

    Reading your comments on the Conference – I think you may have been referring to what I said. I was the Black woman with dreads sitting towards the back in the lunchtime Gaza Meeting. I raised how uncomfortable I was that such a discussion was taking place without anyone from Palestine being in the room, and how spending the time attacking Hamas meant that the meeting did nothing to find out how we can support women, children and men in Palestine. Supporting the International Jewish Anti-Zionist’s call for divestment and boycott and calling the Zionist State’s treatment of Palestinians “apartheid” ruffled several trade unionist feathers. But others were virtually silent about the Israeli government’s genocidal treatment of people in Gaza.

    Several of us from Black Women’s Rape Action Project and our sisters in the All African Women’s Group participated in some of the Conference pre planning meetings and did a workshop later in the afternoon on “Winning asylum from rape and racist attacks” which was packed. Gwen chaired and it was very practically based. We even got a few signatures for our online petition!http://www.petitiononline.com/afrsep08/petition.html. We would have been happy to speak at the plenary – next time maybe?

  4. 4everuppity

    Thanks for your comments on the Gaza lunchtime talk. I’ve been trying to gear up to write about it, but the only thing I wanted to highlight was what you said about actually listening to the people there—on the ground, being bombed, being starved, being targeted. I thought you were spot on.

    I didn’t get the name of any women’s organizations we might help, so will have to research those. There was the specific mention of Carmel Agrexco as an Israeli produce company to boycott. This is useful in that when I contacted shopping outlets, such as Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, about carrying Israeli goods they have little useful to say. Their responses range from “we don’t invest in Israel” (lie) to the produce is clearly marked to give customers “choice” to some of our Israeli producers employ both Israelis and Palestinians (hmph, didn’t know the Palestinians were getting to work through 600+ checkpoints in an area the size of Delaware!).

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