I was honored and overjoyed to have participated in this fabulous gathering of women to combat male supremacy and build community. What follows is a summary of the speakers/panelists, as well as some of my own experiences. Days two and three will follow shortly.
The organizers were fabulous enough to provide a ride from the place we were staying, which I really appreciated. I entered the venue, and immediately began meeting online radical feminists (RFs) that I had known through the internet for the past 18 months or so. Each new face and hug was thrilling! (I found myself using that word a lot when describing this conference). As we settled down for breakfast with each other, the first presentation began.
Renate Klein and Susan Hawthorne began to speak about a very personal subject—their love for each other. Their accomplishments over the years, as well as the challenges they have faced as publishers of Spinfex Publishing, did come out of the discussion. But what I took away from this more than anything was the incredible strength and love they have for each other—and the ways in which this relationship as well as their love for women sustained them both in tough times. They were so inspiring!
Next came a panel that I was honored to be on about the challenges and benefits of being a younger radical feminist. Interestingly, the entire conference was populated by a wide range of younger and older RFs—I was by no means the youngest. Nevertheless, I explained how I came to radical feminism (following the crumbs from the “Spinster Aunt Gets Translucent” post over at I Blame the Patriarchy). I also discussed how online activism is challenging because we rarely get to meet together in person, but beneficial because we are able to reach a wider audience. I mentioned the woman who, through the course of visiting my blog, discovered that her husband was indeed a porn user, and used that example to discuss the implications of online consciousness raising. Finally, I closed by mentioning Janice Raymond’s concept of dual vision—whereby we acknowledge the atrocities committed within patriarchy, while at the same time having a vision of what the world should be. Sisterhood and woman-centeredness should be the focus of both these types of vision. During this panel, Terri Strange did a brilliant job of highlighting the dangers of being a RF including receiving death threats and stalkers, as well as discussed her own journey to radical feminist consciousness.
Next, Hilla Kerner spoke on organizing strategies for women’s liberation. One point she made that really stuck with me is that when organizing in a collective, it is vitally important to make sure that those involved in the collective share the same goals. Otherwise, the collective cannot survive. These are exceptionally important words, and I will remember them for future organizing.
Heart Sees spoke after lunch about reaching out to women in fundamentalist/religious groups. She listed criteria for “high demand” groups (formerly called “cults”), and elucidated reasons why, though women in these groups are certainly oppressed, some may have seen their fundamentalist group as offering the best of the bad deal women are dealt in our patriarchal society (a la Andrea Dworkin in Right Wing Women). She urged compassion and understanding when reaching out to these women. Her talk was both engaging and enlightening.
On to the crafts, organized by Silvia Black! We all created posters celebrating radical feminist ideals, skewering the pornstitution industry, or lambasting queer politics. It was a lot of fun!
After that, the great Kathleen Barry presented the book launch of Big Porn Inc, another great book from Spinifex Press. The book discusses the normalization of porn and prostitution through pop culture, sex therapy, “female sexual dysfunction”, video games, strip clubs, and the like. Dr. Barry encouraged us, in our organizing, to think big— not to consider what the next goal is, but what five goals ahead is. We don’t want our movement to become a one person, or a one issue movement. This was great advice from a fabulous foresister.
With that, we closed down for the day, but the fun wasn’t over. A large group of us decided to take on the town. We first visited a bar. Oddly enough, it had a “gender” neutral bathroom! Of all the bathrooms in all the bars in this town, we had to visit the one without a women’s restroom. Crack me up.
Next, it was on to a gay bar where we enjoyed fabulous dance music and laughter. There is truly no experience like spending time with your radical feminist sisters—I was thrilled to have been a part of this.
I got to bed with not enough sleep, ready for day two to begin!