Laura Nelson is a writer, blogger and campaigner and writes the Delilah blog
Evan Davis on the Today Programme described it as a ‘hoot’, illustrating – in one throwaway sentence – why the feminist movement needs to exist.
Women are paid, on average, substantially less than men, constitute a pitiful proportion of politicians and leaders in every profession and face the daily threat of male violence – and yet still people joke. In the mainstream, there has been a reluctance to take these issues seriously, let alone committing resources and effort to try to change things for the better.
So that’s why the UK Feminista summer school , which took place on 30 and 31 July in London, was very welcome; the highlight in any feminist’s diary. A weekend of advice, training and discussion reminded us, the feminists, who have been feeling for a long time that there are issues that aren’t quite right, that there are others like us and – together – we can work to make a change.
It reminded us that we don’t have to sit at home fretting and fulminating, that we can go out, take on the world, and we’ll get results. It ignited that spark, and equipped us with the vital advice, resources and knowledge that will help us work out how to put our ideas into action.
The Saturday kicked off with a panel discussion on the importance and practicalities of campaigning, which included some star tips that came straight from the Obama campaign (http://delilah-mj.blogspot.com/2010/07/notes-for-campaign.html). Following that, there were seminars on topics such as how to lead a feminist group, how to run an effective campaign and how to organise a demonstration.
The second day included sessions that would be useful once you had your group set up. There was a session on working with the media, for example, and one on influencing politicians. “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world,” said Janet Veitch from End Violence Against Women coalition. A statement couldn’t be more motivating.
The weekend ended with its climax; feminism question time. A panel that included Julie Bindel and Bidisha (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/04/women-mass-awakening) was quizzed on topics such as unequal maternal and paternity leave, the hostility that feminists are subjected to on a regular basis and the direction the movement is heading. “If two thirds of women and one third of men believe it, things can change,” said Sunder Katwala from the Fabian Society. “Keep being visible,” said Dr Aisha Gill, senior lecturer in criminology at Roehampton University.
And that’s exactly what feminists are going to do. Nothing will change on its own. Whether it’s blogging or organising, talking in groups or protesting in public, feminists are going to do it – because if they don’t, no one else will.
As individuals, we need to find our own niches and campaign in whatever ways are appropriate.
And above all, we need to stick together; support, work and plan together. There is magic in a movement. I know, because I felt it.