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Women Speak Out
Radical Dairy, London, 8-10th March 2002
Women Speak Out is a gathering for women interested
or involved in DIY political, social and environmental activities.
The weekends have provided squatted autonomous space for workshops,
discussions, food and music. There have now been five events, last
year's was held in Brighton in June 2001, and this year's in London
on 8-10th March 2002 at the Radical Dairy coinciding with International
Women Speak Out is an exclusively women only space,
an idea that has become quite controversial. Numerous activist men
and women have said that they do not understand why there
is a need for women only spaces, and while admittedly there are
many women who do not need spaces like these for their support,
there are many that do. For many these spaces offer a gateway into
alternative politics and ideas.
The direct action movement values outspoken, assertive,
confident and self-assured people, which is understandable given
its DIY, "take-control-of-your-life" goals. The problem
is, however, that while direct action validates all of these often
positive traits, there is seldom room for anything else. Meetings
or events filled with assertive, type-A activists - be they male
or female - often leave people who don't interact in this way feeling
marginalised and ignored. This is just one of the problems that
women-only spaces seek to address.
During the weekend at the Radical Dairy there were
some very different workshops, such as a talk from the group FORWARD
- who oppose female genital mutilation; WEN, who came to show us
radical composting; Hackney Cycling Campaign, who did a 'cycling
for the terrified' session; and then workshops on rape survivors,
body image, creative writing, cartooning and lots more. Saturday
night was given over to a performance of the Vagina Monologues by
all the women in the room (we're v. experimental y'know); bands
The Sisters of No Mercy and The Drag King Ska band, with Little
Lou on the decks.
Women only space is not anti-male, nor is it a
condemnation of male activists. To the writers of this article,
it is simply a way of creating an alternative - offering women an
opportunity to interact, connect, and network in ways that may be
overlooked or overshadowed by the larger activist community. We
need women-only spaces to give us the confidence to behave and speak
as we like so we can take that confidence out into our daily lives.
No place should be dismissed if it is a source of strength and solidarity
between people - if it allows people to become more fierce and defiant
in challenging all aspects of the oppressive capitalist system that
we all live in.
For details of the next gathering, which would
be fantastic if held somewhere up North, email:
* Also, to mark International Womens Day there
was an action at Holloway Prison. On 8 March, 20 or so women held
a roving noise demo at the London women's prison to highlight the
growing numbers of working class women being imprisoned for crimes
of poverty. Women inside the prison were really responsive and waved
and shouted back to those on the outside, and one group on the outside
managed to stop a van containing women prisoners from entering the
gates for 45 minutes.