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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 Womens Day.

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.