Freedom News is delighted to bring to you an interview with one of the organisers of the Afem 2014 Conference. Held on October 19th, 2014 at Queen Mary University of London, there is still time to get involved for those interested!
How are you organising the conference- have you started from scratch or are you modelling its organisation on tried and tested methods such as the Anarchist Bookfair?
We are organising the conference in strands, with a goal of various sessions/workshops/meetings to be held within each strand. Strands include: International Anarchafeminism, Sexism within our movement, Workplace organisation, Control of our bodies, Anti-fascism, People of Colour, Sex work, and Gender. We’re still confirming meetings and speakers within these strands so if anyone has an idea for a discussion that they’d like to propose please get in touch! We are certainly building off of the bookfair, although also hoping to improve upon the model in some ways! We all feel strongly that a robust safer spaces policy is needed and are working on putting one together which we will be using during the conference. I think many of us have had unfortunately had bad experiences with misogynist manarchists at the bookfair and are looking forward to having our own conference where they are not welcome.
Who is involved in the organisation of the Afem conference? Are you a coalition of different groups, or a collective of individuals? A bit of both?
We are a bit of both – we are individuals, some of us are involved in anarchist organisations, some are not. We have the official support of the Anarchist Federation and the Solidarity Federation and both of these organisations have contributed resources to help make AFem2014 happen, but members are involved as individuals. I’m participating in organising the conference because I’ve found that I get a big charge out of meeting other anarchafeminists. I went to an anarchafeminist conference in Manchester a few years ago and learned some good stuff. I think the international and intersectional focus is a strength and I’m looking forward to the day.
You have a clear policy on involvement, in that it is for those who ‘are the targets of gender oppression.’ Why do you feel this was a necessary policy for the conference? Were you specifically trying to address the ‘everyone is oppressed by sexism’ claim, often used by cis-men for example, that frequently downplays issues of privilege or experience of said oppression/violence?
We’ve had lots of discussions about who we wanted to involve in organising the conference, and who we wanted the conference to be open to, and arrived at the current policy after a lot of thought. We wanted to try holding a conference that focuses on making space for anarchafeminists who are often marginalised within the anarchist movement. I don’t think that we were specifically trying to answer the claim, but our policy definitely takes into account the concerns of some of us about the conference being open to cis-men, because we don’t consider cis-men to be the targets of gender oppression; they hold the privileged position within patriarchy, and thus we don’t think this is a space for them.
In the road to organising and setting up AFem, 2hat have been the main barriers or obstacles you have had to overcome to get to this point?
The main barriers we have had to overcome have been organisational rather than external – we live in different countries and our UK organisers are spread out all over the island. We have had lots of helpful feedback from various people and groups since we put out our first statement, but definitely the majority of feedback has been constructive even when it has been critical.
Although there is of course no definitive answer in terms of ‘outreach’, do you feel it is more important to reach out to those outside of anarchism as a movement, or to reach out to those already within it in an attempt to change the dialogue around feminism?
We decided that for this first conference, we would focus on those within the anarchist movement for the most part – this is partially the reason for holding the conference the day after the Anarchist Bookfair when more anarchists than usual will already be in London. There are lots of possibilities open for future conferences!
How best can those interested in AFem support the conference?
Anyone who is interested in supporting the conference can share our website and fundraising campaign on any social media they use and print and put up our posters (available on the website) wherever they live.
Fundraising campaign: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/2mmvd/sh/23Rrn4
Anyone who is the target of gender oppression, by which we mean sexism, misogyny, trans misogyny, cissexism, transphobia and binarism, is welcome to help us in organising the conference. There is definitely still time to get involved. We’ve still got space for more speakers and meetings on the agenda. And of course, please come in October! It is important to note, as I pointed out in question 3, that we do not consider cis-men to be targets of gender oppression.