Wow. Slutwalk & Feminist Futures Conference on the one weekend. What a wonderful, giddy-making time it has been here in Melbourne.
For so long there has seemed to be an apathy around activism in this city and feminism in particular & I've been just wishing women would get angry, get out there & get fighting.
Then suddenly, in the past few weeks, it's been ON.
We've been getting passionate, & vocal, & active &, for the most part, despite the emergence of disparate views, we've been interacting in a strident but respectful manner. & THAT IS FUCKING AWESOME. Feminism being torn apart from within is as useless as feminism which doesn't peek out of the shadows in the first place.
There is no referee in feminist debate, that's the whole point of feminism - we want to be autonomous, to be able to govern our own lives and determine our own paths free from oppression. Therein lies the challenge, we need to all be able to band together and support each other as feminists in order to overcome the patriarchal system, regardless of our differences.
Massive props to the Feminist Futures crew who made a concerted effort to include a wide range of feminist voices (including inviting me to give a workshop so obviously I'm predisposed to thinking they're pretty ace & inclusive...). It certainly wasn't perfect, the lack of childcare facilities seemed to be a glaring oversight but they acknowledged this, made efforts to accomodate parents such as offering to fund babysitters, & I'd be very suprised if they didn't make this a priority for future events. They also listened to complaints that the proposed conference did not have enough gender diversity by altering the original line-up of their panels to include a member of the transgender community. It was inevitable that they'd receive flack from people who opposed individual speakers but even so, I've seen copies of some of the letters & facebook posts they received & some of them were incredibly aggressive.
The means don't justify the ends, the means are the ends. The shape of our struggle will determine the shape of our future.
The final panel included Kathleen Maltzahn, a greens candidate and anti-trafficking campaigner. Fliers were left on the seats of the auditorium saying 'Kathleen Maltzahn supports legislation which harms sex-workers' (from memory) & during her presentation several audience members stood & turned their backs. So far so good, all strong, non-aggressive voicing of opposition.
One protester, however, used an umbrella to block the view of other members of the audience & during the question time a couple of the protesters interrupted with heckles from the crowd.
The organisers managed to save the proceedings from descending into chaos by moving to the microphone when things started to look a bit dicey & reminding the room of basic house rules so the event ended on a calmer, more positive & optimistic note.
Censorship & oppression are what we're fighting against. Censorship & oppression should never be part of our fight.
When the audience member raised an umbrella to block others' view - that was censorship & oppression.
When another audience member interrupted with heckles from the crowd - that was censorship & oppression.
& to try to introduce legislation to ban sex work (which protesters claimed was Kathleen Maltzhan's aim though she didn't state that during the conference, has actually said in the past that she wants to decriminalise sex work & has advocated workplace reform rather than elimination of the sex industry) if she, or anyone else did move to ban sex work, that would be censorship & oppression.
Here's hoping we can can continue to band together as feminists against censorship & oppression.
*(If Kathleen Maltzhan has stated somewhere that she'd like sex work made illegal & I've missed it, please do let me know)