Radfem Rise Up! was one of the best and most important experiences of my life.
It was a healing space. There was intimate bonding over shared experiences. There was horror at hearing abuses done to women by men. There was fury and indignation. There was fear. There was strategy and planning. There was cheering and deep laughter and sobs as well. When I got home, I felt bereft. Something had been taken from me: women who understood. That we are so few and so far is hard to bear. But I’ve forged friendships that I know will survive distance and time. And I have ideas, plans, and a strength derived from the power of my sisters’ voices.
But it was not all good.
As many readers undoubtedly heard, our venue cancelled at the last minute. As soon as I walked in the door, I was told what happened. As was reported to us, the venue organizers no longer felt safe hosting us. They were flooded with demands to stop fewer than fifty women from gathering. My heart sank. I thought, can we have nothing? How can we organize based on oppression when there are forces at work to deny it even exists?
How devastating for the detransitioned/ing womyn at our conference to hear she did not exist, to hear from outsiders that we hated her. Our heartfelt and agonizing conversations with her proved to her otherwise, but outside, she had been silenced.
How alienating for the exited prostituted women among us to hear we did not exist, that we were hated and desired dead? Yet the support and sisterhood proved otherwise, but outside, we were silenced.
How arrogant to tell the WOC at our conference that ours is a racist movement. There is no denying the colonization of all our minds and indeed this is something we have to be aware of in moving forward. Any movement that does not admit this is lying. Yet, the women who came to have voices were, from the outside, silenced.
How dismissive to the straight, bi, and lesbian among us to say any of us did not belong or were hated? I would say, of course, that hearing from WOC and lesbians within the radical feminist movement is not only desired absolutely necessary for success, and this was something that must be addressed in the future. Not all primary emergencies were addressed and that is a problem. Yet this is something I feel we can learn from in future. And this is something I can SAY to my sisters. No silencing, except from the outside.
Not only was the venue pressured to cancel, our secondary venue, which was our private residence where many of us including myself and including many vulnerable women and an infant were housed overnight, was infiltrated. Someone paid money to enter our space, they sat and listened to our private sharing, they even contributed and were summarily set right in an incorrect assumption. Then they left and gave our address to a group of people who protested in a children’s park only 200 metres from our location. We were stationed at windows for safety. We were wary, on edge, and unable to set our focus on liberation. This was intentional. These are male and male-identified tactics to hurt women and disrupt our course. But we were not deterred, only made more resolute to continue our work for womyn.
Ask, who benefits from the dissolution and indeed illegalization of female-only space? Who loses? Are trans people or pro-prostitution advocates moving toward the destruction of patriarchy by disallowing us to meet, to organize and strategize? Under patriarchy, we must ALWAYS be asking, who benefits and who loses?
Of course males benefit from banning women gathering. Of course men benefit from women feeling afraid, unsafe, violated, and divided.
Men are benefitting from the labelling of radical feminists as transphobic, racist, anti-prostituted women, etc. Men are benefitting from the belittling of radical feminism. From the portrayal of us as outliers or ‘crazy’. The fewer radical women with class analyses at our fingertips, the freer they are to rape us, abuse and kill us, gaslight us, and keep us apart. Any successful movement demands at the very least the ability of the oppressed people to gather. Any person who works against this is working against womyn’s liberation.
And who suffers? Why, it’s women of course. It always is.