by Bahar Mustafa
Manchester Anarcha-Feminists and the Anarchist Federation Women’s Caucus collaborated on the weekend of 10th-11th April to present two days of workshops inclusive of all genders and ages. The event took place at the Manchester University Students’ Union, and was a brilliantly organised gathering with a vibrant atmosphere. Activists, students, and parents came from all over the UK to be part of the experience.
However, within the feminist movement it is a saddening truth that there exists a division. Feminists on one side of this rupture offer rather contentious analysis in regards to such themes as pornography, prostitution and trans-gendered self-defined women; regarding any woman engaging in such acts as anti-feminist, and excluding trans-gendered self-defined women from the movement, on the basis that they do not share the same experiences. This is typical of reactionary and conservative responses to these questions – not to mention detrimental to the feminist movement and the struggle of all people.
The other side works to inform people that the conditions and experiences of prostitutes and sex-workers vary between individuals, and no woman (or man) should be condemned or criminalised for working the streets, but rather should be protected. They also recognise trans-gendered self-defined women and value their experiences, as well as providing assiduous gender analysis that is often neglected by those from the conservative position. Fortunately, this weekend was full of diverse workshops that provided a space for open-minded, progressive discourse.
Thus we had the opportunity to hear the experiences of two trans-gendered males who expressed their feelings of being de-humanised and ignored by a society which fails to recognise them as people because they do not fit in to the black and white (female and male) categories that are relentlessly imposed upon individuals.
I also attended a workshop entitled “Prostitution: Is it choice?” where some of the aforementioned divisions began to present themselves: however each of us were respectful of each other’s opinions and we all felt safe andcomfortable to speak freely. Analysis of the power dynamics between customer and prostitute were discussed, in relation to the power structures within our current capitalist economic and social system – and how this could be challenged through direct action.
Other workshops included Women and Disability, Radical Childrearing, Women in Prisons and Squatters Workshops, among others, as well as poetry and performances. Free lunch was provided (which catered for vegetarians and vegans) and free crèche facilities were also available. However, it was bought to my attention that unfortunately people with disabilities seemed to have been overlooked as all the workshops took place on the second floor of the building, and there were no lifts. Hopefully in future events this would be taken into consideration.
Overall the experience was enlightening and beneficial for anyone committed to the movement, and people affected by the issues analysed in the workshops. Not only were there a myriad of thought-provoking and informative discussions, but we also came up with practical ideas for future enterprises that included how we could utilise direct action effectively. I left feeling positive and confident about my position in the Feminist Movement.