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sisters are doing it for themselves

Recently, and quite by chance, I've been reading a spate of books both fictional and non-fictional that deal with the women's movement in Britain in the '70s and '80s, from Jill Tweedie's collection of Guardian Women's Page columns to the Spare Rib reader. And it's making me kind of jealous. All these smart, funny women going off to their women's groups and consciousness raising sessions every week! Obviously, the reality was probably a lot more boring and annoying (I can just imagine some of the meeting attendees), but still. There was something there that we don't have.

Of course, Ladyfest was a bit like that, but Ladyfest was a year ago (I know! It's so hard to believe). It's also making me feel a bit guilty that most of my own feminist writing and, recently, reading has been purely about cultural issues which, let's face it, aren't exactly burningly important to our actual lives. There's more genuinely significant content in the average episode of Woman's Hour, with its regular pieces on political, domestic and work issues - and fascinating women's history - than in the average issue of Bust or Bitch. Because much as I enjoy those magazines, articles on how American TV programmes treat abortion aren't exactly as important as the fact that I and my compatriots don't actually have any abortion rights ourselves, or that when we do have kids there is virtually no government support especially if you work outside the home. Or that we end up doing all of the housework. There's no equivalent to Spare Rib - the more socio-political feminist mags, such as they are, are incredibly dry. But it doesn't have to be. We all know feminism, and politics in general, doesn't have to be like that.

So I'm thinking of starting up a good old fashioned women's group. A weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, whatever meeting of women who'd like to get together and talk about gender issues in our own lives and feminism in general and support campaigns and actually DO something.

Just think how much Kevin Myers would hate it.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 29th, 2005 11:48 am (UTC)
RIGHT on board with you! Hell yes.

*starts plotting vaguely*
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:12 pm (UTC)

Are you around town later? I have to do an interview in the Abbey at some vague stage in the afternoon, but still haven't got a time yet. But I will be in the city, if you're working in the old alma mater today.
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:13 pm (UTC)
Yes - I'm lunching with a friend at two, so will be free from about three. Text me!
Nov. 29th, 2005 11:48 am (UTC)
That is such a cool idea. Count me in!

Observe my happy Maoist!
Nov. 29th, 2005 11:53 am (UTC)
I will commute to Dublin to join you! Or, actually, maybe I should do the same here and we can start an international movement.
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:11 pm (UTC)
I'll start the London branch! And we can have international meetings.

Although I want to live in Dublin or Edinburgh now because it is most definitely where all the cool people live.
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:14 pm (UTC)
You have to come and visit too! I just realised that since our spare room became, well, spare, every single guest has been an LJ lady - majea, cangetmad, angiv and biascut - so far.
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:01 pm (UTC)
Ahem! I can vouch for the fact that at least one other LJ lady has stayed in there.
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:06 pm (UTC)
Hee, I seem to recall such an event! But I don't think of her as an LJ lady, I'm afraid.
Nov. 29th, 2005 10:32 pm (UTC)
I would love to! And I will try I promise; if I ever manage to have a weekend free again...

In the mean time let me know if you're coming back to London, and was your sister that lives near me in the Selkirk Arms the other night, because I saw an Irish girl there that looked soooo like you.
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:37 pm (UTC)
I will join the London branch!
Nov. 29th, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC)
We can be a skating London branch!
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC)
If you did an Edinburgh branch, you know I'd be there...
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:03 pm (UTC)
That sounds interesting! And not just because Kevin Myers would hate it.
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:11 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a fabulous idea. It's so easy to become a bit complacent about these things. I often feel bad that I am not more angry about the many injustices I know go on around the world. Occasionally I will get a bit worked up, especially about anything to do with abortion rights, but I don't carry that feminist determination around with me like women of my mother's generation seem to do. It's just that there doesn't seem to be any real focus for it anymore, and I think a group like the one you describe would be the perfect arena for younger concerned women to focus on the issues they want resolving and actually try to do something about it.
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:17 pm (UTC)
I am, as you know, DEFINITELY up for it. I was also thinking we might see about putting together an Irish version of Woman's Hour. Even if it were just on community radio, it'd be a nice start...But really, we want Tubridy's slot.

We could even have a campaign: "Slots for sluts." Or "Mics for dykes." Or...you get my drift.

Another thing is that Kevin Myers might write a column about us....

Nov. 29th, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC)
I was also thinking we might see about putting together an Irish version of Woman's Hour. Even if it were just on community radio, it'd be a nice start...

Wow, that's a fantastic idea!

These days the only times women's issues are raised on Irish radio tends to be on stupid talk shows which turn into an opportunity for every mad bigot in the country to ring up. There's so serious reporting on these things. Woman's Hour will have pieces on everything from Buffy to women's health, from suffragettes to fashion. There's no equivalent to that. I read an interview a while with WH presenter Jenni Murray and she said she knew that it was because of advertiser pressure but she wished that mainstream women's magazines could have the mixture of serious and fun stuff that WH achieves.
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:27 pm (UTC)
It'd be GREAT. And yes, the topics covered by radio programmes could be more nuanced, but they aren't. And we could present interesting issues where the 'anti-hate' stance is not considered one side of a biased argument.

Nov. 29th, 2005 12:38 pm (UTC)
Why not podcast it (ie, record it and release on the web in MP3)? Much much cheaper and it could be done very quickly! And you might get picked up for airtime on a radio station that way too...
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:54 pm (UTC)
That's a really good idea!
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:05 pm (UTC)
Hmm, that's a good idea on one level, I don't think it would be cheaper, because the costs of doing radio interviews are virtually nil if you have a radio-standard recording device, and I do. It's not like we'd be hiring radio time from Anna Livia or renting a transmitter or anything! Running a radion station online is obviously much cheaper than setting up a regular one, but I don't think there's any real difference when it comes to putting together different interviews and documentary slots. II did lots of radio journalism for my Master's, which involved putting together documentaries, and the real issue is time rather than cost. It's also much easier to put together discussion shows if you're doing it in a studio as opposed to your sitting room, which is not exactly going to scream professionalism if you want to talk to vaguely public figures.
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:30 pm (UTC)
Ah. Yes, I assumed the idea meant getting studio time with Anna Livia or NearFM or the like and didn't even think of internet radio.

I hope it works out!
Nov. 29th, 2005 12:39 pm (UTC)
Yes! I'm there! (My hozzband can provide the childcare...)
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)
It sounds like a great idea - I was a member of a women's group (and a big fan of Jill Tweedie to boot - have you got Letters From a Fainthearted Feminist and More From Martha?) in the early 80s and we did a lot of moaning about how unpoliticised our generation were compared to the students in the 60s. So there probably weren't quite so many supportive sisters around as it might appear. But in other ways it was great - we organised Reclaim the Night marches, and worked with striking miners and their families, trips to Greenham and to big CND marches in London as well as the more personal sisterhoody stuff which I wasn't so keen on because far too often it degenerated into women moaning about their boyfriends.

Was Ladyfest a one-off or an ongoing thing?
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:03 pm (UTC)
aaah, the envy!
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:05 pm (UTC)
Though, actually, I suspect that enormous amounts of the stuff that happens online is the same kind of consciousness raising as took place in the 70s and 80s. Tons of my knowledge of feminism has been sharpened and defined by discussions online, from Hissyfit onwards. Even theladiesloos (which appears to be in MELTDOWN today - it's amusing me a bit) had a post from someone after the Amnesty Report last week saying that she'd decided that she was going to stop sitting on the fence and start calling herself a feminist, and asking for recommendations of things to read and do.
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:27 pm (UTC)
support from across the ocean here.

and yeah, i totally agree with you in re bitch and bust ...
Nov. 29th, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC)
when i first started learning about feminism and gender, i thought consciousness-raising groups sounded great. so i hope you get yours set up!

at the same time, i'm all bitter and jaded now and want to stab half of the feminists i meet - my feelings of sisterhood are at an all-time low. but maybe if there was a group round here like what you describe, that could be improved on.

(huh. which reminds me of one i was in touch with lately. the feelings of irritation haven't gone away. i may post about it.)
Nov. 29th, 2005 02:22 pm (UTC)
Uhhhh yeah. Mainstream feminism seems to =white Amurrrikin.

Which is wrong wrong wrong. Mainstream must be redefined.

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )


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