Month: October 2014

Initial thoughts from some organisers

You can submit your thoughts and reflections (and please do! we’ve only had responses from about 10% of attendees), but here are some of ours, whilst we collate all the feedback we’re getting…

There were some great moments and workshops, and we want to build up a record of what worked well.

So if you learned about new concepts and struggles, about how oppression and privilege impact on different groups, made contacts you have the enthusiasm to build on, encountered new ideas and activity that inspired you, thought about how to move anarcha-feminism forward as a political force, or have any other positive reflections about the sessions or day in general, please send us your thoughts (either via afem[at]afed.org.uk or on social media).

These will help us to plan future events because – a surprise to ourselves – we are full of enthusiam for further events.

Having said this, there were serious negatives, as we are all aware and have reflected on elsewhere and will continue to do so.

Most damagingly, was the intervention of transphobes or TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists). These breached our Safer Spaces policy and undermined our Inclusion Policy. Much has been said, and will be said here (not least in that we will shortly issue a stament as organisers). We want also to flag up how traumatic this was not only for many people attending the conference, but also for ourselves. Several of us were so upset by this dynamic that we have temorarily taken time out from AFem organising group to try to recover without triggering memories.

Our general happiness about what was achieved on the day is coupled with anger about how easy it was for a tiny handful of privileged people to impose their bigoted, backward-looking and damaging ideas. We say this because as well as issuing a statement, we will be taking the issue very seriously and tightening up our processes in future. In order to do this, we want your thoughts too on how to do this.

Finally, please take the project forward! Organise your own events and activies under the AFem banner, as long as it agrees with our policies. But please protect yourself structurally and personally against people who think the anarcha-feminist movement is theirs rather than belonging to all gender-oppressed people. And send us your reports/links so we can gather momentum in transforming the anarchist movement and the whole world.

For more on how to contact us, and our feedback form for the event, see our post How was AFem2014 for you?

Accountability processes

This is a write-up of the ‘Accountability processes’ session that happened at the conference.

Content note: abstract discussions of abuse, mental health difficulties and victim blaming (nothing specific mentioned)

This was a two-hour session that focussed on the history and practice of accountability processes in radical communities. It took place in a room that had been used earlier in the day for a ‘Victim-survivor led challenges to violence in our communities’ workshop and Empty Cages’ prison abolition workshop. In both of these sessions, the acute need for accountability processes (to render the criminal justice system irrelevant, to challenge and transform oppressive relationships, to maintain people’s safety and to build healthier communities, amongst many other things) was noted. It was clear that we were dealing with something of critical importance to anarchafeminism, and to other imaginations of a more just world.

Please see pages 11-12 here for good rough definitions of accountability processes, restorative justice and transformative justice. I use the most commonly recognised language around this issue, which is also discussed in the link, if anything is unclear.

We began with two speakers: Tanya gave a historical perspective, covering the need for safer spaces policies and accountability processes, tracking how they had emerged and suggesting some principles that underpinned their work (more on this). Romina, joining us from Los Angeles, then discussed transformative justice work in the USA, especially a recent inter-organisational conference held on transformative justice (more on this).

After a short listeners’ Q & A with Tanya and Romina, discussion opened up into the circle. Below are some points that I felt generated the most debate, or were mentioned several times. Please feel free to comment or e-mail to include points that I have missed. For people who would like to read more, there are links to resources below.

  • Asking Questions: The importance of asking questions when accountability processes start. Each process will differ depending on the situation at hand, and perhaps the best way to ensure we do the best work around this is to equip ourselves with the right questions to ask of ourselves and others, rather than rigid ideas about what to do, and how to do it.
  • Making Sure We Have Resources: Accountability processes require a lot of emotion, resources and time to be done well. People reflected on how to manage this strain: separating organisations to deal with accountability processes away from other work? Having a separate group to work with the perpetrator and another to work with the survivor? How does this then feed back into the community? Making sure we had worked out our practice around accountability before crisis hits? Questioning and rebuilding our ideas around safer spaces and accountability are often harmful in times of crisis: how do we build spaces ‘safe’ and ‘free’ enough to do this, so our work can improve, without causing harm?
  • Survivor Led Except in Violence: Accountability processes are always, ideally, ‘survivor led’, but often when survivors are interested in pursuing violence as a response to abuse (verbal, physical violent confrontation or destroying property, for example), they are not supported. Is this hypocritical? How are we supposed to balance a blanket commitment to ‘survivor led’ justice if a certain survivors’ ideas about justice will always be exempt? Should survivors be supported to do what they feel is best, whatever that is? Is there more disapproval and criticism of survivors’ desire for revenge/violence than there is disapproval for perpetrators’ abuse? Should we be challenging this discourse? What about what other organisers are comfortable doing? Is survivors’ anger a productive force that we can mobilise around, rather than focussing on peaceful discussion that collapses survivors’ righteous anger?
  • Accountable Accountability: Many people mentioned experiences of accountability processes falling apart, and organisations and communities fragmenting after accountability processes had been set up. Should we be building a Plan B- an accountability process for accountability processes? A backup plan? Should we anticipate problems in community dynamics at the start, and integrate measures to cope with these? How do we keep the processes transparent enough for perpetrator, survivor (whilst protecting anonymity if requested) and community? Should we keep checking in with all parties before new stages of the process take place? Especially when community members have mental health difficulties such as paranoia, should we have a clear process for transparency? Many accountability processes suggest ‘therapy’ for both perpetrator and survivor- but how do we build relationships with therapists who don’t subscribe to current individualised and often victim-blaming mainstream psychotherapy? Is it a priority for us to build critical mental health practitioners into the movement?
  • Competing Claims of Abuse: There was recognition that we often assumed we were talking about sexual abuse, and often about a man sexually abusing a woman. We saw the conversation had to be broader to accommodate different experiences of abuse. What could people do about competing claims of abuse, especially when this did not cut so neatly along heteronormative power relations? How can accountability processes consider the mental health issues amongst those involved in a useful way (e.g. when community members are triggered by discussions of past experiences, when abuse may have become confused or magnified between people, or when a perpetrator suffering from paranoia is involved in a process where the survivor requests anonymity?) How do we come up with ways of working that are broad enough to hold the complexity of people’s relationships and experiences, whilst still taking a strong stance on abuse?
  • Polarising Perpetrator vs Survivor: Our discussion used the words- perpetrator, survivor, abuse etc.- that are often used in discussions on this topic. There was disagreement about whether the polarised split between ‘perpetrators’ and ‘survivors’ was helpful: How can we recognise that we are all capable of transgressing boundaries and causing harm whilst avoiding the dangerous ‘blurring’ of perpetrator/survivor roles that happens in wider society? What does it mean for accountability processes when we recognise that abuse emerges from structural systems of domination, into which many of us were born and raised? What does this say about the people who are in charge of accountability? How do we stay humble enough to recognise that everyone has the capacity to abuse whilst challenging that very culture that sits in all of us? Does it help us to unpick the complexity of harm caused by highly charismatic, popular and manipulative people if we simply name them ‘perpetrators’? Can we deploy this polarising way of looking at things selectively, should we be doing it at all, should we always and only be doing it?
  • Total Exclusion: Immediately excluding someone who has committed abuse from radical community spaces is often the first port of call for accountability processes, to protect the survivor and the community at large. Most people were glad of this, but there were questions: what does total exclusion mean for the perpetrator? Are they most likely to learn this way? ‘Kicking them out’ pushes the perpetrator onto other communities outside of our own- is this what we want to be doing? Leaving them to harm people outside of radical communities-who may be less well equipped with support and radical awareness around abuse? What has the organisation succeeded in doing if that is the result? Again, what happens with regards to exclusion when there are competing claims of abuse?

These are some rough jottings of the many questions the session opened up for us. There were also some reading mentioned in the session, with links here. Again, please feel free to suggest links to add.

Transformative Justice LA

The Fundamental Requirement for Organised Safer Space

Taking Risks: Implementing Grassroots Community Accountability Strategies

The Revolution Starts At Home

The Problem With ‘Privilege’

This Is Not a Safe Space

What About the Rapists? Anarchist Approaches to Crime and Justice (zine)

CALL-OUT: How was AFem2014 for you?

The dust has settled. The organisers have slept a bit. People who didn’t even attend AFem2014 are expounding their ideas on social media.

The outpouring of support was so amazing, but we all know that the event wasn’t perfect.

We need your help to make any future events even more enjoyable, even more effective, even more militant than last week’s. Here’s what you can do:

  1. FILL OUT OUR FEEDBACK SURVEY! Whether you were a facilitator, a safer spaces volunteers, an organiser or an attendee, your feedback would really help us. Put in as much or as little info as you want. Don’t worry about being critical, we’ve got thick skins.
  2. LET PEOPLE KNOW HOW IT WAS! Don’t just let us know how it was. If you’ve got a blog, write that shit up. If you’re in an organisation, feed back to the other members. If you do write something up, even if it’s just a Facebook post, let us know! (either via afem[at]afed.org.uk or on social media)
  3. GIVE US YOUR PHOTOS! We’d love photographic evidence of the day too! Again, you can email them to afem[at]afed.org.uk, or send them to us on social media.
  4. HELP MAKE AFEM2015 A REALITY! We don’t know if there even will be an AFem2015, or whether the organising group will divert energies into other anarchafeminist projects. But either way, the more organisers the merrier. Make sure you leave your email at the end of the feedback survey, or again contact us via email or social media.

Bonne chance! Our feedback form:

“At a moment of backlash”: one organiser’s take on the day

Taken from a Facebook post from one of the organisers the day after the conference.

The background

AFem, the inaugural UK based conference organised by a group of 35 anarchafeminists in Solfed, AFed and international anarchist organisations, as well as unaffiliated anarchafeminists, took place this weekend on Sunday 19th October. The conference was very popular, with just under 300 people through the door from 19 countries and counting, including Argentina, the Philippines, Brazil, Japan, Iran, the US and Canada.

The conference was funded by a mix of donations, a fundrazr for £2k, and smaller fundraising events in 3 UK cities. Food Not Bombs also held a fundraiser so we could afford to feed those on low or nil income, and many in kind donations were made, from printing to translation to childcare to signing.

On the day

The conference was largely well organised with few technical glitches: there were not enough programmes, we had issues with the technology and as we had not put a numbers limit on sessions, some of the rooms were overcrowded. We had not given enough thought to accessibility – no large print programme was available and we did not have dedicated helpers for accessibility needs.

However with those exceptions the day ran fairly smoothly from a practical point of view. Facilities at the conference were good, with a creche, a quiet space, free food for those on low or nil incomes, listeners and emotional first aid all available. In addition there was a team of 18 ‘safer spaces’ people who sat in sessions, at the front desk and in the quiet room to resolve issues or questions relating to the day’s safer spaces agreement, or help people who felt triggered or unsafe.

The conference offered 23 workshops and 2 plenary sessions. Workshops were broad, ranging from “what is gender?” to prison abolition to workplace organising around gender to middle eastern feminism to survivor-led accountability, with dedicated strands for disabled people, trans people, people of colour and sex workers. The timetable is attached as an image.

The workshops were by and large received very well at the conference. The comments book on the day was overwhelmingly positive and the atmosphere was excellent – many remarked on the new organising connections they were making and on the unusually anti-oppressive politics of the organising group and the conference itself.

However the day was not without difficulty. A small group of trans exclusionary radical feminists attended the conference, misgendering and insulting trans people and demanding space for cis women only. Exclusion of trans women from women’s space is direct transphobic discrimination and managing this issue became the bulk of the work done by the safer spaces team. As a result, several trans people at conference experienced transphobia and some were extremely upset by this. Efforts were made on the day to repair this damage, both interpersonally and politically, and care was taken to help those who had these experiences stay safely at conference, but nevertheless the TERFs should have been excluded.

Working with the organising group to develop and carry through the politics of AFem – anarchocommunist, feminist, multigender, anti-oppressive, accountable, democratic and transparent – has been one of the best organising experiences I’ve had in a long time, but also one of the most difficult, because we’re currently at a moment of backlash against prefigurative political forms.

In the run-up to AFem, as we made our politics clear on our website, blogs and social media, an increasing number of critiques were posted online. This made the run-up to conference extremely tense – we weren’t sure whether there might be opposition or even disruption on the day. For those who haven’t seen them, our gender inclusion policy and safer spaces agreement can be found on the AFem website.

There’s clearly some anxiety in our milieu about whether accountable organising spaces are overly authoritarian. My feeling is that this conference was a good initial response: it was a popular and much-needed event with minimal difficulty and an atmosphere of solidarity, and I’m really happy solfed supported it and supported me and other comrades to help organise it.

The organising group will respond to criticisms on the AFem website, once we’ve got the post-conference tasks done and all the feedback collated. We plan on organising further AFem events, and will recruit new organisers shortly.

Note: I’ve held off commenting on racism and cultural appropriation cos I’d rather that commentary came from poc, but I’m really happy we organised the poc- only space and that critiques were fed back to conference as a result.

For other write-ups from the day, see our conference summary page.

Accessibility

AFEM2014 is being held at the Bancroft Building at Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS.

The Bancroft Building is fully wheelchair accessible.

The conference is taking place on the third floor of the Bancroft Building. There are lifts up to the 3rd floor.

There will be childcare available at the conference.

We are working on having sign language interpreters available throughout the day.

There will be a quiet space available for use and staffed all day.

London Food Not Bombs will be providing food for those who cannot afford to buy any. Map of food outlets in the vicinity of the venue here: Map

We are committed to making the conference as accessible as possible. If possible please contact us at afem@afed.org.uk if you have a specific access need that we can address, or come and speak to us on the front desk on the day of the conference, where there will be people to support you in fully accessing the conference.

ELENCO DEGLI EVENTI

ELENCO DEGLI EVENTI

Ecco una migliore idea di quello che avrà luogo il giorno, Domenica 19 ottobre. Non abbiamo un calendario definitivo ancora, ma speriamo di averlo presto.

La manifestazione avrà luogo dalle ore 10:00 alle ore 18:00. Potrete anche venire prima se vorrete aiutarci troverete un luogo dove lasciare le valigie.

LA NOSTRA VISIONE

Vogliamo esplorare le idee di approfondimento insieme e avere il tempo di lavorare attraverso concetti e raggiungere intese generalizzate e piani concreti. Come tale, stiamo mettendo insieme le riunioni seguendo dei filoni tematici. L’idea è che ci sarà una certa continuità al loro interno e che raggiungerà alcuni risultati e posizioni da cui ripartiremo per andare avanti, con alcuni risultati tangibili, come comunicati o appelli, di arricchimento per la diffusione, gruppi di lavoro, piani per ulteriori eventi, sviluppo del nostro sito web o la creazione di qualcosa di ancora migliore.

Naturalmente non ci aspettiamo che tutti siano d’accordo su tutto (oltre il nostro comunicato di invito https://afem2014.wordpress.com e la politica degli spazi sicuri). Ma, per quanto possibile, vogliamo raggiungere alcuni obbiettivi che in seguito porteremo avanti con la lotta anarcofemminista internazionale, all’interno e all’esterno del movimento anarchico.

È stato suggerito che ci potrebbe essere una sorta di pubblicazione con queste idee e risultati raggiunti, o un sito web, che sia utile al movimento anarcofemminista internazionale più in generale.

TEMATICHE E INCONTRI

Gli incontri saranno aperti a tutti durante l’evento;

• Lavoro e luogo di lavoro ((Incl. Workplace Organising; Sex Work).

• Controllo dei nostri corpi. ( Incl aborto in Spagna e in Irlanda; Attivismo delle persone obese/sovrappeso)

• Il nostro Movimento (. Incl Ama il sesso/odia il sessismo, violenza sessuale nei movimenti anti-autoritari; Processi di responsabilizzazione).

• Razzismo,fascismo, antifascismo (incl. Rete Antifascista, sessione di feedback per le persone di colore).

• Carcere (Gabbie Vuote).

• Anarcofemminismo internazionale (incluso latino americano;. Mediorientale).

• Genere e sessualità (Non voglio scopare/non puoi scopare; Laboratorio sul Genere).

Alcuni spazi sono attualmente riservati alle persone che si autodefiniscono all’interno di un gruppo che vuole o ha bisogno di organizzare separatamente a volte, anche all’interno dell’anarcofemminismo;

• Persone di Colore

• Non binarie/ trans

• Oppressi per disabilità/salute .

• Sex Workers

Le persone coinvolte in tali riunioni non hanno bisogno di sentirsi responsabili nei confronti del movimento anarcofemminista più ampio e potranno usare a loro piacimento. L’organizzazione non vuole decidere cosa avverrà nelle discussioni tematiche e accordarsi con coloro che hanno accettato il loro invito e la politica di Safer Spaces (Spazi Protetti). I partecipanti devono sentirsi liberi di stabilire quali parametri, gli obiettivi e le richieste che vogliono, e noi li supporteremo nel miglior modo possibile. Idealmente, la gente dovrà farci sapere in anticipo se vorrà far parte di qualcosa, e noi li collegheremo con altre persone. Ma saremo per mantenere gli spazi riservati in ogni caso.

Alcuni incontri avranno uno slot di un’ora, alcuni ne avranno due. Sarà compito dei partecipanti capire come useranno il tempo, ma si consigliano interruzioni e variazioni di tempo / struttura, per massimizzare la partecipazione e mantenere sempre l’attenzione.

STRUTTURA

Ci sarà una riunione generale all’inizio della giornata e alla fine della giornata. Alle ore 10:00 , spiegheremo qualcosa sul nostro punto di vista e le aspettative che abbiamo dall’evento e presenteremo la nostra politica di Spazi Protetti, e discuteremo di ciò che questo significa in pratica.

Gli spazi tematici inizieranno alle 11:00 e proseguiranno fino alle 5:00. Sentitevi liberi di immergervi dentro e fuori a piacimento.

Ci sarà anche un tempo per il pranzo per chi volesse uscire completamente dalla struttura delle riunioni.

Alla riunione di chiusura alle 5:00 vorremmo fare un riepilogo e, se possibile, aumentare / annunciare idee / progetti per il futuro a breve termine.

PRATICHE

Le persone che volessero aiutare nell’organizzazione sono benvenute. Se avete del tempo libero prima e durante il giorno. Se vorrai entrare nella mail list o darci indicazioni di contatti faremo in modo di prendere contatti o spiegare come fare.

Siamo davvero spiacenti, ma non siamo in grado di fornire un alloggio per chiunque e non è certo possibile dormire presso la sede stessa. Semplicemente non abbiamo le risorse.

Spiacenti, solo i cani da assistenza saranno ammessi nel locale.

Potrebbe essere necessario portare qualcosa da mangiare e da bere, perché non c’è nessun posto molto vicino per comprare cibo. Stiamo lavorando su questo.

Non vediamo l’ora di incontrarvi e lavorare con voi.

AFem2014 Organizzazione

Afem2014 timetable

AFem2014 October 19th Bancroft Building, Queen Mary University.

Bold means that these are confirmed sessions. Non-bold means that we can practically support these meetings if you would make them happen. Please contact us a.s.a.p.

Please click on the timetable for a fuller view of it. A pdf of this timetable is available here: https://afem2014.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/final-timetable.pdf

Final timetable