4th Anarchist Studies Network conference on Anarcha-Feminism: A Report

by Aga (she/her).

Lex and I went to this year’s Anarchist Studies conference in Loughborough, themed ‘Anarcha-Feminism’, and it was so weird! We spent a lot of time being guarded and/or angry at the conference itself but afterwards we felt both that it was a constructive and rewarding experience. PLUS: The conference was catered by the lovely vegan activists from veggies!

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Anarchist Studies Network Conference 4 Programme with badass artwork in it.

Upon arrival we were greeted by a bunch of men standing around everywhere, outside the door to the venue, inside the corridor and even more men in the room where the opening plenary took place. We were outnumbered by far. We were happy to see the main organiser, the awesome Elizabet, taking the space and giving a friendly, welcoming introduction. A bit of relief and a lot of solidarity for Elizabet speaking to a room filled with white academic men came over us.

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First attempt at reclaiming the bathroom as gender neutral.

The first thing we did was to put up gender neutral signs (easy peasy, take a piece of paper, write down ‘gender neutral toilet with or without urinals and with or without waste bins’ and stick it on the appropriate door). The first thing that the university that hosted us did, was to take them off. So we just kept reapplying the signs throughout the three-day event.

Soon we began to notice all the awesome people who stood their ground against mansplainers, wannabe-heroes and patronising know-it-alls. We heard amazing presentations on the binary restrictions of international law when it comes to gender, about transformative justice as well as the damaging hyper masculinity in charity campaigns helping male survivors of sexual violence (our menninist-guard was up for this one but it turned out to be a great talk!). We heard people speak on free love (as opposed to relationship anarchy) and sexuality. A group of settlers and first-nation allies from the unceded (stolen) Coast Salish territories in (what from a Eurocentric perspective is called ) Canada, came all the way to tell us about the work they are doing there to decolonise their region and undo themselves as the oppressor of the first nation communities. I also attended a workshop on consensus making, safer spaces and constitutions in anarchist spaces where I learned a lot and hopefully some of the men, strictly opposing any and all rules, understood why some sort of agreement, constitution or other document with established principles is important for people to feel that they can be themselves, express concerns and find allies in a group.

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Thank you to Richard for chairing and co-convening this panel with Livia and Will!

There were even three (!) panels on animal liberation, on one of which Lex and me gave talks. We both spoke about animalistion and dehumanisation from different perspectives ad presented ways in which human liberation and animal liberation is interconnected. We spoke about how important it is to be sensitive to human needs within the movement and beyond, if we want to achieve anything for the animals, and what possible tactics there are to practice anti-oppression across the board. We spoke about how we need to undo our privilege and how, we, as humans, have a responsibility to undo our relationships with animals whenever we possibly can, as every relationship we have with an animal in a human, Eurocentric and capitalist world, will by default be one in which we dominate the animals, and thus it will always be a speciesist relationship. Unfortunately some people in the audience couldn’t accept the fact that we can’t possibly ask animals for their consent to enter into relationships with us as enough of a reason to leave animals alone.

Of course we offered our zines as well and even met some awesome people who are now involved with us! 🙂 We were also happy to see the Black Pigeon Collective from Basel, who do the most amazing prisoner support work! We joined them in making a solidarity banner for a group picture taken with the attendees of the conference, to be sent to political prisoners across the globe and wrote letters and cards to them.

 

The conference finished with a discussion of safer space policies that will hopefully be applied by next year! In the roundup it became obvious what some of the main concerns were: binaristic (mis)gendering of people, assuming people’s academic status or that they have one at all (as one womxn put it: ‘I keep being asked who my thesis supervisor is. I AM the supervisor, I teach students!’), and of course, mansplaining and erasing womxn from history. So not too bad, just the classic, all too familiar stuff we deal with everyday!

Overall it was an exhausting but valuable conference and we couldn’t be more grateful to Elizabet for organising it and all the amazing non-binary people and womxn we met.

Lisa Kemmerer in London 06.09. 7PM

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We are happy to announce that Dr. Lisa Kemmerer will spend an evening with us in London, speaking on ‘Ecofeminism: Bitches and Bollox’.

Dr. Kemmerer, professor of philosophy and religions at Montana State University Billings, is the author/editor of nine books and a hands-on activist for the animals, the environment and social justice.

Dr. Kemmerer will address ‘Ecofeminist theory [that] connects animal advocacy with other social justice movements, highlighting the importance of a more expansive vision of liberation. In this view, anymal activism requires solidarity with other social justice causes such as [those against] racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism, and classism’

We are inviting people of all genders to join us for this very special evening at the London Action Resource Centre (LARC).

Free Entry!

The pre-party will begin at 6PM where our allies from the LARC will kindly provide vegan snacks (Thank You!) and you will have the opportunity to meet and chat with our organisers. Books, zines and art work will also be for sale.

Dr. Kemmerer’s talk will begin at 7pm. The audience will have the opportunity to ask questions afterwards.

Please share this event widely!

Here are the details:

 

Address: 62 Fuelgate St., London, E1 1ES

Free Entry + All welcome

Doors open: 6pm

Talk begins: 7pm

Accessibility: The room is wheelchair accessible and there are also gender neutral toilets.

This event will operate under out Safer Space Agreement but please be aware that it is open to the general public. If there is anything specific we can do to ensure your safety beforehand, please let us know!

London Pride 2016

by aga

We hope you had a marvellous Pride weekend and took the time to celebrate your beautiful selves! We wish you a happy and safe year with nothing but love and happiness!

We want you to know that we are here for you and we are trying our best to fight this horribly violent system until we all feel that we can be ourselves everywhere we go.

At London Pride, our very own Lex marched with the Migrant and Anti-Racist Bloc organised by the Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary & Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. They got interviewed by Paolo Zeriali, explaining why it is important to fight all oppression. Watch the video below to hear Lex speak or read the transcript below the youtube video.

TW: Lex briefly mentions hateful violence towards them.

 

[Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: We are in London pride with Lex right here with “destroy transphobia, fight kyriarchy and smash borders”. Let’s try to explain what do all these slogans mean.

Lex: So, as a trans individual I feel that there is so much transphobia and people, like, always misgender me, I was physically attacked last year just for being trans. So I want to destroy transphobia, so every person would be able to live as they are despite whatever gender they are or lack of gender. Kyriarchy is kinda like patriarchy just connecting all oppressions. So it is a fight against racism, transphobia, homophobia, patriarchy and all those. They go into kind of oppression kyriarchy all connected. And I’d like to smash borders so we would live in a place where people can move freely and that wouldn’t depend on if you have papers, what kind of country you are from, because no one choose where to be born, but you should be free to choose where to live.

Interviewer: So your struggle is dealing with multiple oppressions?

Lex: yeah as we don’t live in single issue world, meaning as a queer person I can face oppression as a queer person, but also I am an immigrant, so I face xenophobia and as trans individual I face transphobia. And I cannot separate which issue is affecting me the same like another person cannot say which oppression and how you… So you cannot fight just one oppression, you should realise that they all are connected. Also a disabled person I face ableism. So I think it is important to fight all oppressions and realise how they all are connected.]

~aga

Strawberry Fair Report

We’ve got reports from three ASC members who tabled at Strawberry Fair with us. Thank you to everyone who supported us by buying our zines or to everyone who just  by coming over and sharing a smile made our day! If you are interested in getting involved with the group, attending our discussion group, tabling with us at fairs or contributing to our zine, let us know!

Caitlin:

“What a fair this year! I was on two stalls so I couldn’t spend the whole day with ASC, however the time I did spend there was lovely. So many warm and compassionate people came over to have a chat. The weather was beautiful as we tucked into our vegan fish and chips and admired the amazing art work of one of our ASC members. We helped people make the connection while meeting like minded people and having some wonderful conversations. Thank you to everyone who came and supported us, hopefully we are one step further to animal and human liberation.”

 

 

Elecia:

Cw: domestic violence, discussion of fur farms

“ASC had our stall at Strawberry Fair for the second year running! We were really excited about meeting new people and sharing our zines and artwork with others. Luckily, our stall was near our friends and fellow activists at Cambridge Hunt Sabs and StandUp, a grassroots youth animal rights group. We were also next to a vegan ‘fish’ and chips van – surrounded by awesome vegans!

Unfortunately, not all stalls at the fair are free from violence. We saw a stall selling fur and animal skulls (the stall owner told us that the fur came from ‘roadkill’, although we believe this is untrue). Fur farms are horrifically cruel, and animals bred and kept for fur are often skinned alive. Please do not support this industry by buying fur.

 

 

The day was overcast, and for the most part fairly quiet. We met some lovely, compassionate people – including someone I met at our stall last year – who we had constructive and positive discussions with. Inevitably, we also had someone joke that cleaning bacteria is a speciesist act (which we led into a conversation about sentience) and a few people questioning the apparently ‘sexist’ nature of a group for womxn and non-binary people that excludes men (check out our FAQ page for our answer on this).

We also witnessed a traumatic incident which left some of our volunteers feeling shaken. ASC is an anti-oppression group, and we do not tolerate any kind of violence or aggressive behaviour and recognise the importance of reflecting this in our everyday actions. We were concerned about approaching the womxn, as it could have put not only us but the womxn and children in further danger. In the face of public displays of domestic abuse, we would usually advise following at a distance and if at all possible (keeping your safety and the safety of the other person firmly in mind) discreetly giving the victim of abuse information for local helplines (see http://cambridgedomesticviolence.weebly.com/help-available.html for more information about support in Cambridge).  However, watching the situation unfold, we were in a position where we had a safe space and were able to offer support.

Lex:

“While I didn’t get much hurt physically (I got pushed on the table and got some bruises on my back), it really affected me emotionally, especially as someone questioned if it is was a right thing to do to offer solidarity to the womxn and the children, because that way according to the person we were inviting violence towards us. But no, it was the right thing to do, violence never can be tolerated and I’m so proud that we as a group stood for what we believe. Personally I think this act of violence even strengthen us a group. I knew that I had everyone’s support and their backs, no matter what will happen. I hope we can turn this negative experience into something more positive and reflect it in our works in the future. And more than ever I’m sure that we will keep doing what we do and showing solidarity to every survivor of violence. Hopefully our works and acts will inspire others to stand up wherever possible for themselves and/or others. “

Anti-Speciesist Collective at Strawberry Fair

Saturday, June 4th on Midsummer Common

It is that time of the year again! Summer is around the corner which means Cambridge is about to host its yearly Strawberry Fair!

We have a stall under a little marquee, where you can buy our double issue zine for £1.50 (this is not for profit, it’s just to get the printing costs back in). Or just come by to meet us, have a chat and hang out!

When you’re trying to find us, look for this big banner of our dodo:

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We are looking forward to seeing you there!

 

The International Animal Rights Conference 2015 Experience

~ by aga

Last week I attended the annual International Animal Rights Conference (IARC) in Luxembourg, as an Anti-Speciesist Womxn and as a speaker on solidarity and total liberation (will post about it asap). Actually, it is at the IARC 2014 where I met some of the most brilliant total liberation activists who encouraged me to get active in a feminist-vegan group. This year again, I met some amazing people, had amazing food and heard amazing presentations. People reported on the state of activism in their localities, ranging from the UK to Columbia, and from Australia to Palestine.

I heard about liberated animals, sanctuaries and organising strategies, as well as about obstacles such as repression, violence and war. You can find all recorded talks from this year here (they are still being uploaded).

I learned that whilst the UK is inventing new laws specifically to destroy anti-vivisection campaigns and imprison activists, Columbian activists see their comrades being abducted without a sign of life for years.

The Palestinian Animal League (PAL) left the biggest impression on me. Amidst a war PAL are making creative, intelligent and sustainable activism that is set out to break the cycle of violence towards humans and animals. It is the most fascinating concept to organise for the animals I have come across in a long time. They are working together with Liz Tyson, a fellow total liberationist, and former director for CAPS (Captive Animals’ Protection Society) who is based in the UK. Together with Ahmad, who works on the ground in Palestine they produced this astounding presentation.

In it they explain how the war and the occupation affect their activism, but also how they overcome these obstacles. They brilliantly show the connections between human rights and animal rights and how theories of overlapping patterns in violence towards humans and animals and ideas of the interconnectedness of suffering can be used in practice.

Although feminism wasn’t much represented in the talks, the feminist activists always seem to find one another. We have had discussions about inclusiveness and combatting issues such as white supremacy and homophobia in the movement. A big issue was also masculinity in animal activism. Together we challenged the prevalence of men as heros within our own movement, which came about in the last decade or so. We probably all have the same imagine spring to mind here, the militant male hero figure who overshadows everybody who isn’t the animal liberation front, including the animals.
And yes, of course, we, the anti-speciesist women do support the animal liberation front. And yes, of course, images like these can be seen as a useful campaign tactic. Let’s leave that discussion for another post (or the comment section).  As an anti-speciesist feminist, whose aim is animal liberation I have to ask myself: Why are these images of militant man-heros so dominant over images that show the actual survivors and their stories? These images, found in all sorts of animal rights literature as well as reflecting the mainstream ideas of  the ‘vegan/eco terrorists’ are perpetuating this culture of hardcore humans who are emotionally and physically capable of taking the ultimate risk of breaking into an animal facility and liberating its victims. The glorification of this figure of the liberator goes hand in hand with the devaluation of other very important work by activists who cannot be the ALF.  We should refocus the media we produce to reflect our cause, and use more images like this one of the beagles walking on grass for the first time. So, white able-bodied men (and women to a great extent), let’s stop making use of our (hu)man privilege and start giving more space to the animals. That’s the least we can do.

Another very significant issue discussed this year was the lack of solidarity between ourselves in the movement -and this comes down to issues of discrimination against people in our own movement but it also is a result of the fear induced into us by the state and the police. Lorna Cooper, a person of great dignity and an admirable moral compass, introduced us to the tactics employed by the EU to stop anti-vivisection campaigns. Lorna told us about the cases brought against herself, Debbie, Natasha and Sven. The talk wasn’t recorded, but the gist was to not abandon your friends if they suffer from repression (this might include that they are banned from protests or any activism, they might be banned from seeing their closest friends, they might be banned from using the internet and their movement might be restricted, and/or they might be imprisoned). Dedicate protests to them, send them pictures, postcards, letters, emails and be creative. Don’t let them forget that you are thinking of them, that they are still important to us and that their work is being continued.

We would love to hear what you thought of the talks at this years IARC. Let us know in the comments and hope to see you there next year!

Total Liberation Workshop

~ by aga

Take it, reshape it, reuse it. Facilitate it with friends, family, comrades, in classes, at conferences and gatherings.

Outline of the workshop 

Aim: To introduce people to the idea of privilege and the interconnectedness of different liberation movements.

Duration: 1.20h-2.00h (depending on whether or not ice breaker is included and how many people are present)

What you will need:

  • an accessible room (and make sure you arrange the room with people in wheelchairs in mind)
  • gender neutral toilets (if the toilets in your venue aren’t gender neutral the least you can do is put a sign onto the toilet doors for the duration of your workshop stating that they are gender neutral)
  • a presentation screen (in small groups a lap top might do) to show the 2 prezis (they are publicly accessible and made available in this post)
  • paper and possibly a printer to print out bingo sheets (but you can also copy them by hand on some paper)
  • lots of pens (or ask people to bring a pen with them)
  • 9 (large) sheets of paper
  1. A Possibe Safer Space agreement (presented by facilitator)
  2. Ice breaker Game (to be included if there is enough time)
  3. Why Total Liberation? (presented by facilitator)
  4. Privilege Exercise (based on voluntary participation)
  5. Moving Discussion (based on voluntary participation)
  6. Round Up

Click here to view/use the visual presentation accompanying this workshop.

Step-by-step plan:

Introduction: Introduce youreself with your pronouns ‘Hi. My name is Aga, my pronouns are she and hers. Thank you all so much for coming’ etc.

A Possibe Safer Space agreement: The facilitator introduces possible guidelines for a safer space. They can be read from the presentation slides (link above). These are used to create a safer space within the current space but it should also be mentioned that people should take these to their meetings and introduce them there. It is very important that the facilitator has a plan of how to deal with people who compromise the safer space. Be prepared to call people in/out when they express something inappropriate. As the facilitator you are also in the position to interrupt any expression that will compromise the safer space, as well as to forbid the person to speak any further. Be also prepared to remove a hateful/hostile/violent person from the room. If they don’t leave voluntarily  it might be useful to coordinate with others before hand who would be willing to play security for this purpose. Another useful tactic could be to leave the room with the whole group, except for the individual(s) who is (are) unsafe. Also, remember that it is never ok to discredit someone who informs you that the safer space has been compromised and having a safer space policy in place does not mean that this place is safe. No space where humans ineract is ever 100% safe for everybody.

Ice breaker Game: This is a bingo game to familiarise the people in the group with one another and make later interactions in the workshop more comfortable. It is very important that the facilitator makes clear that people don’t have to take part (as with every other iteractive part of the workshop). Give them options such as ‘grab a coffee or a snack, or use this as a toilet break if you’d rather not participate’. The game works as follows: Every player receives this bingo sheet (feel free to make your own version) and with it moves along the room to ask other players the questions on the sheet. As soon as the person asked answers ‘yes’, the player writes down their name into the box. You could also invite people to share their pronouns with each other during this exercise. Make sure this is done in a way where you don’t risk putting trans people on the spot and forcing them to share their pronouns (see point 20 of this article on cissexism).  If you are playing with a group where people know one another already, you could suggest to still make sure to tell people their pronouns. This is important because society teaches us to assume people’s genders and their pronouns, which actually makes it weird and perhaps even uncomfortable for someone to tell someone their pronouns. But again, make sure to create an atmosphere where nobody feels like they must share their pronouns, this is not so as to prevent discomfort in cis people but to not make trans folk uncomfortable.

So the game would look something like this:

Player A: Hi, my name is Mandy and my pronouns she and hers. ‘Have you ever made Hummus’?

Player B: No.

Player A: Did you take the bus today?

Player B: Yes.

Now player A, Mandy asks for player B’s name. Then Player B can ask Mandy questions until she answers ‘yes’. Then they move on to the next person. Only when a player has gone around all other participants can they repeated the round. Once a player has all the boxes filled with names, they shout ‘bingo’ into the room. Here it might be nice if you had a little prize prepared for them. This can be anything, a sticker, a zine, a pack of crisps.

Why Total Liberation: This is a presentation part where the facilitator can simply talk people through the slides. Here it is important for the facilitator to familiarise themselves with the concepts of ‘kyriarchy’, ‘privilege’ and ‘intersectionality’. If you have no idea where to beging, Everyday Feminism is a good place to start looking into these. Two notes on the slides: 1. Intersectionality was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 to speak about the lived experiece of working class women of colour, and if you are a white person facilitating this workshop, make sure not to be appropriative of this term but do explain how useful it is to understand how complex our identities are. 2. It is really important that the privilege wheel is very simplistic and basic (but from my experience it serves as a good introduction to the idea of privilege and oppression).

Privilege Exercise: After a short discussion of the privilege wheel the facilitator can chose to include an interactive exercise. This exercise is in a separate prezi which you can find here. The idea is that you read out the sentences on the slides and people indicate if the statemet applies to them. Like the first slide of this prezi indicates, do give a trigger warning as the facilitator. Make sure you let people know that the exercise describes instaces of violence and that they don’t have to participate and should feel free to grab a snack/toilet break at any time if they don’t want to stick around for this. There is a variety of options to facilitate this part. You can ask people to raise their arms, if a statement applies to them. Another option is that people stand up if they feel the statement reflects their lived experiences, or you could have everybody lined up in one row, everytime a statement applies to someone they move forward whilst those who don’t see themselves reflected in a statement move backwards. The main point of this exercise is to make those who are more privileged aware of their privilege and more sensitive to other people’s struggles.

Moving Discussion : This part of the workshop is again interactive, and again it should be pinted out that people are free to chose not to participate. The idea is for you as the facilitatorprepare posters with different kinds of oppressions on them. Spread them across the room and let people move around and share their experiences with these particular oppressions in writing. Beforehand, let everybody know that to feedback to the group you will read them (or some of them) out at the end. When you’ve called everybody back to their seats, read the stateents out and make sure you don’t out anybody, even if you know who wrote what. Feel free to ask ‘would someone like to say a bit more about this?’ and make sure to thank people for sharing often intimate and traumatising experiences.

This is what I write on the posters:

  1. Ableism (discrimination based on mental and/or physical abilities)
  2. Ageism (discrimination based on age)
  3. Cissexism (trasphobia including discrimination against non-binary, gender non-conforming, agender and gender fluid people)
  4. Classisism (discrimination based on belonging to a social class based on your economic/employment status)
  5. Heterosexism (Homophobia, Biphobia, Panphobia and discrimination against non-binary, asexual, polyamorous  and non-conforming love)
  6. Misogyny (discrimination against women and femininity)
  7. Racism and Xenophobia (discrimination based on race, skin colour etc. i.e. white supremacy and discrimination based on the country you are from)
  8. Speciesism (discrimination based on species)
  9. Any other form of kyriarchal oppression

Round Up: Make sure to have a round up in the end. This is you, as the facilitator giving people the opportunity to say somethig they didn’t get to say during the workshop. They can call someone out on something that was said or they can say wat they particularly liked for example.

Some Impressions

Here is a video of some parts of this workshop that I ran at the International Animal Rights Conference 2015 in Luxembourg:

Here are some pictures from the results of the workshop:

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I hope you find this useful and do let me know about ways of improving it.