I was excited when I heard UK Feminista were holding a feminist conference in London, I made sure I could come by swapping my Saturday at work and bought a ticket as soon as I could.
FEM11 was my first ever feminist conference and certainly won't be my last!
I had to get up really early as I wanted to make sure I got there early to register (which was a good move as the event was sold out and soon after we had arrived there was a massive queue going outside the door)! The registers were set in alphabetical order by first name which caused some confusion for me as I paid with Paypal which is in my husband's name, so I was down with his name instead and for a tiny moment I thought I wouldn't be on the list!
There was a bit of time before the conference so I had a look around the stalls, most of them were charity and organisations so I picked up lots of leaflets including detailed booklets on the work of End Violence Against Women. I also spent lots of money on a stall but I won't say what as the things I got are Xmas presents :)
About 10am we made our way into the big hall which was packed solid with loads of people- of all genders, ages and backgrounds, it took us ages to find a seat! Kat Banyard of UK Feminsta then done a introduction to the event and we heard various speeches including an excellent and humorous one from Sandi Toksving including the epic line "If Rapunzel had hair long enough to let a man climb and rescue her, why didn't she make a rope and climb down herself?"
There was a short break and then it was time for the first seminar of the day. The one I picked for the morning session was a talk from The Fawcett Society about the impacts of the government cuts and promoting their Don't Turn Back time march which is happening next Saturday. It was quite a depressing talk highlighting the need for help for families, low income mothers, victims of violence and older women. The most distressing part was hearing about maternity discrimination in the work place from a speaker from Platform 51 including tales of women who were dismissed shortly after announcing their pregnancy.
Afterwards there was an hour for lunch, the cafe had a huge queue so Cara took me to a place nearby called Planet Organic which had an awesome range of vegan food- so I had a falafel wrap, some organic cola and a vegan muffin :) We also got to try some raw vegan chocolate which tasted AMAZING.
The afternoon seminar I picked was from the group Object who campaign against the objectification of women. The seminar was in the big hall again and this was very full up and for the most part I really enjoyed their talk, we got to see some videos of them in action including their Feminist Friday action in Tesco and challenging lad mags on the news. I mostly agreed with what they had to say, but find myself conflicted with their views on sex work. I don't agree with the idea of selling sex, but I do worry if we ban their advertising and so on, that we may make things worse for the women involved, and of course there is the whole issue of choice-if women want to sell their bodies this way- is that okay? I find the sex work issue a somewhat complex issue in regards to my feminist beliefs. I discussed it with Cara who was very much against sex work, and to my dismay this was when she also told me that she was against transgender people, I won't go into details here, but I was shocked and I really can't see her point of view at all, I could only agree to disagree, I thought of many things I could have said later on but it was too late :(
There was another short break and then back in the main hall all together for the final parts of the day "Feminist Question Time" where we had the opportunity to ask some select feminists questions on a variety of topics including politics and porn- there's a good blog about it here
and then the mayor candidate debate, which has also been blogged about better than I could here
Overall the day was very inspiring and gave me plenty of food for thought. It also made me realise more some of the conflicts in the feminism community (like the porn industry, working with men etc) which saddens me a little as even though we may have different views, we need to work together on the things we DO agree on to make a difference. I also thought the question and answer sessions weren't always as well organised as they could have been, but I could understand it must be difficult with a room filled with over a thousand rowdy feminists!
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