Your space is not my space.Posted: August 1, 2014
Imagine organising a women’s conference that included all women. Imagine having a conference on feminism that was a safe space for trans* women. Imagine having a conference that was fully wheelchair accessible, that had signers for the deaf, and braille and large-print handouts for the blind and partially-sighted. Imagine having a conference with adult changing facilities for the profoundly disabled.
Imagine a conference with a sensory safe space for women on the autistic spectrum. Imagine a conference where people with OCD or Tourette Syndrome or autism could stim and make noise knowing they are not being judged but are being appreciated as the women they are.
Imagine a conference that provided a prayer room for Muslim women. That provided free childcare for single mothers. Imagine a conference that was fully open to every woman, no matter what.
Because feminism is becoming distinctly exclusionary. There are trans* women, disabled women, women with mental health conditions and homeless women who all deserve to be in a feminist space. Yet so many people are not willing to welcome them in. Imagine if you were holding a feminist conference and a women who was homeless turned up, having not showered for a week? Would you look disapproving at her as you had your Marks and Spencer sandwich on the lunch break?
These gatherings and spaces are aimed towards educated, money earning middle class people. They are not aimed at the women who live in the high rise in Hackney, or the disabled woman who lives in a group home, or the woman with aspergers who doesn’t know how to be part of a discussion, even though she has a lot to say. Why are we excluding these people? Why are we excluding people who are not like us? Is it because we want our feminism to be powerful yet familiar? Is it because we don’t know how to deal with a woman who chooses to cover her face, or who needs 24 hour care, or who finds it difficult to interact socially with people? And I wonder if we hide behind the excuse of “suitability” of our venues – “Oh, we can’t find anywhere that would suit your needs, health and safety, would disturb people, wouldn’t be appropriate” – to exclude all these women from feminist spaces? Because we shouldn’t be. Every woman deserves to have a role and feminism needs to stop being the exclusive club of the able-bodied white women it always has been.