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Welcome to Women Speak Out…

Women Speak Out is a UK-based feminist discussion project. Its aim is to get women’s views on a variety of topics, so as to build a picture of the key issues concerning women and the current nature of feminism.

Throughout 2010 we held informal round table discussions with women in cities across the country to find out: What most concerns you? Is ‘now’ a good time to be a woman? What does feminism mean to you? and more.

We then produced a booklet which documents the discussions we had. You can download a copy of the booklet (PDF document) here: Women Speak Out booklet 2010 – 11

But we don’t want to stop here! We want women in more cities and towns across the country (particularly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) to set up their own Women Speak Out-style discussions so we can continue to build a comprehensive picture of feminism across the UK on this blog. Please click here for details on how to do this.

Women Speak Out discussions are an opportunity for women to share their views and experiences face-to-face in an informal atmosphere. A lot of communication between feminists these days takes place online, but we still feel there’s value in meeting up and talking in person with other women. Our discussions are a form of consciousness-raising, creating a space for women to listen to each other, express themselves and work out what they think about things.

In the meantime, we hope you find reading our discussions inspiring and that they’ll get you thinking about how being a woman affects our lives and what we can do to change things to improve women’s equality and freedom.

And if you want to get involved in any way, or would like further info, please get in touch. You can leave your comments and questions by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ above.

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Update

Women Speak Out is now underway & we held our first discussion on Saturday in London – a post on that will appear soon.

In the meantime, we have firmed up plans for discussions in a few other cities, including Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham & Bristol. Go here for full details.

If you would like to take part in any of these discussions, or would like further info, then please get in touch by leaving a comment below.

And if you would like us to come to your city, then do please also get in touch!

An example…

We’ll be posting comments from women we meet.  Here’s an example of the style we’re going to use. 

On Women and Feminism

Jessica: My feminism is about fighting the stereotype of what it means to be a woman.

So many aspects of life assume that the default position is male. Society says that male is normal, and female is something different. Well, I don’t want to hear about women’s news and I don’t want a computer or a car designed specially for women. Women are not this strange, other, alien race. Women are normal.

The statistical differences between men and women are insignificant compared to the differences between individuals. I would like to live in a world free of gender. No one except my doctor and my lover really needs to know whether I’m male or female.

Most of the time I don’t feel like a woman. I feel like an individual who happens to be female.

Michelle: To me, feminism is about freedom for women; freedom from having to live up to sexist stereotypes which tell us what a ‘woman’ is and does.

These stereotypes encourage women to conform to certain ideals and roles e.g. we are still expected to make more of our beauty than our brains and deemed to be more ‘natural’ at caring for others, and so mothers usually end up doing most of the childcare even if they also work outside of the home. We need to relieve women of these pressures, so we are free to be who we really are and to do what we really want. 

I also think it’s necessary for feminism to tackle the other ways in which women may experience discrimination, aside from that based on their sex and also arising, for example, from their race, class, ability, sexuality, religion, culture etc so as to achieve freedom from all discrimination for all women.

On Women and Politics

Jessica: There aren’t enough women in politics. It’s not because women aren’t good enough. It’s much more subtle than that. The political system has been the preserve of white, middle-class and aristocratic men for so long that it’s difficult for anyone else to be heard. We have some brilliant role-models, some pioneering women, but until the political stereotypes are consigned to history then we need to keep trying.

I’m not just interested in “women’s politics” about families and schools. That’s important, but so is foreign policy. So is economic policy. So is crime and tax and health and pensions and immigration and transport. Don’t assume that because I’m a woman I don’t think about those issues.

Michelle: Mainstream UK politics is still too white, male and middle-class and I can understand why a lot of people are apathetic towards politics, as despite what the three main party leaders say, there isn’t much hope of seeing real change from any of them.

And I think quite substantial change is needed within electoral politics to get more women involved and more policies which will benefit women. For example, the male-dominated culture of Parliament, with its jeering form of ‘debate’, and the fact it spends more money on fighting wars than on education, needs to change.  

But until then, I still think it’s important that women are politically engaged and use their vote. The political system has brought some gains for women’s rights over the past few decades, and the more we use our vote and voices the more profound our gains could be.

What is Women Speak Out?

Jessica and Michelle will be visiting cities across England this summer to meet up with women to discuss their thoughts on feminism, politics, and the issues that matter to them.

We currently have trips to London, Birmingham and Leeds planned where we will hold café discussions with women to get their views on a variety of topics.

Given that 2010 is a General Election year, now is the time to find out what’s on women’s minds.  This blog will document the discussions we have in each city, recording women’s views and mapping the nature of feminism across the country at this politically significant time.

Where did the idea for Women Speak Out come from?

Women Speak Out was inspired by the book Girldrive: Criss-Crossing America, Redefining Feminism by Nona Willis Aronowitz and Emma Bee Bernstein, a document of a road trip they took across the US to get young women’s thoughts on feminism.

Reading it prompted the question, ‘What would a UK Girldrive look like?’ Given the re-emergence of feminist movement in the country over the past few years, and amidst a recession and other upheavals in politics generally, we feel it is a particularly pertinent time to gather women’s thoughts on feminism and the issues that affect them.

How can I get in touch?

If you would like to take part in Women Speak Out, or would like further info, please leave a comment below.


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