Feminist Futures Conference: Build a feminist future with Radical Women

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The world is bursting with revolt against the many brutalities afflicted by capitalism. It’ s no surprise that women are among the resisters, leading. The unifying force of feminism is needed more than ever. For this reason, national forums like the Feminist Futures Conference (FFC) in Melbourne over the weekend of May 28 – 29 are so needed.

This gathering continues the momentum of the F Conference, Australia’ s first national feminist conference in at least 15 years. Held in Sydney last year, it was electrifying. Four hundred women and men came from towns and cities across the country. They spanned generations, sexualities, genders, colours, life situations and political perspectives. Most participants were young – so much for the mainstream myth that feminism is a relic of the past.

The Melbourne Feminist Collective, organiser of the Melbourne conference, has set out to enable “ robust debate” among feminists in order “ to build strong bonds of solidarity, guard against uncritical stances and allow a number of different voices to be heard.”

Radical Women (RW) participated in the F Conference and is keen to again be a part of robust debate. We’ re hoping the conference will lay ground for campaigns around burning issues for women — reproductive rights, decent jobs and equal pay, welfare rights without coercion, housing, free education and training, healthcare and public transport.

We’ re eager to meet and work with other feminists wanting to build a robust, multi-issue, broad-based and militant feminist movement, the kind of movement that will act in solidarity with our sisters and brothers leading revolts around the world. A movement capable of linking and leading the battles for all of the poor and oppressed in this country.

RW looks forward to working and engaging with conference goers in the following discussions and debates:

RW will hold an interactive workshop, Reproductive Justice: How are we going to get it? The global ultra-right onslaught on abortion rights is happening in Australia. The trial last year of the young Cairns couple under Queensland’ s 19th abortion laws shows how far the anti-abortion forces will go, if not resisted. The unrelenting anti-abortion targeting of the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne — helped by Melbourne City Council’s use of local laws against the clinic defenders — will not stop without a strong reproductive rights movement. Another workshop to attend is Activating the pro-choice majority: Rebuilding activism for abortion rights, run by the Pro-Choice Action Collective, which has led the grassroots fight in Queensland.

Marisa Sposaro, disability rights activist and RW member, is a panellist who will speak about the frontline role of women with disability in the feminist movement. Alison Thorne, workplace delegate for the Community Public Sector Union and Melbourne organiser for the Freedom Socialist Party, is a panel speaker on Women and Work. Thorne also represents the grassroots equal pay campaign, Pay Justice Action.

The Indigenous Social Justice Association workshop, Why stopping Aboriginal deaths in custody is a feminist issue, addresses this crucial fight. The genocidal persecution of Aboriginal Australians by courts and police throughout the country has not abated.

The International Women’ s Peace Service will hold a workshop on why feminists and queers must support Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. This issue shot to the top of the news headlines after intense Zionist pressure on Sydney’ s Marrickville Council to revoke its endorsement for BDS. That the continuing Zionist suppression of the Palestinian people falls heaviest on women and young people makes the campaign a feminist issue.

Sex work and transgender rights are shaping up to be contentious debates at the conference. Panellist Sheila Jeffreys will put the radical feminist argument that sex work must be outlawed: this is based on the notion that sex is how men impose their supremacy and therefore sexual intercourse is violence against women. She is also vehemently anti-transgender, claiming that transgender people constitute another form of “ invasion” of women by men. Another panellist, Kathleen Maltzahn, supports the criminalisation of payment for sex, as legislated in Sweden — which has left sex workers open to violence from customers, super-exploitation by bosses and harassment from authorities. RW believes that prostitution is an outcome of the monogamy of the nuclear family. Until the economic system, based on private property, and sexual relations, based on the oppression of women, are revolutionised, sex work has to be thoroughly legalised. Sex workers can then be unionised, giving them the industrial strength to fight collectively for decent wages and conditions.

Transgender sex workers have proven themselves to be the toughest fighters. Feminists need to get behind these intertwined struggles and solidarise with our sex worker and trans sisters and brothers. Transgender Victoria is holding a workshop, Questioning the Question: checking assumptions re sex and gender, and Scarlet Alliance will host Myths and realities of sex work. These workshops will be “ must attends.”

If you’ re interested, contact Radical Women: radicalwomen@optusnet.com.au or 03-9388-0062. Share your ideas. Come to RW’ s pre-conference working bee on Thursday, 26 May, from 6.30 pm at Solidarity Salon, 580 Sydney Road, Brunswick (snacks available for a $5.00 donation). Take the Upfield train to Anstey station or the #19 North Coburg tram to Blyth Street; there’ s plenty of parking off Staley Street. If you want to meet up at the conference, look for RW’ s literature and come to our workshop.

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