Talk

Advanced search

Should feminist discussion groups be women-only spaces?

(35 Posts)
sunshineandfreedom Wed 17-Oct-12 11:50:56

To clarify, I mean in-real-life, in-person discussion groups, not online.

I know a group in Cambridge had some trouble recently with male members insisting on 'playing devil's advocate' and talking about how feminist issues were oppressing men(!). That's the type of thing that I'd be wary of. However, there are of course plenty of men who are perfectly capable of intelligent discourse around feminist issues without being misogynistic twunts. Why shouldn't they be welcome?

It boils down to this: Should feminist discussion/activism groups be women-only, or should men be allowed?

Personally I am very conflicted on this, so am really interested to hear all your thoughts on it smile

AuntieStella Wed 17-Oct-12 11:54:36

There should be a range of mixed and woman-only. People will participate in this that interest them and from which they believe they derive benefit.

Letting anyone dominate discussion sounds to me more like poor chairing, rather than inherent in the membership.

sunshineandfreedom Wed 17-Oct-12 11:58:58

But it's still out there once it's said, even if the floor is given to somebody else, and that must get annoying... Also, what about in the context of a less formal group, where there isn't a Chair or anything...?

EmmelineGoulden Wed 17-Oct-12 12:00:49

I don't see why it has to be a binary choice. Surely some can be women only, others to women and men.

I do think all issues benefit from wide and diverse input, but men's voices are pretty loud already. There's a need for women to be able to see what it's like to discourse without a male presence. We hear men's voice all the time on every subject, including feminism, so it's important for there to be space for women to think about and discuss issues without that bias. At the same time women's liberation requires both men and women to accept and understand the issues that prevent women from being equal in our society. So there need to be spaces where men fit in too.

sunshineandfreedom Wed 17-Oct-12 12:03:03

EmmelineGoulden
I don't see why it has to be a binary choice. Surely some can be women only, others to women and men.

I was thinking more if you were part of one, what would you specifically want. hence the binary choice.

I do think all issues benefit from wide and diverse input, but men's voices are pretty loud already. There's a need for women to be able to see what it's like to discourse without a male presence. We hear men's voice all the time on every subject, including feminism, so it's important for there to be space for women to think about and discuss issues without that bias.

That pretty much sums up the part of me that says I would prefer one that was women only.

Alameda Wed 17-Oct-12 12:09:17

I'm just not very interested in men's thoughts on these things, all you ever hear anywhere and everywhere you go is male voices droning on and on and on. It would be nice for them to shut up and listen for once, so I'm not in favour of banning them as such (from Internet discussions do you mean?) but it would be nice if some of them could learn to edit themselves a bit. At least until the airwaves generally have evened out a bit more and we are more used to hearing women too.

Alameda Wed 17-Oct-12 12:21:05

sorry, didn't read first post very well

I wouldn't be interested in attending a group about women's issues that admitted men, why would men even want to be there? They could start their own and invite women to speak there.

sunshineandfreedom Wed 17-Oct-12 12:24:07

I want to start a group like this, and automatically assumed that it would be women-only, but a friend who wants to start it with me thinks we should invite men too. She had her reasons and now I'm all confused! Ack.

HecateLarpo Wed 17-Oct-12 12:27:15

I suppose it depends on whether you think people who are not part of a group can sit and talk about how people who are part of that group think and feel.

So can a white person join a group of black people and talk about how they are affected by racism.

Can a non disabled person join a group of people with disabilities and talk about how they struggle for access or services or help.

But of course, that depends on he purpose of the group. People who are not part of a particular group can certainly be part of a group whose aim is to discuss the difficulties that group has and ways to make a difference.

but does someone who is not part of that group get to decide what those difficulties are, or must they accept that they are whatever the members of that group feel that they are and concentrate only on addressing them as they are presented.

and how do members of a group feel about having someone from what they may see as a group that is part of the problem, sitting there and, in their view perhaps, telling them how to feel and how to solve an issue.

I don't know. Those are just some off the top of my head thoughts.

Alameda Wed 17-Oct-12 12:27:50

oh I started a women's group once with funding from local authority and there was a bit of 'oh no poor men' so someone set up an equivalent, for which there was a glaring lack of interest obviously

my group still going strong 20 years later of course smile

Alameda Wed 17-Oct-12 12:29:31

you could have sort of open meetings every so often where interested men can attend, if they want

TunipTheVegemal Wed 17-Oct-12 12:30:37

Women-only groups are absolutely necessary and it will be much harder for feminism to progress without them.

If people want to have mixed groups too that's fine, but I have always found the women-only ones more interesting, challenging and constructive.

sunshineandfreedom Wed 17-Oct-12 12:31:12

I think I'll print off your list to show her Hecate ;)

blackcurrants Wed 17-Oct-12 12:32:43

If I were to make time in my v. v. busy and crazed life to go to something like this (and how I'd like to!) then I only do so if it were women-only. I can be talked over, patronised, mansplained to and misconstrued in my daily life (like here in FWR by male posters, sometimes!) - if I'm going to talk Feminism IRL, let it be with women, who experience patriarchy, and who are starting from a similar position as me.

TunipTheVegemal Wed 17-Oct-12 12:32:45

The compromise my group came to is that our regular meetings are woman-only but we run mixed events sometimes. We had one person coming along once purely to tell us that we were sexist for EVER having woman-only meetings and she would therefore be boycotting us. I think it is fascinating that there is so much hostility to women organising as a political group.

blackcurrants Wed 17-Oct-12 12:33:35

I think it's fear, Turnip

sunshineandfreedom Wed 17-Oct-12 12:41:56

blackcurrants
if I'm going to talk Feminism IRL, let it be with women, who experience patriarchy, and who are starting from a similar position as me.

Agreed. Thanks you lot, you're explainingmy thoughts much better than I can! grin

enimmead Wed 17-Oct-12 12:50:56

I've not been to a feminist group yet. Are your members typical of the local community or are they more full of certain types of women? I suppose what I'm suggesting is that women do experience discrimination within the patriarchy but some women may have no idea about a particular group of women's experiences IYSWIM. For example, a young single mum living in a council house experiences a totally different life and has a totally different experience under the patriarchy to a well off, married, middle class mum. I suppose as long as they listen to each other and try to understand and support, that is important.

Alameda Wed 17-Oct-12 12:57:20

when my daughter set up a young parents group, nobody said 'but what about parents who are over 25?' and when her youth group got just under £5 million funding from the government nobody said 'you must use that money to also run events for older people'. Nobody said 'what about people with unipolar depression or schizophrenia' when I started a bipolar support group. But I do remember opposition to the women's group, even though it wasn't particularly feminist then or now. Why is that?

Alameda Wed 17-Oct-12 13:04:23

am struggling to think of any other group to which access for those not directly affected by the issues might be sought - anyone?

sunshineandfreedom Wed 17-Oct-12 13:10:24

You're right, I can't think of any either...

enimmead Wed 17-Oct-12 13:30:57

I suppose you could look at the purpose of the group. If it's purpose is to discuss issues and effect change, would it be useful to have "supporters" along to help with that? If men are concerned about gender equality and the rights of women in society, would there be harm in having them there as supporters?

For example, I have not had cancer but I would like to get involved in a group fighting for cancer research and the rights of people with cancer. Or what about someone who is not a minority race going to a group fighting for anti-racism?

Of course - if the member of the group causes problems and tries to explain how it must feel, then that is an issue. But what if their presence is genuine? That they want to help and support? Is that an issue - or is it the fact that it is a safe place to discuss issues?

TeaAndHugs Wed 17-Oct-12 13:32:52

No, but they should be women-positive spaces. i.e. If men turn up and start spouting anti-feminist rhetoric, those individuals should be asked to leave and banned from coming back. They also shouldn't be allowed to dominate the space and distract attention with "what about the menz?" questions.

I would be less likely to attend a women-only group. My male partner has strong feminist beliefs and could make a positive contribution to local feminist activism - why shouldn't I be allowed to bring him to meetings?

ArterialSpurtMonkey Wed 17-Oct-12 13:35:28

I agree with alameda and tunip. Nothing wrong with women organising alone.

ArterialSpurtMonkey Wed 17-Oct-12 13:37:14

Even very very 'right on' men can be an utter fucking nightmare ime. And often the more right n they pride themselves on being, the less receptive they are to having their sexist, privileged, or entitled behaviour pointed out to them. Again, ime.c

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now