Friday, July 12, 2013

Womyn Warriors: Seeking to actually liberate women

Exactly one week ago I approached a small group of womyn standing outside Beaver Hall Gallery.  I expected to see hate accusing protesters and was relieved by their absence. I was committed to attending the first ever Toronto Radical Feminist conference and the weekend was going to be my first experience in nearly three decades of face to face discussions and speakers about women's issues such as violence, reproductive justice and human trafficking in a womyn's only setting.  As I sit here writing this I can not comprehend how little I knew last Friday morning about the state of oppression towards women on this planet. It was like I was in a bubble and now it has been burst.

It was a smaller gathering than expected because of the threats of violence faced by the organizer's and the venue. Women get scared. Systemic oppression does that. Rape victims don't want to be triggered. Exited sex workers don't want to be outed. For conference attendees who brought children there was a feeling of enormous guilt about exposing their offspring to possible violence. All of us are still processing this ugly side of our event. Here is a short description by one fellow attendee. Here is another attendee's writeup.

Last fall I met a young man who lived in Yugoslavia during the country's breakup. His family eventually refugeed to Canada. He discussed his childhood back in a land under war. His recollection, as a child, was that of many family members being around and supporting one another. He had siblings and cousins about all the time. They played while the parents pulled together to survive. These are his happy childhood memories and he spoke of this fondly. In his new country families are disjoint: including his own. His story comes back to me as I try and capture the experience I had last weekend. Because that's ultimately how I will remember this gathering. An infant played while the womyn pulled together to work towards liberation.

But make no mistakes about it: we were terrrorized. Anyone dismissive of that reality for a group of a couple of dozen women is oppressing my reality. You were not there.  You did not live through what we experienced.  And while we were terrorized we managed to listen to many speakers from all across Turtle Island tell us about the state of oppression towards women:  in this country and around the world.  The facts are frightening. From toxic/rape/porn culture that leads to youth suicide to human sex trafficking that the pornstitution is behind. Aboriginal women and the Pickton house of horrors. The centuries long ongoing process of eroding womyn's reproductive justice. History lessons that revealed the true sources of any societal change that has occurred in the last few hundred years. And finally, actionable items that will help mobilize a few more womyn that are actually interested in liberating women rather than mere empowerment.

In the course of our baptism into radical feminism we forged bonds through personal stories and sharing of insights. And I had many tears. Tears of rage when hearing of a mother dropping off her own daughter and grandchild to a homeless shelter because the mother's boyfriend was inconvenienced by the baby. Tears of horror when hearing of torture survivors struggling to communicate their story with drawings: they can not talk of it. Tears that were triggered when I saw, for the first time,  how thoroughly patriarchy had brainwashed me into the liberal feminist narrative and how damaging that might have been for newly adult Daughter. Tears for the direct violence I experienced in my own life yet did not clearly recognize until last weekend. Tears of gratitude that a group of womyn continually risk their safety so that womyn like myself can learn more.

Yes I cried a lot. And if you are not crying about the continuing state of oppression of women in our world then I really think we can no longer be friends.  There is a war on women. I've chosen to work towards liberation.

Nigerian dwarf goats: also discussed at RadFemRiseUp
(to be explained later)


  1. Thanks for sharing this Orla. It was great to meet you and learn with you. I am so glad you were there.

  2. I am an old woman and I see women's rights eroding further every year, I am horrified that the patriarchy, rape and porn culture and the oxymoronic "sex worker" has become acceptable in the media.
    It is heartening to see these issues being addressed and so bravely. Brava!

  3. Thank you for writing this.

    I remember the moment the flood gates came open for me. I was alive with pain, but alive. Many of the women in attendance at Radfem RiseUp are close to my heart, part of our inner radfem circle. I hope the circle keeps getting wider and wider until every woman is in the arms of sisterhood and men cannot hurt us anymore.

    Love and sisterhood <3

    1. Thank-you. I feel like I was blind and now I see. There must be so many more like us out there :) xo

  4. I find it interesting that this blog post fails to mention "transgender" or "gender identity" or acknowledge that the reason you were terrorized was, in part, because of those issues.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. I never saw the actual threats and the police were in the process of trying to obtain them from the venue.

      I feel that the reason the threats were issued are moot. Threats of violence against womyn meeting are wrong, period.


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