Why should there be a "women only space" at conferences?
The following view was stated by a male individual, long term activist, contributing to a recently useful discussion about the question of women only space at the mini conference.
This was one of several things written for the discussion, we hope to circulate the others too.
"Some notes for a gathering on a women only space."
"One starting point is thinking about what are the fundamental things wrong with the world we are trying to change.One fundamental oppression, as important as class and the profit economy, is patriarchy - a system of institutions, relationships and sets of beliefs whereby women are oppressed by men, and whereby both women and men are conditioned into restrictive gender roles which oppress us both.
How can patriarchy be overthrown?
One vital element is women organising together to resist this oppression. I don't mean that this should be left to women, obviously men and mixed groups SHOULD be active about this. But generally its usually the people who are most directly oppressed by something who are the foremost in resisting it. That's one reason why I think its important to have women only workshops and space at the event, in order, in one small way, to support this process of women organising together against patriarchy. Together with this, it is clear that the nature of some of the discussions at such meetings would mean that the presence of men could have an inhibiting effect on the discusion, eg patriarchy involves the oppression of women in personal relationships, and inequality between women and men in our own groups and movement. I think women only workshops and space will also have the effect of encouraging more women to come to the event, and hopefully also encourage more debate about gender roles and so on in the gathering as a whole. Rather than, as some might fear, taking women away from the mixed workshops i think it will have the result of encouraging women to attend the event who would not have attended otherwise. It is a common, and often ignored, problem of such events that there is a considerabley smaller no of women attending than there is men."