Celebrating our Victories!: The Massive Success of “Introduction to Feminist Activism”

Celebrating our Victories!: The Massive Success of “Introduction to Feminist Activism”

Let me be honest with you, when I pitched the idea of a 5-week series of workshops on feminist activism to be held from 7-9pm of Thursday nights at the women’s center I thought that there was a good chance no one would come. It takes a special kind of person to give up her free time to come out and learn more about social justice, especially during the few warm and summery evenings we have here in Newfoundland and Labrador. But guess what? Those special people came out, and they came out in droves. Every week the SJSOWC welcomed 20+ participants hungry for the opportunity to share their feminist activism, and learn new strategies for making change.

In each workshop we covered a different topic together. Beginning with “Feminism and Activism” in our first week, we moved on to “Feminism, Sex and Love”, “Feminism and Healthcare”, “Feminism and Parenting”, and finally “Feminism and Solidarity”. For those of you who weren’t able to make it out to the workshops, here’s a quick overview:

Feminism and Activism: Feminist approaches to activism encompass a wide range of strategies from radical direct action, to minor interventions in daily life. Despite the power of feminist theoretical scholarship to inform and inspire practical activism, a deep chasm remains between feminist theory and activist practice. In this presentation we explored 5 activist tactics that make possible the redistribution of power including research, support, campaigning, organizing and protest.

Feminism Sex and Love: Discussions of feminism and sex often center on sexual violence. During this workshop we left sexual violence to the side in order to discuss some of the other ways that women experience sexual inequity. Topics included sexual consent, orgasm inequality, and some of the ways women’s bodies are commonly misunderstood. We also talked about what feminist love might look like, including straight, queer and platonic relationships.

Feminism and Healthcare: Perhaps our most explosive workshop. If you don’t know about the women’s health scandals that have rocked this province, including the Cameron Inquiry, the huge number of hysterectomies in Central Newfoundland, and the overuse of cesarean sections (sometimes called unne-cesareans), then it is time to start paying attention! We went on to cover some of the ways that women have made major strides in the healthcare field including the increased representation of women physicians, and women’s contributions to the wellness movement.

Feminism and Parenting: We welcomed our youngest participant at this workshop. At just a few weeks old this teeny feminist-in-training set the stage for a broad discussion of feminism and parenthood, as well as the choice to remain child-free. Together we explored the biggest taboo, people who regret having children. We also discussed the kinds of practices feminist parents engage in when it comes to how they treat their children, other parents, and themselves.

Feminism and Solidarity: In our last workshop of the series we focused on women and work. This included the history of women in the labour movement and the importance of unions in Newfoundland and Labrador. We also discussed how unions are used to engender social justice and political action. Participants were most excited by the simple step-by-step instructions for how to get involved in your union if you are a part of one, and how to start a union if your workplace is not already unionized.

Sad you missed one or all of these workshops? Know a group who would benefit from one of these presentations? Contact Feminist-in Residence Chandra Kavanagh at kavanacl [at] mcmaster.ca for more information on how to bring these workshops to you!

Picture: Alison receiving her certificate for attending all 5 classes for Feminist in Residence, Chandra Kavanagh.






By Chandra Kavanagh

Chandra is an ethicist, author and international public speaker Chandra Kavanagh is a PhD Candidate in the philosophy department at McMaster University where she studies feminist thought and biomedical ethics. Chandra has delivered presentations on political and ethical issues that have received high acclaim across Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. An award-winning feminist and labour activist, Chandra received the 2016 Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario “Sisters in Solidarity” award for her outstanding work on gender issues in her role as president of CUPE Local 3906. Chandra has 20+ publications in both academic and popular media formats with a strong focus on ethics and gender.