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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stitchin, bitchin ... and ending patriarchy (2005)

From the 1st - 4th February, anarchafeminists
from all over Aotearoa gathered
at Marama-iti for a marathon
of meetings, workshops, skill-shares and
delicious meals. The Stitch ‘n’ Bitch will
hopefully be the first of many regular national
conferences at which womyn can
get inspired, recharged and organised for
regional anarcha-feminist activities.
Our experiences at the anarchist talkfest
in Christchurch last year prompted
a re-realisation for many womyn that we
need to be organising separately around
feminist issues, as well as getting together
to socialise and support each other. The
organisation of the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch was a
fairly hurried and haphazard affair driven
by the feeling that “we really need to do
something”. We’re taking stumbling steps
at the moment, but the anarcha-feminist
dragon has been snoozing a while and is
just lumbering to her feet again.
Among the things drawing her from
her cave are the recent revelations of rape
and sexual abuse in our community. We
were lucky to have at the conference two
womyn who have been involved in dealing
with a sexual abuser in Wellington. They
explained to us the process their group has
been through and provoked lengthy discussions
about how we can best protect
our community, support survivors and deal
with rapists.
It was good to finally talk about these
issues in a relatively safe and respectful
space. However, these conversations took
us right into the sexist heart of darkness
and we did struggle to find ways of talking
which were emotionally safe but not ridiculously
abstract. We also felt stretched
between wanting to find solutions to these
problems and needing to provide a space
for women to talk about their experiences,
a process which is at the heart of feminist
politics in any case. It was obvious that too
few opportunities for this exist, and one of
the projects to come out of the conference
is plans for a support group for survivors of
rape and sexual abuse.
It really grieved me to see that such a
huge part of what it means to be a womyn
in our society is surviving sexual violence.
I was really angry that so many amazing
womyn had been hurt in this way, that so
much life, energy and creativity has been
sapped by it. At the same time, the strength
with which they survive is incredible, and
an inspiration we will need if we are ever to
heal our world.
We also covered the herstory of
Anarcha-fem in Aotearoa, facilitation,
mental health, natural fertility, the zine
and where we’re headed next. We ran out
of time and energy for many important
discussions, such as Tino Rangatiratanga,
sexuality, economics, affinity groups,
armed struggle... (you name it, it was on
the agenda) but hopefully as we grow in
strength we will be able to spend more time
looking outwards.
Of course there was a celebratory side
to our gathering and we had a wonderful
time swimming in the sea, dancing in
the rain, sitting round a fire eating choccy
bananas, doing a bit of sewing and lots of
chatting with a bunch of wonderful women.
It was really energising to see new faces
and especially to have kids around.
We realised that having a conference
mid-week is a problem for many women,
and that stretching it out to 4 days didn’t
help us achieve that much more. It was
also really, really hot! So the next conference
will hopefully be a weekend near midwinter
in Papaioea or Te Upoko o te Ika a
Maui (i.e. somewhere in the lower North
Island), but we need suggestions and enthusiasm.
Huge thanks to Jeff and Lucy for hosting
us, you have created an amazing space
at Marama-iti. Also to everyone involved
in organising, especially Ali and Tara for
the wonderful food. And to everyone who
came for making the magic of sisterhood
and solidarity.

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