Free, Feisty and Ready to Fight! Feminist Summer School

by Grace Evans

Last summer when I was living in the UK I heard about something called “feminist summer school.” Naturally, I investigated immediately. UK Feminista, an organization that supports groups and individuals working for gender equality, put on the two-day event in London. I went to both days and the programming was excellent. And luckily they are doing the same event this summer.

The Summer School teaches campaign skills to activists and aspiring activists. Workshops that they are offering this year include how to run feminist groups, influence politicians, use the media, run an effective campaign and to promote diversity in campaigning.

Kat Banyard founded UK Feminista early last year as a place that grassroots groups can connect and support each other. She was taken aback by the overwhelming response to the conference last year, when over 100 people registered for the event in the first 24 hours. At only 29 years old, Banyard has been called the UK’s most influential young feminist. “In the last five years, there has been a burgeoning of grassroots feminism,” she told the London Evening Standard. “The young have been sold the lie that equality has been achieved, but they aren’t standing for that any more… Feminism’s resurgence is a response to this: women are marching again.”

One attendee, Marta Lucy Summer, wrote about her experience of the weekend on her blog Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, nicely capturing the tone and energy of the event. Summer praised the summer school for the emphasis on practice on the first day of the weekend. She wrote, “Just from listening I felt so inspired I started taking notes for future endeavors/involvements/articles and frankly, nothing beats that intense feeling of wanting to do something RIGHT NOW, and being given some actual tools as opposed to just walking up and down the room reeling from frustration.”

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Guardian journalist Bidisha also wrote about the event, where she was a panelist: “The audience was so motivated, articulate and aware that I am unshakably convinced that, as one attendee put it, ‘it’s not about waves of feminism, we need a tsunami’ – and that tsunami is here. It’s here because our frustration, anger, claustrophobia and chagrin have reached their limit.”

The enthusiasm and energy at the event was inspiring, and as Summer wrote last summer, it is nice to have a place to direct your anger and energy into something that feels productive and hopeful. What I think is so important about the event is that it is about building an accessible entry point for young feminists and activists to get involved in a way that isn’t intimidating. The weekend is about workshops and panels and education, so inexperienced feminists don’t need to be worried that they won’t be able to keep up with the conversation – after all, they’re there to learn. In addition the event is free, which definitely makes for a greater draw from a wider audience of people.

If you’re in the UK, Feminist Summer School 2011 is August 13th and 14th at the University of Birmingham. It’s FREE, but you do need to register

[London Evening Standard]


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