[Breakingthesilence] personnal summary of last episodes

ni co lu nicolu at chutelibre.org
Mar 30 Mar 17:57:24 CEST 2004

I had send this text three  months ago when trying with other people to
start this list and give genral informations to people who wanted to work on
gender issue inside pga network. As the list is now
created with new people, i've decided to resend it in addition to inga and
bosa's call. good read...

nicolu /

Here is a pretty long and chaotic message that should have been sent long
before. But  I couldn't find energy and time. It is, with really bad
sentences, some of my personnal feelings after the gender working group
meeting in belgrade. It also give a report of the few things we've decided
during this meeting. It is more than all a call for you to read all this and

But first and to replace it in a chonological order, here is the report (for
those of you who haven't read it yet) of what was said about the gender
proposals at the last general preparation meeting in belgrade in october.

part one / the general meeting:

Gender issue proposals for the conference :

During the pga winter meeting in dijon in march 2003, it was collectively
decided (by a group of thirty people involved with pga, people from various
european countries and collectives) to give concrete proposals about gender
issue for the next conference.. These proposals were linked partly with
reports of sexual harassment during pga linked events, but moreover because
of a feeling that the gender issue was often taken a secondary issue and
discriminated inside pga and anticapitalists movements. Some people,
espacially women, often involved with the network since quite a long time,
felt more than fed up about it and wanted to find practical ways to push a
bit more the gender issue both inside anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian
movement and in society in general. These proposals were agreed by everybody
at the winter meeting, a gender working group was started. The reason why
these proposals were specifically rediscussed at this preparation meeting
was to make sure that the pga conference conference preparation group would
also agree with it, in order to know on what the gender working could
concretely start to work on, and on wich basis it could make contacts with
other groups struggling on gender issues.

    * It was agreed to make a flyer which should be spread before the
conference. Flyer should be a sort of warning on sexist attitudes, sexual
abuses and harassment and ways to prevent it during the conference. It was
agreed that the flyer would be included in a PGA practical guide that would
be given to everybody at the conference. (C)
    * the proposal of specifically inviting feminist and anti-patriarchy
collectives to participate and give workshops during the conference was also
agreed on, as well as the fact to start an open questionnary on
gender/anti-patriarchy struggles inside the movement.
    * some people also thougt that the proposals of the winter meeting were
just about patriarchy inside the movement. It was explained that it wasn't,
and agreed to make it clearer. (C)
    * It was proposed to make available a »men only« and »women only« space,
where women and men could meet for specific discussions, and also for women
as a place to feel safe in a case of sexist/sexual aggression. It was
proposed as a tool of struggling against patriarchy and gender norms seen as
usefull and quite usual for various people. By some participants this was
seen as sort of segregation. Also, the question on »defining« women and men
was raised (but left unanswered). The proposal was blocked.
Next proposition was that during the conference one whole day should be
about gender issues (Gender day) in general, not only inside the movement.
By some participants this was also not seen as a priority. (blocked as well)
Comment about the block:

    * in a group of twenty to thirty people, two people chose to block the
"men" only and "women" only spaces, and the same people blocked as well the
day about gender.
    * On the other hand, various people expressed they felt shocked that
such initiatives and proposals were blocked in the framework of pga and
expressed their will and need to have sent on the process list some
reactions and texts about gender issues in general, but also specifically on
the usefullness of women-only or men-only spaces as tools to struggle
against patriarchy and gender norms.
    * Some people expressed at the time, that they wanted these feelings to
appear on the report.
    * This part of the discussion brought nevertheless strong tensions that
will have to be overcome by one way or another. It was said that everybody
should feel encouraged to give public feedback about this discussion.
    * But it must also be said that the whole issue and reasons to refuse
the proposal were discussed again two days later with one of the people who
blocked it.
    * Everybody should therefore also give a look at the gender group
meeting report (still to come) to get more explanations.
    * There will be also a work to give more details and explanations about
the various proposals.
    * (bosa/azin and nicolu/tanneries will take care to initiate that)
        * A meeting to work specifically on gender issue was announced This
group will meet after the preparatory meeting. (as said before, the gender
working group was already formed during the wintermeeting and not this time)

In conclusion A debate is open till the next meeting where these proposals
wille be rediscussed (C)

part two / what we can do, analysis, gender working group meeting:

After this passionate debate and final block against the gender working
group main proposals, a few of us (4 womens from belgrade, one women from
belgium and two guys from france) who wanted to work on the issue decided to
have another specific meeting.

We first thought that it would be a working group of people with a similar
state of mind and interest in gender issues, but in the end two guys came
(one of them had initiated the block) and wanted to argue again about
(against ??) the proposals.

I still dont know if I have to take some of the comments they did and they
way they participated as a new act of disagreement and sabotage on an issue
they dont understand and doesn't have much interest in...

It made me really furious at the time, at least during part of the
meeting.It was espacially  insane because it kind of ended at some points
with me and two other big mouth men taking all the space and speech at the
front of four other women (not speaking most of the time) and arguing about what anti-patriarchy struggles
and feminism should be or not. The kind of caricature of a sexist situation
in a meeting that is supposed to work against patriarchy and sexism.
It made me feel quite sick of myself afterwards as well...

On the other side, it could be taken (and that's what the two guys  said as
far as I understood) as an act
of good will of people who are curious, who dont want to stay on a blocked
situation and who want to learn more on the issue and participate to the
working group.

Maybe I sometimes loose patience when I'm faced to the same old tiring
arguments and forget that people haven't thought much about it and that
there was a time it was all new to me as and difficult to understand as
well... I dont know...

And I also know it's even easier for me to take it easy as I'm a men, and
not really in the position of being oppressed. 

If I take it in a positive way, I would say that most of the people at the
preparatory meeting were open or positive about the proposals and about the
fact to push the gender issue in the network. But it was also new to a lot
of people who surely needed more informations and texts. 

It also showed me again that things that seem more like basics to some of us
(as women only groups, or analysis of sexist opressions inside the movement
and our groups) are much difficult to understand in other activist contexts
(in some collectives in serbia maybe, but in many other places in western
and eastern europe as well ...).

I naturally find it worth not to stay furious but also to take time to
debate and explain. That's issues and things that will always have to be
explained and discussed anyway... But I dont want to do it isolated with one
or two people (we were much much more in dijon). I think if it has to be
done, It should be a colllective work.

During this preparatory meeting, I was the only one also present in dijon,
(with olivier who couldn't be here during the working group meeting). I
therefore felt not confortable because of the feeling I had a strong
responsibility to push and defend the dijon's proposals... That's something
I wanted to do anyway but I also wished so much that other people present a
dijon (where there was such a strong positive feeling about it) could be
there to express themselves.

Since I've sent the report of the preparatory meeting on the list there was
also no reactions about the block on the process list (except olivier's
forwarded email).

So I now wish we could maybe really work as a working group and do something
about it, exchange feelings and ideas, react collectively or individually on
the list, send some texts, start to prepare something for the conference.

If we manage to send reactions on the process list before the end of the
week (and the start of the next preparatory meeting), it would be great....

Even to send already written texts that we could know about (most of the
interesting one I have are unfortunately only in french, if you know people
who would like to help for translation that could also be great)

The gender proposals were supposed to be rediscussed (and hopefully to
evacuate the block of the last preparatory meeting) at this meeting. But I
dont know if I'll go myself, and except maybe betty, I dont know if there
will be any people linked with the gender working group at this meeting.
As we dont have any specific list we can start to communicate by sending
emails to all the other peoples mails (see above). These emails are the ones
of the people that I remember from dijon as wanting to work on the issue (as
well as the emails of betty and bosa from belgrade who wanted as well). If I
forgot emails of people you remember, please add them.

part three / gender working group personnal remindings and report :

We wanted to send to people involved within the network, a call for
contributions about questions that are left open before the next preparatory
meeting. some of them : 

- different politics of feminism shoulde be
highlighted ? people wanted to know more about the various feminist schools
? what's the way people inside the pga process and gender working group take
feminism and gender issue ? How do they link it with other struggles
(anticapitalist, antiracist, anarchist, ecologist whatever...)? 

- more definition of sexism inside the movement ? 

- what's the way we deal with it
and especially what's the way we deal with sexist attitudes or agressions
during events like pga conferences ? (one guy thougt that if we dont define
more what is a sexist attitude, people could use it for everything and
accuse everyone of being sexist during the conference) 

- a definition of
sexist behaviours ( in view of working on the newspaper flyer thing) 

- the
influence on globalisation on woman / immigration politics on women/ 

- the
two people who blocked the gender proposal argued that non-mixed male or
female groups were a kind of segregationist / separatist politics that was
replicating society discriminations and also discriminating people (like one
of the guy) who didn't recognize himself into both of the two genders. So if
we want to answer to that, there should also be texts that explain the
reasons and interest for women-only and men-only groups as a tool of
struggle against patriarchy and as a sometimes efficient way to ultimately
overcome genders .

- we agreed to make it clear that this gender day is not only about internal
problems within the movement but also about sexism in the global society
(Some people thought the "movement" was something where sexist problems are
apparently really different and less hard than in general society, others
thought it was really difficult to do a division ant that both were really
linked but...)

- we agreed on thinking about rewriting the text in a more explained and
"diplomatic way" (basically two of the guys thought that sentences like "pga
is a pretty sexist network" would make people who dont know pga think that
they have nothing to do with pga because it's very sexist... So they thought
that something less brutal would be more helpfull to make people think about
it and more open to do things with pga) 

part 4 : just to remind you the basis of the whole debate, here are the
gender proposal's from dijon's meeting.

gender minutes from Winter Meeting
BRINGING GENDER TO PGA; minutes of discussion

gender issue pirating the agenda during discussions on Saturday, March 8

In relation to the International Women's Day, some shocking news were
brought to the PGA meeting in Dijon last weekend, presented in order to show
that even though we're working on issues of social change and human rights,
very little of these struggles is noticed in the individual's change of
behaviour. To put it bluntly, PGA is pretty sexist, in it's structure and in
it's inability to deal with expressions of intimidation and haressment. In
general gender is accepted as a permament discussion point on the agenda,
but in reality not much changes. One of the problems is that the gender
issue can not be dealt with as an exclusive topic, it has to be reflected in
our behaviour, in our discussions and structures.

    * decided to have an ad hoc discussion on gender issues
        * late Saturday night, March 8,
	    * to prepare for a gender session added to the Sunday agenda
	    In agreement it was decided that the aim of the gender session
must be to focus on how to find solutions and build new structures and how
to bring this approach into our networks and the PGA conferences, rather
than in a defensive way discuss the perception of the problem.

After some brainstorming about possible practical workshop games to
hightlight the gender issue, we find out that one of the participants on the
meeting is experienced in working with Psychodrama, which came in handy for
the late night desicion on how to do the workshop in Sunday's gender session
[e.g end of discussion..]. Thus more focus could be given to the more
long-term question of how to integrate gender issues on the PGA conferences,
in order to bring the issue into our working structure. Past midnight there
was finally a list of proposals, to be discussed and rejected or ejected at
tomorrow's gender session.
1. Day of Gender at the PGA Conference

After listening to interesting experiences from Latin America where they
work with 1-2 days of gender workshops before every PGA conference, there
was no doubt that this should also be tried in Europe. These days of gender
are not filled with endless talks and discussions but hands-on workshops,
using tried methodologies such as role plays etc., and working in small
groups with focuses such as e.g. 'Masculinity for Men'. The work is done in
non-mixed groups as well as in mixed groups, with plenaric feed back sessions.

These ideas were adopted by this planning group, proposing a day of gender
workshops midst the next PGA conference [to make it less easy to escape
it...]. The proposal includes both non-mixed group [women's groups and men's
groups] but also mixed working groups for those who would feel more
comfortable with this.

These groups would be involved in role plays, workshops looking at the
gender issue in relation to your local environment and work and in other
ways taking a constructive stance for finding ways of organising where the
gender issue becomes part of the structure [and the struggle]. Some would
argue that the issue itself shouldn't become part of the structure, the
structures should change so as we wouldn't have to discuss such a thing as
'gender'. The discussion goes on ...

On the Gender Issue Day, space should also be given to groups working and
campaigning on gender issues in relation to society, activism, globalisation
etc, to present their work and give workshops. These gender campaigns
shouldn't be seen as isolated phenomenon and should as well be included with
workshops and discussions in the overall programme of the conference.
2. Special Invitations Gender Groups

It was noticed that not many of these groups working on gender issues
participate in the PGA conferences. There could be a discussion about why,
but until then, it was decided that such groups should be especially
invited, with personal invitations, to participate in the programme and
contribute to the Gender Day. There will be a working group on gender active
from now until the next conference, but it's the responsibility lays on
everyone of us to find, reach out to and invite groups working and
campaigning on gender issues.
3. Exasperation Spaces [...minute taker's choice of name, really like that
word ...]

As in Strasbourg, where there was a women's tent, there is again the idea to
set up special spaces dedicated to serious discussions about gender, where
questions and concerns can be raised. These spaces can also be a contact
point for informing and supporting, in case sexual or other haressment
occurs. It was discussed that there should at least be non-mixed spaces,
both for women and men, and also mixed spaces if there is a need and
interest to set up such as well.
4. Flyer-ing Start of Discussion

The discussions and fitted-in sessions on gender at this winter meeting,
were initiated by a report on sexist behaviour and sexual haressment within
the PGA movement. These things are happening all the time but not much it
talked or told about it, partly as it's very painful for the concerned
people, partly because of old-fashined tabus or just plain ignorance.

Therefor there is a proposal to make an Introduction Flyer, to be handed out
at the beginning of the conference, introducing some of these reasons why
gender should be in everyone's concept of respect and social interaction and
especially make participants aware of the cases of haressments while
strongly pointing out how Non-Acceptable such behaviour is.
5. Conference Questionnaire

To prepare better for the discussions and workshop on the Gender Day, there
is the idea to include some gender related questions in the application
form. These questions would bring attention to how gender issues are
addressed and dealt with in the local group, network and structures.

These proposals were endorsed by the entire meeting at the gender session on
Sunday, March 9.
Kick-Start Questionnaire

But, happy as everyone were with such fruitful and inspiring discussions,
there was an ambience of impatience knowing that the next PGA conference can
be happening very far away from now. Therefor point 5. on the list of
proposals were taken to a decision to kick-start the questionnaires idea and
ask everyone who reads this report ... and to be sure that results will be
reached, the questions in question will as well be sent to the list
separately, to make serious efforts to respond to the questionnaire. The aim
is to collect a database of reports on how gender is dealt with locally and
regionally. The report will be posted on the website. You can send your
report to pga_europe_resistancesquat.net.
PGA Gender Working Group

There is now a gender working group, set up to coordinate the preparations
for the Gender Day at the next PGA conference, but as well other gender
issues related to pga [as much as time allows, I guess]. If you're
interested to join, contact us through the process list

bisous / nico
ni co lu ( nicolu @ no-log . org )

----- End forwarded message -----

Plus d'informations sur la liste de diffusion Breakingthesilence