I was asked to speak at a session at UKnetroots. I was absolutely delighted.
I have long said that the thing we need to oppose these cuts, is a way to link together activists, those affected, and the media- to coordinate a response to this toxic agenda. I thought Netroots was a potentially brilliant opportunity. I have long thought that when this happens, the much needed redefining of what the ‘left’ is, and how it relates to society- will be a natural result.
I was also speaking with Laurie Penny(woman journalist and activist from New Statesman and Guardian) and Jess McCabe(editor of F word-amazing space for women to share their political views). The session was chaired by Jessica Assato, a Labour councillor and contributor to Labour list. (all three fantastic women-who are passionate about politics and the need for women to be represented- and all making their difference their own way)
I tried not to be disheartened when the section was asking the question of what we can do to engage women online, politically. And a room mainly filled with politically engaged women, said the same thing I said. Women are online. We are engaged. We are basically ignored unless what we are saying is of interest to the men who dominate our ‘political blogosphere’ and mainstream media..Sitting us in a room to discuss this on our own, wasnt really going to get any closer to the reasons for this.
The session itself was brilliant. NOt becauseof me- but because a room full of people engaged in intelligent debate is a thing to behold.Especially when those views are the views that are usually omitted from debate.
Then Sunny Hundal appeared, after missing most of the session- to tell us we were doing it wrong.
Apparently we had allowed the session to become bogged down in discussion that was entirely irrelevant to the original question. A room full of women, saying the problem is that they are ignored is not answering the question of what women need to do to solve this problem. When discussion of the current political consensus, and its marginalising effect on the debate about women and the cuts occurred- we were needlessly attacking Labour. Discussion of the abuse women receive through comment boards and emails, while a problem for women- was just Cif bashing.(Comment is Free).
And then I realised I had fundamentally misunderstood the Netroots event. THis was not an event designed to support us in fighting cuts that affect us. This was an event for a ‘progressive’ movement to decide how they would fight for us poor marginalised souls. And with speakers in the main hall(we were tucked away on the fifth floor) repeatedly reinforcing the view that only through joining Labour could we ‘constructively’ oppose the cuts. Any suggestion otherwise is not helping the ‘progressive’ movement do what they need to do. Apparently the fact that Labour share the policies that affect us, is irrelevant- we need to be grown up about this.
The current economic agenda is not the concern of those affected, especially not those who do not define themselves as being on the ‘left’- instead we should concentrate on being part of a core network of blogs, read by a massive 5-10000 of the population each week. Run by men, who because they are ‘progressive’ couldn’t possibly be excluding women.
After the session, a group of the women who spoke in the session tried to debate this with Sunny- with little success. I patiently tried to debate it with himl on Twitter….and over the next 24 hours all hell broke loose- as our ‘progressive’ movement gasped at the audacity of a room full of women daring to suggesting that someone who demonstrated he couldnt listen, didnt listen. Luckily these discussions provided ample evidence of our point-wit some absolutely cracking tweets that I couldnt have manufactured if I had tried.
So here is what we will do. This is not my blog post about Netroots- this is a temp.
We will be coordinating a response to the very serious concern that this essential resource, can only be used if we do not debate outside the parameters that a few political bloggers feel is appropriate.
We need this resource, we need to be involved in Netroots. And whatever fall out has occured since- we got a lot out of it. We networked, and discussed and this is helping us organise.
We hope that next years event does not marginalise women, and ‘womens issues’ in the way that this one did- especially given how central those ‘issues’ are to the agenda the event is supposedly opposing. In order to contribute to this, we will do the following:
- We will be collating blog posts from teh people in that room- and putting them together.
- We will take the video of that session, and overlay it with the tweets of those attending, and the discussion that took place on twitter after it. Had Sunny seen the session, he may not have provided us with so many tweets which amply demonstrated the points made in that discussion.
- We will be putting together the figures about why gender, and the exclusion of women is essential to understanding what is happening now, and asking why these issues were not central to #netroots main discussions.
- We will be writing an open letter to the organisers of the event-(as a trade union member, I am grateful they paid my train fare down- and really feel that in order to oppose, the trade unions support is necessary) and asking them to address our concerns.
I hope that we attend the next netroots- and our feedback is given the consideration it deserves. I am sure that all involved will do so. And at the end of the day, if it does turn out that netroots is just a Labour recruiting event, where we are to be told how to oppose the cuts that affect us by men who cuts barely affect- then we will look elsewhere, with sadness that this resource is not available to us.
I will do a proper blog post in a day or so.
My point demonstrated in pictures.