Sunday, I had my traditional breakfast with Alan, where we got caught up on each other's lives. Then I went off to see "The Personal Is Political Revisited":
"The Personal is Political" Revisited
The title of Carol Hanisch's 1969 essay "The personal is political" became one of the best-known slogans of the feminist movement. Women were challenged to see their life circumstances not as individual situations of choice, but within a broader context of gendered oppression and societal structural inequalities. The panelists will look at the intersections between the personal and political in their activist work, and will examine the meaning and relevance of the slogan today.
Susan Marie Groppi, Susan Simensky Bietila, Alan Bostick, Karen Ireland-Phillips, Pamala K. Taylor
The panel had a lot of different things to say, although the relationship back to the original essay was often tenuous. Pamela had a lot of interesting things to say about her relationship to her headscarf -- that she'd recently started removing the hijab as she entered menopause and was frequently felt odd not to have this element that had been a big part of her identity. She commented about how, because her name isn't obviously middle-eastern, without the headscarf, she's just "American", whereas with the headscarf, she's Muslim.
She also had a lot of interesting things to say about work that she's done to oppose gender segregation in mosques, and create alternative spaces where women can lead services. She also talked about how imposter syndrome factored in there for her: when she was asked to lead a service in Toronto (?), she was deathly afraid, and doubted that she was really the right one to do so. Then she thought: she has a degree in theology, and has been on the forefront of the issue. If she wasn't qualified, then no one was.
Both Karen and Susan talked about being a part of feminist organizing in the 60s and 70s. Susan, in particular, talked about meeting Hanisch and knowing about being exposed to the essay very early. There were things that were interesting to hear them talk about: Susan talked about working in the schools and being confronted with young women who she described as aggressively anti-feminist. And also how that's internalized by the young women in question as "that's just what I like."
Karen talked about identifying as a "political lesbian" and her transition as someone who wore the official uniform of lesbianism -- plaid shirts and corduroy -- into someone who wears dresses. I also enjoyed hearing Karen talk about consciousness-raising groups -- there was some discussion about the extent to which one dimension of big Internet discussions (such as Racefail) use many of the same practices of consciousness raising. We didn't get too deep into that, but I enjoyed it. One thing that was said, though, was that consciousness-raising needs to happen in the context of a larger movement, and I idea that I enjoyed.
My favourite part of the discussion was a bit relating to burn out. One audience member -- Valerie Aurora -- talked about working in FOSS, and about how most of the FOSS women she knows have burned out and are backing away from the environment. How do you combat burnout? Some members of the panel suggested that the idea of burnout was a myth, an idea that I don't agree with.
Some of the interesting parts of this conversation related to being supported by the community around you. Ian offered, from the audience, that sometimes having a really good ally was better than having another person who was experiencing the same persecution. (Someone mentioned that "networking" is not a tool reserved for yuppie scum... we should all build up our own personal networks). Pamela talked about the times when she was close to burn out only to recall the people who came to her to say that some thing that she'd done had really changed someone's life. Moments like that fed her reserves, and helped her keep going.
But, in the end, as someone commented, "you put on your own oxygen mask, first."
There was a long conversation about housework... much longer than I thought it needed to be. Essentially, the question is "how do I get my partner to see that they're not doing their fair share of the housework?" The longer the conversation went, the more it was awash in gender essentialism, which, oh joy. Various options were offered: fill out timesheets, hire a (fellow member of the working class) housekeeper, or just mutally agree to do less housework. I'm always a bit surprised that nobody suggests "don't live together" or "buy a duplex." Book suggestions: Wifework and The Politics of Housework.
Afterward, I chatted a bit with Valerie Aurora -- I wasn't familiar with her or her work, and I was interested in hearing what she did in the FOSS world. Moments after I started talking to her, a guy from the audience came over, interrupted me, and went on and on about how awesome it was to run into Valerie Aurora. It was the kind of "oh, cool, I just rubbed elbows with a celebrity" kind of one-sided conversation. And, I confess, I was pretty annoyed, given that he interrupted a conversation already in progress, and didn't give any indication of even noticing that he'd done so. And what a statement that made. It's almost as if the personal is political. Or something.