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London feminists explore plans for women’s liberation

by Ros Sitwell in Holborn

FEMINISTS gathered in London at the weekend for a two-day conference to explore women’s collective struggle for liberation.

The FiLiA conference in Holborn heard from keynote speaker Cordelia Fine, author of Testosterone Rex, who discussed how myths about male and female biology are falsely used to “explain” different patterns of behaviour in the labour market.

She pointed to scientific evidence which suggested that there was considerable overlap between male and female financial risk-taking behaviour and that context played a large role.

“Patriarchy is endlessly asking for evidence of women’s competence, whereas men are ‘entitled’ to the reins of power,” she said.

Blogger and anti-racism activist Clare Heuchan emphasised the importance of “inter-racial solidarity” among women, saying: “It isn’t talking about race that divides us — it’s racism.”

Karen Ingala Smith of domestic violence charity NIA delivered a harrowing roll-call of women who had been murdered by their partners, saying that “sexism and misogyny are so prevalent they are almost inescapable.”

In a breakout session on Revolutionary Women, Sheila Rowbotham discussed the inspiration behind her 1972 book Women, Resistance and Revolution, and Rahila Gupta of Southall Black Sisters drew parallels between the struggles of women of the Russian Revolution and the women of Rojava in Syria today, quoting the words of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan: “No society can be free until its women are free.”

Unite women’s officer Siobhan Endean chaired a moving session on the struggles of working-class women, in which Julie Longden of the newly formed Hope Rising Action Group in Bradford discussed the misery being inflicted by the benefit cap, describing if as “the genocide of the poor.”

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