Training a new generation of feminist activists

The UK Guardian reports that a 500-person “Feminista summer school” just wrapped up. It was “a two-day event aimed at mobilising feminist activists and training them in the art of campaigning and direct action.” The article explains:

With new groups, new campaigns and a set of decades-old beliefs being repackaged for the 21st century, leading figures such as Kat Banyard are claiming a “massive resurgence” in feminism. If anyone felt intimidated by the “monumental shifts” needed, Banyard, author of The Equality Illusion, told the audience, they needed to look no further than at the mountains moved by their antecedents. “Feminism is nothing but audacious,” she said. “It can be done.”

I would love to hear more from any of the young activists involved in the summer school. Did it feel relevant, effective, fun? Would you recommend this model for feminists in other parts of the world?

And for everyone, do you think activism is best fostered in these kinds of structured, short-term environments? Or is it better to leave these kinds of skills to grassroots organizations, like the massive and highly-impressive SlutWalk movement, or to formalize it in some way?

Join the Conversation

  • Rachel

    I think that something like this is a key component to fostering the kind of activism we need in our society today. I believe that gatherings like this “feminist school” are great for traning people and getting them excited about specific issues and a movement like “Slut Walk” can be born out of that excitement and training.

  • nazza

    I think this is an effective strategy, but it shouldn’t stop there. It’s sometimes easy to overstate the importance of a short-term conference gathering like this. They are very concentrated, very powerful, and very transformative, but the instant everyone goes home, much of that good feeling goes away. I’ve seen this in many forms well beyond Feminism, and the lasting impact is very similar.

    I suppose the ideal state is to remember the intense feelings from short-term gatherings and the messages and strategies learned, and take them back to where one works on a daily basis. One shouldn’t understate grassroots movements, either. It seems like people who want to be involved should do both, in my opinion.

  • Sarah Graham

    Yes! Relevant, effective AND fun! Fantastic to spend a weekend in a feminist bubble, surrounded by like-minded people, discussing, debating, (dancing to Blondie!) and learning about feminist issues.

    As for whether activism is best left to grass-roots organisations, one of the main focusses of the weekend was on training and empowering feminists to set up their own grass-roots groups, get involved in existing ones, and get creative about direct action.

  • nailasada

    I think this is a great initiative! A model that should indeed be replicated all over! I’d be interested to see a follow up article written about it, about people’s reactions etc. I saw the one in the Guardian

  • Sarah Lynn

    Structured training environments can be great introduction to organizing for would-be activists who feel out of place participating in activism. I think a lot of the hesitancy is borne out of that pervasive, insidious training we women undergo to be subservient. Even outside the context of actual engagement in activism, this kind of training environment could be helpful. Forget assertiveness training; training in activism promotes standing up for what you believe in and for yourself.

    Another great thing about structured environments is that it can provide the opportunity for issues to arise from the group independent from the necessary reactions to current events. Feminist issues are not resolved when they drop from the headlines.