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Minutes of IS Network Women's Caucus Meeting, Sheffield, 1 December 2013

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Women’s Caucus

Sheffield

1 December 2013

 

Present: Alison H, Alison L, Hazel C, Kat B.M., Katherine N, Magpie C, Rebecca A, Rosie W & Sarah N

Women’s Publication

Chaired by Magpie

Minutes by Katherine

We started with a discussion about what we wanted in the publication and what we wanted out of it. 

Hazel talked about threading theory into articles about the day-to-day lives of women and we talked about the need to include things like reports, interviews, artwork and reviews. Magpie has volunteered to design and create a website, on which we will post things like podcasts and, as Sarah suggested, a more accessible, dyslexia text PDF of the publication. Kat talked about making the magazine a space for women to write about whatever interests them, not just feminism, and also about making the language accessible. 

Magpie suggested that we also need to report on new methods of doing things in the IS Network that set us apart from the old left. Sarah and Rosie talked about the non-women’s caucus in Sheffield, which we agreed is one example of innovative methods that we would like to employ ourselves and write about for the publication. Rosie suggested that any organisational initiative on a local level should also be reported on in the publication.

We talked about the idea of themes and the overall aesthetic but we couldn’t make any decisions, with only nine of us in the room and with us wanting to host the publication, not dominate it. Things like this will be discussed at a meeting, probably in London, with a suggested date of 19 January, to which we will invite a wide range of organisations and individuals interested in getting involved in the publication. This is also where we will vote for an editorial board which should include women from other organisations. 

Subsequently, we all voted to choose a working group to deal with the admin up until the meeting in January. This working group includes Alison H, Alison L, Magpie, Hazel, Rebecca, Sarah, Rosie and me, and we will keep in touch via a Google group I will set up. 

I am drafting a statement of intent this coming week, which I will email to everyone so that we can all agree on it and get it sent out next week, with emails from our new email account to organisations/individuals who would potentially be interested in contributing. We put together a list of people to contact, which I will compile into a group for convenience when they have responded to our emails expressing a desire to include them in the publication. This includes groups like Hollaback, left caucuses in unions, ISO women, Red Pepper, etc. 

This statement will include points on what we want the publication to be: controlled by women on the left but with some input from men, multi-party, and accessible, including a wide range of contributions (report, theory, review, etc.) and that we would like to set up a website. It will also include a submissions deadline of 17 February, the provisional date and time for a meeting of everyone interested, which we agreed should take place in January, probably in London, and an expression of our desire to host debates, as suggested by Rebecca. We will be posting it on the internet, on things like Facebook and on blogs etc.

Rebecca also suggested a later launch meeting and we decided that we could launch the publication on a local level, each in our respective areas. Ideally, we will have the first issue out just before International Women’s Day but we won’t write about it in the cliquey, SWP way and we won’t release it on IWD for fear of it being drowned out by all of the other stuff about IWD coming out on that day. 

We talked about whether or not we want to include men in the publication as writers and in putting it together. A comrade who couldn’t make it had expressed a desire to make the production of the publication woman-exclusive. We talked about this and agreed that non-women should be allowed to contribute but that there should be a quota, Rosie suggested women write at least 80% of the articles, or thereabouts. Rosie and Magpie introduced the idea that non-women should be engaging with feminism and therefore our publication. It was also agreed that non-women should do a portion of the manual work on it, to ease the workload for the women. However, the editorial board should be exclusively women. Hazel suggested we encourage men to write about their sexuality as well in the publication. 

Magpie expressed some concern that we don’t yet have a name and so we’re going to ask for suggestions and vote on one in the wider meeting. For now, we’re calling ourselves ‘We Want a Women’s Mag’ on the Facebook group I’ve created and the email account. Alison’s taken up the task of trawling through a Facebook conversation and noting down all of the name suggestions that popped up. 

Report from RevSoc Non-women’s Caucus

Chaired by Alison

Minutes by Hazel

Sarah and Rosie reported on the setting up of a non-women’s caucus in the Sheffield RevSoc group. Sarah said that after the first Sheffield women’s caucus had reported to the RevSoc group, many of the women felt demoralised that the men in the group had been very unresponsive, had given no feedback and had met the report with blank stares. They got the idea of forming a non-women’s caucus from a comrade from Austria who had addressed the national RevSoc meeting.

The first meeting of the non-women’s caucus in Sheffield had been a great success, and even ran over time. Instead of going off and doing something different, the non-women met at the same time as the women’s caucus, and discussed an agenda set by the women’s caucus and ways in which the members can understand and support the women’s caucus’s issues and campaigns. The meeting has helped to increase awareness of the issues faced by women, how the non-women can support campaigns such as SASH, an anti sexual harassment campaign and also has given the non-women space in which they can reflect on why their behaviour might be problematic. As Rosie commented, it is not up to the women’s caucus to be constantly pulling up the men and monitoring our own oppression. Although there has so far only been one meeting, the group intend to continue this practice.

The report from Sheffield was received very positively by the group. Magpie pointed out that this was a new innovation which had not been tried in the left before and the IS Network women’s caucus should publicly congratulate the Sheffield RevSoc group. There was also some discussion about whether women should be allowed to attend non-women’s caucus meetings. Although people were not against this idea, it was considered that if the two caucuses met at the same time this effectively wouldn’t happen in practice, and the most important aspect was that the non-women’s caucus reported back to and remained accountable to the women’s caucus.

Action:

It was agreed that Magpie would write a statement congratulating Sheffield RevSoc for setting up the non-women’s caucus, and recommending that the IS Network adopt this practice as a model of how to organise caucuses of oppressed groups. 

Rolling Caucuses

There followed a discussion of proposal made by IS Network secretary Tim about how to organise caucuses at the IS Network’s national conferences: 

 

[...]What I think we should do is have the three/four caucuses go on back to back, while there is a rolling meeting of those who don't identify into them. So, when women are meeting, non-women meet elsewhere, but of course LGBTQ and disabled non-women are there too. We can therefore discuss liberation issues with those affected by oppression present, for instance we could discuss LGBTQ issues at that point. Then, LGBTQ comrades have their caucus and non-LGBTQ women and disabled members could join us, and we could discuss disability politics. THEN disabled members could have their caucus and non-disabled women and LGBTQ member could join us, and we could discuss women's liberation.

[...]The idea is that no one is spending more time in meetings than others, and that people who don't identify into a particular caucus still have an opportunity to discuss the politics of that group with people who do

 

This proposal stemmed from problems with the way the caucuses were organised at the IS Network’s 2013 policy conference in October, whereby the caucuses mainly took place at the end of the day, after the main business of the conference, and did not all have proper venues/meeting places. 

We recognised and appreciated Tim’s work on trying to find a solution to this, and liked the idea of introducing rolling caucuses, but we felt they should work in a different way to that suggested in Tim’s proposal. We felt it was important that the groups which met at the same time as the caucus discussed the same issues as the caucus that was meeting.  So at the time the LGBTQ caucus was meeting, for example, non-LGBTQ members would discuss LGBTQ issues and their agenda would be set by the LGTBQ caucus. 

Magpie made a suggestion that instead of meeting at the main national conference, the caucuses were held on a separate day and then fed back to the main conference. Others thought this might be impractical in terms of time and cost, and might mean that some people from the caucuses did not come to the national conference. Rosie and Hazel both made the point that there was a danger that the issues arising from the caucuses became marginalised and were not integrated into the main body of the conference. 

There was discussion about the timing of the caucuses at the conference – Rosie suggested they might take place right at the start of the conference, but Hazel suggested the middle of the first day might be better to try to ensure that delegates did not miss the caucus discussions. Alison H said that it was also important to be clear what the purpose of the caucus was, and Alison L commented that it was important to discuss the conference agenda with caucus members in advance, and to make sure the caucus encouraged and helped give confidence to its members to contribute in the main conference discussions.

Action:

Magpie will append a report of our discussions on Tim’s proposal of rolling caucuses to the statement on the Sheffield RevSoc non-women’s caucus. This will welcome the idea of rolling caucuses, but will amend Tim’s proposal to ensure that non-caucus members discuss the same oppression as the caucus which is meeting. Thus when the LGTBQ caucus is meeting, non-LGTBQ members will discuss LGTBQ issues; similarly when the women’s caucus is meeting, the non-women’s caucus will discuss women’s issues, and so on.

 

Liberation/intersectionality day school

We were very keen to see this set up and organised. We agreed to ask for a report from Ashleigh as to progress on this. Magpie reported that in the South West they were having a meeting to discuss intersectionality, and that she would report back on this in two weeks time and she proposed that this could help rally support for the liberation/intersectionality day school.  

We unanimously agreed with her proposal that the liberation/intersectionality day school be held in Bristol. 

 

Elections

Complaints Committee: The women’s caucus had been asked to elect a member to be on the Complaints Committee. We agreed that it was important that there was a member of the caucus on the committee. It was highlighted that the committee currently only has four members, and it was important to get more people involved. The women’s caucus representative on the committee cannot also be a member of the Steering Committee.  

No one at the meeting came forward for this position. Hazel said she was interested but was worried about time constraints. It was agreed that we would ask other members of the caucus not present at the meeting if they would like to stand. In the interim, we agreed that we would let the Complaints Committee know that if a case came up, they should email the Women’s Caucus, and Hazel, or another member of the caucus if Hazel was not available, would sit on the committee.

Publication working group: We reiterated the decision that Alison H, Alison L, Magpie, Hazel, Rebecca, Sarah, Rosie and Katherine would form an interim working group until an editorial group/board was elected at the publication public meeting in January.

IS Network publications working group: It was unanimously agreed that Rosie would be the women’s caucus representative on this group, which is reporting back on the setting up of the IS Network’s main publications.