I feel, as a feminist that the moment has a lot to apologise for, white middle class feminisms have ignored and pushed out trans women, sex workers women of colour and other minorities, so I am heartened to see that the Melbourne feminist futures conference is reminding us just how far we haven’t come. But inviting speakers and programs with the most bigoted backward looking agenda I have seen in a while.
The conference it’s self has a participants agreement, sent to speakers which I have seen it says that speakers must not engage in transphobia and whorephobia (as well as many other intersecting oppressions). They have chosen to completely ignore in their choice of speakers and abstracts. They say that people cannot be whore or trans phobic however Sheila’s proposed speech can hardly be read as anything but whore phobic.
While Sheila Jeffries is one of best known of the speakers, she is far from the only onespeaker. There is a women who worked for 12 years for the conservative senator Brian Harradine the man whose support kept RU 486 illgeal and supported the restrictions on Ausaid supporting abortion access as part of fundamental healthcare access. Melinda Tankard Reist has also worked for anti choice groups and has written a book supported by the anti-choice movement.
On the facebook page a person used the phrase male to constructed female, a blast from the past that many people hoped would stay in the past.
There are as far as I am aware no Trans speakers at the conference, and while there are sexworkers running a workshop, they have not been given an oppertuinity to counter these womens views.
On the conference home page they say
The conference seeks to reclaim the concept of “feminism” as a positive and necessary political ideal that is of direct relevance to our everyday lives.
I can only speak for myself, but having anti trans, anti whore, anti choice feminists talk at your conference, particualy when there no voices from those groups to counterbalance the oppressive shit being presented, that doesn’t help me feel like feminism is positive or necessary for me or my friends life, in fact these are exactly the kind of feminists who mean that a friend of mine who was a sex worker was stopped from volunteering for a women’s shelter because sex workers are a dangerous to “real” women, and the feminists who keep trans women out of women shelters even though they are at high risk of partner and family violence. In short they are the kinds of feminists who make me question the label for myself.
Editted to add: Melinda Tankard Reist is no longer speaking and Sheila Jeffries is no longer presenting the workshop why prostitution is violence against women.