A post asking to step in and facilitate a workshop was published on the Cardiff Feminist Network late last week as a group had dropped out of the planned slot. A workshop on Everyday Sexism was arranged as part of the Women’s Equality Network taking place after the Welsh Women’s Summit for International Women’s Day. I had previously posted about my illustrations in response to the book and campaign asking if anyone was also interested in this and if we could collaborate on an awareness campaign. I contacted the lady about being involved but told her I had never facilitated a workshop before. She convinced me to go ahead with it and between conversations put me in touch with another lady who was interested in facilitating and had experience as well as writing a book on ‘Lad Culture’. I met with Shahla, a green economics phd student from India, and we drew up a plan for the 45 minutes, planning to tell our stories, who we are and how we became interested in the campaign. We planned to get the group to interact by hanging a selection of my illustrations and asking them to apply post it notes to the ones they could relate to.
There was a concern about the numbers for the workshop as it wasn’t publisised too well and most people left after the summit. The workshop before ours was concelled, I assume, as we were able to have the room half an hour before schedule. However, a small group of 8 women and 1 man came and after a quiet start we managed to generate a conversation on different aspects of sexism they had experienced. As soon as one spoke, things picked up momentum to the point where the structure was taken away and it was more of a what felt natural approach. There were reoccurring themes; sexual assault, discrimination within education and the gender stereotyping of children and children’s toys. The group was pretty diverse; we had young sisters,say early 20’s, a mother and her 14 yr old daughter, a Kurdish male, a woman I am guessing in her mid 20’s and one around late 30’s and a middle aged woman who works for Equality and Human Rights.
I placed up 6 of my illustrations on the wall, trying to cover the range of areas sexism can take place; staying safe in public, gender stereotypes withing the home and family, being victimised within the home, beauty ideals as portrayed by the media and western culture, young girls being sexualised and discrimination within education. I asked the group to place post it notes next to any of the ilustrations and scenarios they could relate to and offering pens to write their experiences if they would like to.
The lady from Equality and Human rights took this opportunity to address what was obvious to her while the rest of the group were busy; we were getting caught up in labelling everything that was happening as bad attitudes where as a lot of it is illegal.
When the group returned we discussed this and the areas that needed to be addressed for us to take things forward. People need to be made aware of what is actually illegal and where. The lady suggested there used to be more of a sense of support when there were more workplace/organisation unions who could give out advice and information on laws that take place. She said laws are available on the EAHR website, but it doesn’t sound like there is one specific place you can go to easily and find the information you need. There are problems also of what if things like sexual assault happen in a public place, who can you go to and what can be done about it when the person can leave just as quick as they arrived and just what can the police do about it? The focus then turned to education with regard to respect and gender stereotyping. Not just education for children but also to the parens and grandparents. This would not be as simple as proposing that this be drafted into the education systen as another thing for teachers to take responsibility for. Realistically, there is only so much that can be put on teachers. Maybe this is where workshops can help, travelling to schools and events; getting adults involved. There were also suggestions to approach universities with regard to sexism and objectification, and major toystores with regard to gender stereotypes and exectations. This is something that could also be sold to toystores; them as being the brand that promotes equality and diversity, publicity, so to speak. This was spoken about at length and something I would fully get behind.
Proposed actions were; educate/ run workshops aimed at all age groups, disseminate images to raise awareness in bars/clubs, contact FB and ask why they don’t provide a system that allows you to state exactly why a group/page offend you (9 grounds of discrimination), find out exactly what is illegal and raise awareness, question gender stereotyping of children’s stores, contact police/CSO’s to find out exactly what can be done regarding incidences/who to report to, etc.
The workshop was meant to run for 45 minutes, but nearly overlapped by double the time. People stayed behind to talk, go through the other illustrations and swap contact details. The Equality and Human Rights lady was very keen to get involved and help me with what I needed to know and a lady regarding a business plan she has for gender neutral toys. The man stayed behind to talk a little more quietly; he suggested that the government should take the issue more seriously, as if the men have no deterrant, they will only continue and that more women need to stand up and believe in themselves and that it is wrong.
There were post it notes pinned on each illustration on the wall and even some on the illustrations I had left out on the tables. Some were left blank, but others had wrote some saddening stories.