Our Public Debate Feminism & Activism: How can we create change?

By Alex Helling, Programme Manager for IDEA UK. This article was originally published on the IDEA website here.

‘Feminism & Activism: How can we create change?’ was the topic of a lively debate that ranged over questions of what is feminism? How do we empower women? And how can activism create real change?

The speakers at the question time style debate were Jo-Ann Hamilton UN Women Global Champion for Women's Economic Empowerment and founder of the SecretBirds enterprise, Chardine Taylor-Stone writer, DJ and black feminist activist, Pavan Amara founder of My Body Back Project, Shaina Yang administrator for the Facebook group Cuntry Living, Kate Hudson National Secretary of Left Unity party and General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and Sarah Anderson from the successful No More Page 3 campaign. The debate was chaired by Amanda Lundstedt, co-founder of Young Feminists London, who asked questions provided via twitter.

Camden Collective, where the debate was held, was packed with an audience of over one hundred and twenty. And with it being a question time style debate the audience were able to get involved by voicing their opinions and asking questions directly to the panel. Some of the debate was very internal; such as on definitions of feminism where Shaina argued "There are different feminist interpretations but one ground rule: you can't oppress others in your definition of feminism". This inward-looking nature was also recognised by Chardine pointing out that "Sometimes we're in danger of being quite insular... We need to start putting ourselves out there".

But at the same time many of the issues were broadly relevant well beyond a debate about feminism. Jo-Ann argued that “ultimately it boils down to the individual, you have to empower yourself” not wait for others to empower you, something relevant to all campaigners. Similarly discussions around feminism on the internet are broadly applicable. Anonymity means that "The Internet can be a really horrible place” says Shaina. It has a population of hate filled trolls, seen particularly prominently on twitter recently, and with yet more private groups and networks can provide safe spaces for ideas and communities enabling individuals to “construct the space in any way that you want".

The debate closed with the question from the start “how can we create more change?” with the audience response of "Unite resources - carve your own spaces and make sure they are inclusive". Perhaps we had not found a definitive solution to the question but the debate had certainly brought forth lots of interesting ideas. 

The debate was a joint collaboration between London is Fem, IDEA UK and CoachBright.