My first feminist conference…..
Well…. Where do I start. First, this blog is a few hours late. I am going to be honest, the past few days have been so…. Powerful… That I have been walking around in a it of a haze lol
There are going to be so many Blogs that come from my experience at Filia 2018 that I wont even try and do everyone and everything justice in this one blog. But I will tell you how it made me feel.
It made me feel alive. Being around so many strong, amazing, and powerful women made me feel like a new part of me came alive. Right up until the day before I was wondering if I should say on stage that I am not a feminist. If it would be OK to just say that. I felt like people should know that I am not a feminist. I mean… I had checked my armpits and they were not hairy, and I don’t care what size tissues I use…so defo not a feminist right.
So, I arrive at the event, not sure what to expect from my first ever feminist conference. As I walked towards the building there are people all outside, music is playing. I walk inside and people great me, see the lovely Sally Jackson and she sorts me out and tells me where to go. No rushing. No checking on what I can and can not say.
I walk into the main hall and…WOW…people everywhere. Mainly women but also a few men and children. And everyone looks like it’s Christmas eve. Big old smile on people’s faces. You can tell that each woman in that room wants to be there and is excited about what the day will hold. I found myself becoming caught up in the feeling. My anxieties leaving my body. I felt…dare I say…happy.
We sit to have the opening talker. Its only bloody Kate Smurthwaite. I am like a start struck groupie for a moment. I mean. I can be blunt and say it how it is. I have no issue with saying things that others would not…. but Kate is like the Queen of putting people in their place. I sit and wait for her to speak, and I am not disappointed. She does not break me in gently to my first feminist conference. No. Her speech is fast and hard and tells it exactly like it is for us…. for survivors. She sits down, and I feel breathless. Like I want to get up and shout “Go on Kate, Tell them some more”. But I don’t because WAST have just walked on stage. I have no idea what is going on now. A choir did I her them say! I don’t listen to Choirs!!
They are introduced as WAST (Women Asylum seekers Together). OK, I think…lets see what’s this is about. They start singing and its about being far away from home. Goose bumps rush my skin at these women’s voices filling the room, talking about the pain of being far from home but knowing they can’t go back because it is not safe. Tears prick my eyes…am I going to cry within the first 20 minutes of being here!!! What is this place!
They sing 4 songs and the last one is so upbeat that I go from tears in my eyes to feeling like …right here in this moment …things are ok. Life is ok.
Now, if you imagine that’s how I felt in the first 20 minutes, can you imagine how the rest of the day went!! That’s why I have struggled to get my thoughts straight. I have seen, heard, and felt so many different things that I am having an information overload. A self-awareness overload.
Next up Carol Adams. She is talking about the sexual politics of meat!! I decide that I can zone out a bit as this does not affect me. Within a minute of her talking I was like a little kid listening to story time. Full on mouth dropped open and not taking my eyes off her. She was saying and showing me things that I had never seen in that light before. I wont even try and do the epic Carol’s job of telling you how meat is being sexualised and how this is having an impact on the world. I won’t go into detail about how savage and inhumane the world is regarding comparing the fragmented body of the women to a rack of meat. I wont dare try and explain why we need to change our ways. Just know this. She blew my mind. I was sitting there just thinking…how can I be alive 38 years and not know this! I turned to my friend, my very educated friend, next to me to expect her to be smiling and nodding as if to say “Oh yes Kendra, these are the secrets we discuss at a feminist conference” but no. She looks about 10 years old, mouth wide, eyes wide and when she looks at me she is a shocked and amazed as I was.
Then its time for the smaller sessions. I choose Ms Diagnosis My daughter has just been diagnosed with autism so thought I would give it a go. Might find something interesting out. Bloody hell. That amxing Paula Sanchez of Autismotherland spoke with honesty and was so clear in what she was saying when talking about autism presenting in girls I wanted to cry. I wanted to say, “That’s bang on”. I went to say something but someone behind me kept shouting out when I was going to. Kept saying the stuff I was about to. It freaked me out at one point because we called out something at the same time. I turned around to see who this genius twin was. We looked at each other with a smile and then “Oh its you” laugh. Jessica Eaton was sitting behind me. We have been talking on twitter and said we would speak here…. seems they put the 2 people with the biggest mouths in the same room.
Anyway…. we will come back to Jessica…she will be getting her own blog….this women…
Then a lady named Chelsea spoke about ADHD and being diagnosed late in life. It was like I had just listen to my daughters diagnoses and now the were talking about mine. Listening to how she was failed so many times and how life was hard to navigate growing up made me feel emotional again. If you get a chance, go, and check out her project because it was truly amazing. Its called the Thaleia Project
Then the epic Elizabeth Gordon started speaking. Talking about the trauma of non-state torture. Her words and experience were a little to close to home for me at times, and it made me rage with anger to know this shit happed then and is happening now. She uses art to express herself and then this popped Up!!!
She panted a picture called “Out of the shadows”!!!
Break time! Thank god. Don’t think my brain can take anymore amazing women. Wait…they want to introduce me to Fiona Broadfoot , CEO of Build a Girl who I will be on panel with. I hate meeting people. I always say something stupid… I walked over to her to introduce myself. I was not sure what she would be like…little old me jumping on stage with her. So, I walk over to be introduced and stick my hand out to do the formal “Hi”. She grabs my hand, pulls me into a full on bear hug (Anyone who knows me will know that would have killed me) and she just hugs me like I am some long lost daughter and whispers in my ear “Don’t you worry about nothing, you go out there and tell them your story and I will be right there next to you” I said “I am worried I will swear” and she said “Bolloxs to that , and if anyone don’t like it…fuck em”. She then carried on hugging me, and I liked it! It felt safe and…real!I leave my new-found idol for life (Swear down, Fiona will get her own blog where I will just gush about her like a fool).
I need to eat. I am speaking in 40 minutes and I am feeling …. sick. I finally get some home-made Jamaican patties and take myself off outside to eat alone. I feel like I just need a few minutes n my own. I see a nice quite space and start walking over. As I do I see a woman, about 22, crying badly. I walk over and ask the stupidest question “Are you ok” clearly not Kendra, she is in a right state. Then she answers with the stupidest answer “Yes”. I decide to ignore both our stupidnes and sit down next to her. It turns out that she is a survivor and that some of the groups she had been in had trigged her. I told her that this was normal. That healing takes time. That the tears must come to make things better. She tells me part of her story. How hard it has been. She tells me about how she turned that adversity into positive and is now running a dram group to help others in the same kind of situations. I tell her that she is amazing. She asks me who I am here to see speak. I open the programme and point to my picture in it. She looks shocked and says…your speaking in a minute. I say yep and get up to go telling her to get up, go get food and just try to enjoy the rest of the day. (Pattie uneaten goes in the bin) I need to find the organisers so that they know to keep an eye on here. I do, and it is done.
Time to meet my other panel speaker. Zoe. The amazing Zoe from REIGN. When I am introduced to Zoe she is sensory overload and not coping well at all. We sit together and try to clam this. Fiona ends up with a wet patch on her bum (She swears she didn’t wet herself….) and Zoe is ready to do this…suddenly feel like I am not ready..not one little bit.
And that it. I suddenly find myself on state with Fiona and Zoe, no food eaten, head racing with emotions and I am first on.
I will speak about my talk in a separate blog but all you ned to know right now is that it was…EPIC. It was the best talk I have ever given. It was the raw. I was just up there, pure emotion and wow it felt amazing. And you know what the first thing I said was.
“I am Kendra Houseman, I didn’t think I was a feminist. But you know what…. I bloody am”!!!!
Because I am. With every inch of my sole. I am here to support all people, BUT I am fuelled and empowered by ensuring that no girls go through what I did. That no women ever feel alone in a DV relationship like I did. That no women feel worthless.
A lot has happened over the past 2 days. And as you can see I have lots to tell you. And I swore…
EVERY woman should attend a feminist conference at least once in their life. You may walk away thinking “Na …not for me”. But you must go. To feel the electric, to feel the love and the feeling of solidarity.
So…My name is Kendra Houseman and I am a feminist. (Don’t have hairy armpits though…. not yet..) Click to tweet