#3 Feminist Politics and Putting Care at the Centre

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How can we make care, cooperation and life without sexism more than a distant horizon? How can we construct and nurture feminist foundations which substantiate our movements from the ground up? How can we shift our political movements towards these directions, away from patriarchal practices and power structures? How do we move from feminist theory to feminist practice?

These questions are seminal within the municipalist journey, and navigating these challenges goes to the core of the European Municipalist Network (EMN)’s aims. Finding answers to these systemic issues is the focus for the Feministisation of Politics (FoP) – a bedrock of the EMN project. As part of this journey, the FoP working group organised EMN’s third online skill-share session in Spring 2023. The other topics were: building a democratic local economy; the power of storytelling and political education; and hacking the law to reclaim public space and re-socialise housing. Here you can find the other skill shares.

Feministisation of Politics collective

The Feministisation of Politics collective (FoP) was born in 2018, thanks to kick-ass feminists – women and non-binary participants – from municipalist movements continent-wide. The aim was to question, deconstruct and challenge the structural patriarchy existing within political activism and praxis. For over half a decade, the collective has worked towards the implementation of feminist practices within organisations, movements and institutions to achieve radical democratic goals. Its outputs include multiple projects and the development of practical tools. 

We can do politics differently. We can realise a life based on our feminist values, and this collective is about mapping pathways to get there.

This intersectional feminist horizon we are aiming for is not solely about gender equality. This future also needs to be built around core values of feminism such as cooperation, proximity to community, inclusion of different languages, being aware of privileges and putting care at the centre of our political action.

From theories to action: the buddy system

Creating tools to facilitate our movements and organisations feministisating politics is a first step, but how do we support each other to see these tools used? What if there is inertia – or resistance – to transform in this direction within our movements? 

As every political ecosystem and social movement differs, including the patriarchy expressing itself in different ways, FoP participants have for a long time already created workshops tailored to the needs of those in different cities. 

To support each other even better, the FoP group set up the buddy system, where participants from different movements became each other’s buddies to share experiences and support in implementing FoP tools, such as those designed to understand where an organisation is at when it comes to the feministisation of politics. The buddy system involves FoP working group participants, including participants from  L’Asilo (Naples), Nantes en Commun (Nantes) and Ne Davimo Beograd (Belgrade) supporting one another.

The toolkit “A tool for groups to start a process of feministisation of politics” will be published here. Check out the FoP tools in the Massive Online Open Course here.

Adapting and sharing tools

The Spring 2023 skillshare was the coming together of these efforts: a place and space to share the collaborative learnings and refine the buddy system. Participants explored how different topics were dealt with in the individual organisations so that they could implement appropriate methodologies for their specific needs: for instance according to the degree of awareness of feminism in the communities and the participating individuals.

The topics of the session were chosen based on what the workshops focusing on each city had covered. Consensus was one of the central themes of the discussion. This concept was explored not only from the most widespread sense associated with the word ‘consent’, but the FoP working group tried to approach its deeper meaning. This started from what we as individuals desire and what we do not desire, leading to desire being another central theme of the discussion. How to relate to other human beings who desire; how one’s own desire can be expressed; and how to be able to understand another person’s consent. 

Great importance was given to the theme of care, in particular to the care of communications. It emerged that a lack of communication – or ineffective, unclear or unempathetic communication – causes the relational ecosystem of organisation to be impoverished.

However, there is a need to make the feministisation of politics a shared goal within our broader movements. It emerged that in many organisations, it is difficult to legitimise the discourse on feminism. This is especially true what comes to cases of gender violence. Sadly, this is an issue also in movements within the municipalist ecosystem, and the online space was also used to discuss and share experiences on how this is dealt with in individual organisations, including the difficulties and resistance associated with handling the uncomfortable situations that arise.

The skillshare offered participants a space to not only share tools to feministise their movements, but also to discuss how these activities could be adapted and refined to suit different organisations. Some of the tools in the toolbox are: role-plays; the violentometer (a tool to measure whether relationships are healthy or toxic and dangerous); moments of self-awareness, cooperation or self-assessment; and moments of conviviality that foster the relationship and interaction between the participants. Self-assessment is an effective tool to detect the organisation’s weaknesses in a specific area in relation to the feministisation of politics, suggesting what to improve, and in which areas the organisation should equip itself to develop more political and practical awareness. 

One of the main takeaways from the skillshare therefore was that it is useful to share methodologies in order to bring issues that are fundamental to us to the core of the discussion, even where there is a certain reluctance with respect to the specific topic. 

Next steps for the collective

Moving further towards a feminist horizon, there is still much ground to cover. Next steps for the FoP group include making sure new tools connect not only theoretical knowledge, but keep in mind different practices and experiences. Secondly, it would be useful to make them accessible for others beyond the FoP orbit to use, differentiated and tailored for different situations and contexts. This could be differentiating between entry level and participants further on the journey. 

The FoP collective have also learned that it can be beneficial to bring in an external facilitator for added legitimacy and weight to situations where feministisation of the organisation would not necessarily be a priority.

The existing tools, together with the buddy system and the skillshare have already enabled new organisations and participants to come on board with the work of the FoP group. Moving further on the journey into feminist practice, this has added momentum. The FoP’s next mission is to figure out how to disseminate this new buddy toolkit, which is now tried and tested.

Want to know more about the skill shares? check out the municipalist skill share podcast series