A Women’s and Men’s Workshop

In April 2013 I led, with Tim Jackins, a Women’s and Men’s Workshop, in Warwick, New York, USA. It was by invitation, and about fifty women leaders and thirty men leaders from North America attended, along with a small group from Europe. From Thursday night to Friday dinner, women and men met separately in two different workshops. From Friday night to Sunday noon we mostly met together.

I believe it was a breakthrough in reshaping our relationships as RC women and men. Several men said that the workshop was a turning point in their work on the oppressor end of sexism and male domination.

Below are some of the things that happened or that were emphasized:

  • Women’s liberation and the ending of sexism and male domination were made central to the workshop. They need to be central to the liberation of all humans.
  • Sexism is a primary and important oppression and division between humans. It is trivialized and made secondary to other oppressions (women are called the “second sex”). Putting women at the center, in the presence of both women and men, allowed the men to see the scope and depth of sexist oppression.
  • The following groups met every morning: women targeted by racism, led by Barbara Love1; men targeted by racism, led by Lorenzo Garcia2; and white people, led by Dvora Slavin.3 They focused on discharging on racism and sexism. The question for the first morning was “How has white Gentile male domination shaped your relationship to racism?”
  • Eliminating sexism and male domination is a project that women and men need to do together, even though they sometimes need to meet separately. We need to take a principled stand (regardless of what our distresses are) on these oppressions. I urged the women to take a principled stand against internalized oppression (oppressing each other).
  • There needs to be a partnership between those in the victim role (women) and those in the oppressor role (men), with both groups intending to build the partnership.
  • We worked with women on showing their struggles full-out4 to men and speaking to them directly about the oppression in their lives. We could see how hard it was for most of the women (including the most experienced leaders) to do this.
  • We played basketball and “girls’ games” and did physical counseling.5
  • We had topic groups on the institutions of sexism: marriage, child-raising, the workplace in a sexist society, reproduction, the beautification industry, and sexual exploitation. Some groups included both women and men, and some were all women or all men. This was the first time many of the men had been in groups on sexist institutions.
  • In one of the women’s classes, we discharged on the different ways that oppressed groups (black females, working-class females, Jewish females, and so on) and oppressor groups experience the institutions of sexism and how each group of women has been oppressed by the sexist institution of marriage.
  • There were groups and discussions on prostitution, reproductive technology, and sexual harassment in the workplace. Several women talked about their wide-world women’s liberation work.
  • Tim led a moving class on men’s oppression and men’s relationship to male domination and sexism. He did a profound demonstration with a man standing against the oppressor role.
  • We talked about thinking freshly about our relationships as RC women and men. We need to challenge going for6 comfort with each other (for example, trying to meet our frozen needs7) and instead try to actually think about each other, fight for each other, and love each other. We don’t have to wait until sexism ends to claim each other. We are in this together.
  • We women need to be challenged to lead in our relationships with men. I talked about what it means for women to raise the issue of sexism in all our relationships with men, staying close to men as we do that. Both men and women need to keep this struggle primary in their minds.
  • In addition to facing what happened to each of us as girls and boys, we need to face what happens to girl children worldwide. For example, underlying sexism and male domination is the fact that girl children are devalued and boy children are preferred in all class societies.
  • The atmosphere at the workshop was alive and fun, even with all the hard and uncomfortable work we did. Deep connections were made and strengthened.

I much appreciate the work we have all done to get us to the point of this workshop. I loved being with my sisters and brothers (and thinking of all of you who were there “in spirit”). I loved and appreciated leading, counseling, and working with Tim.

Diane Balser
International Liberation Reference Person for Women
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of women

1 Barbara Love is the International Liberation Reference Person for African-Heritage People.
2 Lorenzo Garcia is the International Liberation Reference Person for Chicanos/as.
3 Dvora Slavin is the Regional Reference Person for South King County, Washington, and Hawaii, USA, and leads many eliminating-white-racism workshops.
4 “Full-out” means fully.
5 Physical counseling is counseling in which a counselor, who has been trained to do it, provides aware and thoughtful physical resistance for a client to push and fight against.
6 “Going for” means pursuing.
7 “Frozen need” is a term used in RC for a hurt that results when a rational need is not met in childhood. The hurt compels a person to keep trying to fill the need in the present, but the frozen need cannot be filled; it can only be discharged.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00