Feminism is a movement that professes to fight for the liberation of all women, though in practice it has not always done so. Rightful accusations of racism, transphobia and classism have long blighted our cause. Brighton Feminist Collective (BFC) was created in 2011 to try and help rectify that. We are wholly trans* inclusive, anti racist and pro sex worker rights. The group operates on a nonhierarchical basis and all decisions are made collaboratively. Intersectionality is at our core as one of our founding principles. When we fight for freedom from harmful, rigid gender roles, we do it whilst acknowledging the many axes of oppression that can influence people’s lives.
I am immensely proud to be a part of BFC, here’s a little bit more about who we are and what we do:
The virulently anti-choice group ‘40 Days For Life’, stood outside the Wiston’s abortion clinic in Brighton throughout Lent, intimidating those seeking to use the services. In response, for every day that the anti-choicers were present, BFC took messages of support and solidarity, along with a gift, to the staff of the clinic as a thank you for their tireless work in the face of intimidation. We also have an ongoing campaign called ‘That Time of the Month’, whereby every month we drop off a present at the Wiston’s clinic (usually something delicious and cake related), as a reminder of our continual thanks for the ongoing work done by the staff to ensure the welfare of all those who need them.
When appropriate, we take a stand as BFC and speak out against bigotry. We were asked to publicise the RadFem2013 conference and wrote a public statement outlining why we were not prepared to do such a thing. Namely, we feel that ‘…transphobia has absolutely no place in the feminist movement and believe RadFem2013 to be endorsing these views’ by allowing a platform to notable ‘trans*critical’ academics such as Sheila Jeffreys. As intersectional feminists we recognise the validity of ALL trans* identities, and believe trans* people to be integral to the movement. We are proud to have supported the very first Trans* Pride event this year in Brighton as well as last year’s Trans* Day of Remembrance. We will be raising awareness of the latter event at our Reclaim the Night march in November (see below).
Sex worker rights
At BFC we do not speak for sex workers, but we stand with them. We support the right of all people in the sex industry to work as safely as possible. We have been collaborating with the English Collective of Prostitutes on their campaign to decriminalise sex work, which we believe will reduce stigma and improve women’s safety. We met with our local MP to raise awareness of the issue and are planning a public event for later in the year. We hope to bring together people from all sides of the debate to put sexworker rights on the feminist agenda.
In response to the harrowing murders of Turkish sex worker Dora Özer and Swedish sex worker Petite Jasmine on the 9th and 11th of July 2013, BFC organised a protest consisting of speeches and a minute’s silence in their memory. This was a solidarity action within the wider campaign ‘International Day of Protest Against the Violent Abuse and Murder of Sex Workers’, instigated by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe and the Rose Alliance.
BFC meetings are held every Thursday from 7-9pm. The first hour is typically given over to campaign planning and the organisation of actions. The second hour is reserved for an informal discussion about a range of feminist issues, led by a volunteer from the collective. Some of the recent areas we’ve covered are: Feminism and fairy-tales, women and criminality, reproductive health, race in feminism and body hair and the quest for a ‘summer body’. Whilst everyone in BFC adheres to our statement of intent, there is still plenty of leeway within that for healthy debate and we encourage members to share their views.
One of BFC’s priorities at the moment is access. Brighton is very hilly, so everywhere is uneven and has steps. Add to that the noisiness of public spaces, the expensiveness of private spaces and the darkness of pubs and you’ve got an access nightmare. So we’ve spent the last two years moving from venue to venue, seeking the most accessible space in town. If it exists, we are committed to finding it. No one should be barred from participating in feminist action due to accessibility issues.
Inclusive to all genders
Unlike a lot of feminist spaces, we are not a women-only group. BFC is completely open to everyone, regardless of gender. Women-only spaces are important for consciousness-raising and we recognise their validity. However we believe that feminists of all genders should be able to participate in our campaigns and meetings. The more hands on deck to help smash the patriarchy, the better!
Reclaim the Night Brighton
Reclaim the Night (RTN) is a march that asserts our right to walk the streets at night free from the threat of gender based violence, sexual assault and harassment. Historically RTN marches have been anti sex worker and trans* exclusionary. BFC decided that we would create our own inclusive RTN event to stand against this and give everyone the chance to participate in taking back our streets. Last November BFC staged Brighton’s first RTN march since the 1970s. It was a phenomenal success and the second largest gathering in the city after Pride. We held a rally as a culmination to the march at which Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party and current MP for Brighton Pavillion gave a speech. There was also slam poetry from one of our members and A LOT of cake. This year the march will be held on the 16th of November, followed by a rally and an after party hosted by Traumfrau, Brighton’s monthly queer girls’ night. We are currently in the process of fundraising to allow us to develop this incredibly importantevent to its full potential.
Help us smash the patriarchy
If you’re in the Brighton area please do come along to our meetings. We are always open to new members, whether you’re brand new to feminism, or have been fighting on the front line of feminist activism since the 70s!
If you are interested in donating to Reclaim the Night Brighton 2013 then you can click here.
Here is a short video outlining a bit more about Reclaim the Night and Brighton Feminist Collective. Like our Facebook page for up to date info on what we’re up to, links to feminist articles and for the venues of our meetings.
Kesiena is a nineteen year old student of Sociology at the University of Sussex. She is a part of Brighton Feminist Collective, a committee member of her University’s Women’s group and a guest vlogger for Youtube feminists Those Pesky Dames. If she’s not thinking about feminism she is probably asleep.