Bringing Feminism to Un-Feminist Spaces.

The Visions in Feminism (VIF) Collective is a Washington, DC-based collective working with the common and overlapping goals of social justice and feminism.  It is for sure a lofty goal and one we try to achieve in the ‘extra hours’ outside of our day-jobs. Collective members come from all walks of life where careers range from dog walking, bar managing, domestic violence shelter managing and government contracting.  In addition to our ‘for pay’ gigs, and the additional collective work our members spend time doing a wide range of activities from advocating for animal rights, providing clinic defense, and performing burlesque. As a group we have organized events, and annual conference in the DC area since 2001, first partnering with the University of Maryland, although we have spent the last five years collaborating with American University’s Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program.  We work hard to make sure our conference is accessible, affordable and challenging to feminists and those with an interest in feminism alike.  Membership (and conference themes) has changed over the years and we have evolved both as a conference and a collective while still holding on to some very core beliefs about feminism, activism, and creating change.

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The Visions in Feminism Conference is a small (and very Do-It-Yourself minded) conference priding itself on recognizing the practical and applicable aspects of feminism while really challenging folks to truly make it a movement that is non-exclusionary.  Past workshops have included creating safe space in art scenes, street harassment, bike repair, effective meeting planning and running, the overlap between animal rights and feminism, and safer sex practices. Our speakers have been just as impressive and diverse: Jeanne Flavin, Andrea Smith, Annie Sprinkle and Amy Richards to name just a few. Conferences may seem like not the most applicable or accessible way to apply feminism. After all they are usually insular, expensive, and require travel. I am proud to say that our conference is affordable ($15 for the day including lunch)  and we provide daycare and ‘self care’ space so that folks can come, learn, be engaged. We do this because it has always been a core belief that our collective should the Visions in Feminism Collective work together to bring together speakers, attendees, and organizers in an attempt to build a larger and stronger feminist community.

The reason I love doing outreach about our conference is because I get to not only sing the praises of past conferences I’ve worked on (and am intensely proud of) but because I get to talk about the philosophy behind our group, the motives that sustain us, and challenge myself (and the group) against the isolationism that can happen in any activist circles. I was first approached by a former collective member 5 years ago to submit a workshop as we worked together doing clinic defense. The theme that year was ‘Queering Spaces’ and I ended up leading a workshop about how to make activist spaces more open to religious folks, and how religious spaces could be more open to queer and activist minded people. My experience presenting a workshop was so great that I ended up being a collective member the next year, and now after four years in I can’t imagine our meetings, emails, and constant ‘to-do’ lists not being part of my life.  It is a truly enriching and challenging process to put together something awesome, and different every year.

This year our conference is happening on Saturday, April 6 and our theme is: Bringing Feminism to Un-Feminist Spaces.

Feminism as a movement is often torn between a generic “Girl Power” label and overly isolating academic jargon. Both methods can distract the application of feminism from its focus. The spirit of feminism is inclusive, multi-faceted and complex. By creating space for voices from across religious, social, and political spectrums to address racism, classism, hetero and cis sex-isms we expand and infiltrate spaces that are not outwardly labeled as “feminist”. This year, the ViF conference will explore how we can bring feminism into areas of society that have been under-served by, do not openly identify with, or are unsympathetic to feminism’s goals. By focusing on these efforts, the movement can expand to reach those individuals who would not readily align themselves with feminism and successfully demonstrate the necessity of feminist approaches in continuing the anti-oppression work of the future.

Each year, Visions in Feminism seeks to provide a forum for diverse perspectives within a feminist framework to keep the movement relevant, inspire action by its attendees, and destabilize patriarchy and other forms of oppression. We are asking that workshops be submitted via our googleform.

Maybe you’ve never considered yourself an activist but have experience making your work a more equitable place, or you have been organizing protests at your college, or started a queer support group at your house of worship. Maybe you’ve never run a workshop before, or attended a feminist conference – the thing is the collective is here as much to help folks put together a workshop, as we are to host the conference. Feel free to ask us any questions and we will work with you up until the conference date if your workshop is accepted.  So please consider reaching out or submitting a workshop by March 6. Not interested in presenting a workshop? Still think about attending our conference. If you are coming from outside the area let us know if you need support in organizing a couch-crash option, or some other support to make this conference affordable.

Laura on behalf of the Visions in Feminism Collective.

Learn more about the Vision in Feminism Collective on its Website.
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Laura is a member of the Visions in Feminism Collective, the voice/mind behind the Fully Engaged Feminism Podcast, a clinic escort, and general do-er of things. Not too proud to still live in the suburbs of the capitol Laura strives every day to make the world a little better by talking about feminism with anyone who will listen.

Photo credit: Katie U via Visions in Feminism Collective

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