Last week Newcastle University Feminist Society hosted Alysia Harris in The Barbara Strang Teaching centre for an insightful discussion and workshop on how to be a healthy woman in activism.
As an American poet, spoken word artist, activist and linguist Harris spoke very energetically and directly about the problems facing young women in activism, encouraging significant audience participation and creating an open atmosphere.
The workshop began with a two-minute exercise where participants had to make direct eye contact with a stranger in the room. Harris also spoke about how women can find their own role in the feminist movement, describing in detail the varying inclusive roles for women from organisers to spokespersons.
The event was free and open to anyone interested in learning about female activism, not just femsoc members or Newcastle University students and around 40 young women participated.
The aims of the event were to help people distinguish allies from advocates and familiarising us with young women currently involved in activism and to provide a safe space for women to discuss the issues they face both in activism and normal life and express the anger and fear they feel as a consequence.
The two hour session included both participation activities and an individual lecture by Harris herself, with comments and discussion from the audience frequently encouraged.
Fope Olaleye, president of Newcaslte University’s Feminist Society commented that:
“it’s important to have events like these because many of us are so heavily involved and dedicated to activism that we forget how tolling it can be on our mental and physical health that sometimes it’s important to take a step back and realise that we have to look after ourselves as well.”
“I learnt how to distinguish what specific type of activism I’m good at, and what areas of my activism I can improve and how to accomplish this. By distinguishing the different types of activism very clearly Alysia demonstrated how we can use our different qualities to fit together as a whole united force.”