The liberation of knowing how much you have to learn.

Getting married was awesome. The nerves, the leap of faith, the adrenalin, feeling loved and supported and celebrated, being on top of the world and so proud of my incredible parter. Putting on a rucksack and weaving a path from Paris to Malaga was pretty awesome too with adventure enough to match our high spirits and beauty and stillness to let our peace with each other breathe and grow.

Coming back with tans and goosebumps at 11pm on a mizzly sunday and setting a 7am work alarm was not so awesome. That was 2 weeks ago and I’m only just reaching a reasonable level of acceptance now. Walking past half unpacked Debenhams delivery boxes, anticipating the big reveal of the photos, and continuing to find penis-shaped confectionary from the hen party in hand bags and coat pockets, all contributed to my sense of limbo. Surely it wasn’t all over? Only after a fortnight have I felt honestly content to be in our home, living our lives instead of the carnival that the last few months have been. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I finally cleaned the bathroom. Huge relief.

As for blogging, I have opened the ‘Add New Post’ tab a few times since returning home but with no real sense of purpose and too unsettled to find a thread of thought that interests me, let alone anyone who might be reading. This evening however, something strange has happened as I sit on the sofa listening to summery, old school hip hop and soul. I’ve been visited by an extremely calming sense of how much I don’t know. After about 7 months of furiously blogging with zeal and fairly confident belief in the rightness of my interpretations of all things gender related, I am extremely glad to have been dislodged from my perspective long enough to not be able to settle straight back into it. Whatever position I occupied before no longer fits, not as snugly anyway, made uncomfortable by nagging doubts and questions that bend some of my ideas to breaking point. This shifting and reshaping is something I never see coming, baffling me at first as I fight with myself over issues I thought I had decided upon, and finally leaving me relieved and excited as I realise what has happened and wonder at what possibilities for new learning might lie ahead. The sense that I don’t know much about anything is one of my favourite feelings.

It also just so happens that in the coming weeks there are two fabulous opportunities to take all of my ‘not knowing’ and spend time listening and learning from people whose experience and wisdom might help reshape my perspectives for a next chapter. First of all, the UK Feminista Summer School at the end of July will bring together women from all over the UK to inspire and inform feminist organising and activism. This one is fully booked right now so I’ll not tease you with it but will definitely report back on how it goes.

More importantly for us Northern Ireland folks, is the Hanna’s House Summer School from Friday 27th – Sunday 29th August in Belfast’s Art College. This weekend conference entitled “A feminist peace – how do we get there?” is an opportunity to participate in developing a vision for a future peace where women are fully present and heard, and to explore what we might do together in sisterhood and solidarity to see that vision realised. The women that have been assembled to share at the event, through seminars and workshops, just happen to be some of the leading voices in Northern Ireland’s recent feminist history. I know this because last year my MA in Gender and Society contained a reading list that maps quite neatly on the the list of speakers on the programme – which you can check out for yourself here or visit Hanna’s House on Facebook here. These are women who met in bars and university halls and leisure centres and facilitated the women’s liberation movement in this wee place, who squatted in disused houses with abused women who had nowhere else to go, who stood up to the violence of paramilitary punishments that saw women beaten and humiliated, who faced arrest for protest against state violence both here and abroad, who brought women’s rights to the trade union movement, who fought for women’s centres so that women-only space could be carved out in communities dominated by male aggression… I could go on. I’m not big into pedestalising people but there’s no doubt that whatever movement is currently building here that young women are feeling increasingly drawn to, it must be informed by the legacy of what those who came before us have achieved and continue to fight for.

If you consider yourself even a bit of a feminist then I would love to encourage you to contact Hanna’s House and book yourself a place. At £10 for waged and £5 for unwaged it is a bargain bucket of first class feminist thinking, experience and energy. Many of the workshops will focus on peace building and dealing with the past, with input from activists working here as well as Liberia, Afghanistan, Chile and Peru. There will be poetry and art and a chance to talk about women in the media. Newer faces as well as those more established ones will lead seminars and remind us that feminism has a future that is still evolving and drawing in more and more young women who believe in equality.

I hope this first post after a break from my ramblings hasn’t been too vague and waffly. I will elaborate on the new questions and ideas that have been nagging me in the next wee while. Such as, how can we have a more nuanced understanding of domestic violence and abuse that more fully allows for the chaos of human relationships? What do we do with the sex industry, with all of its exploitation and abuse, with all of our revulsion or attraction, and with an unselfish desire to listen to those who are most vulnerable? Why do so many women embrace the terms of a sexual revolution that feminists argue has failed us?

But in the meantime COME TO THE HANNA’S HOUSE SUMMER SCHOOL! If there’s a feminist conversation to be had, how much better to have it with as many voices as possible bringing their jigsaw pieces and revealing the picture to its fullest potential. I’m excited.


4 Responses to “The liberation of knowing how much you have to learn.”

  1. 1 satee July 19, 2010 at 9:40 am

    thank you so much kellie!
    you have saved me. day after tomorrow i am supposed to submit a script. and i have not even begun writing it. and was totally in fix as how to start it. … and after reading your blog i felt.. this is it… my feelings exactly..The sense that I don’t know much about anything is one of my favourite feelings… you put it so well and in such good words. thats what this theme is about.. not knowing anything.

    i love your style of writing which reflect your so sincere and clear mind.

    i was wondering if you know of any programmes for girls manu’s age. … thats the age when they start internalizing the ‘role relatioships’ and gender politics!?

    • 2 soisaystoher July 19, 2010 at 11:34 pm

      Thanks Satee. It’s good to hear from you. I hope the writing goes well. I like knowing that you are writing on the other side of the world and my simple words were able to help you. I don’t know of any programmes for Manu’s age. There should be! But she is lucky to have such strong, creative family to help her imagine a full life for herself :0) Take care.x

  2. 3 Tam July 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I’ve just emailed to reserve my place – really hoping there’s still space! Can’t wait 🙂 I’m going to go to the creative workshops as that’s what I feel drawn to lately – I’ve done enough theoretical feminist bits and bobs with work 😉

  3. 4 Emma August 26, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    I’m really excited about this summer school too, perhaps I’ll even get to met you when you’re there. The range of workshops and the huge numbers are sure to make for a fantastic event. What a buzz! See y’all in Belfast 🙂

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