No men beyond this point - Wild Womyn Workshop 2024

Women-Only – No Men Beyond This Point

Happy International Women’s Day 2024 sisters!

To be able to celebrate a day like IWD, one must be able to define “woman”. I know, know, everyone knows what a woman is.

Yes, I too am bored to tears with this question. Or rather I am bored to tears with that portion of the population who wants to pretend they suddenly don’t know what a woman is. Like we don’t all have a mother or something.

Without a clear definition of “woman” there is no feminism, no sex-based rights and no IWD.

what is a woman and why it matters?

Beyond the obvious, “a woman is an adult human female” the questions of definition, women’s boundaries, and women’s rights to self-definition are all interwoven.

These are political questions.

Our rights to exclude men from the definition of “woman” precede our rights to exclude said men from our toilets, fitting rooms, sports competitions, lesbian dating apps, women-only gatherings, women’s shortlist, rape crises centres, women refuges…

Language is important partly because our laws are based on it. Partly because language describes reality. If the language is made unclear, reality (our reality as women) will deteriorate. Blurry language means blurry boundaries. Who benefits from women having blurry boundaries?

As a woman, born and bred in patriarchy, I know from experience that setting up and maintaining a woman’s space is a challenge for most women, especially because our lifelong socialisation has taught us it is taboo, and forbidden. Women’s spaces are seen as bad, separatism is the worst sin any woman can commit. Saying NO to men is dangerous. We fear the label man-hater. And like with any steps taken away from an abuser, we also fear retaliation.

As a visual artist and activist, I see these questions in images and in 3D.

This question has brought this visual answer of creating a portable Women-only space in a bag.

The bag contains six concrete bases, six retractable poles and a long yellow ribbon printed with the message “Woman-Only – No Men Beyond This Point”.

The topic of women’s spaces is not specific to the trans-debate. It is a radical and Herstorical ongoing feminist discussion as to whether or not women are allowed to be, just to be, without men Feminist utopia novels such as “Herland” By Charlotte Perkins Gilman date from 1915. Daly, Frye, Hawthorn, Rich, and Raymond … all discuss its significance.

The term “separatist” is a term that usually brings a lot of strong feelings, especially negative ones, alongside adjectives such as “utopia” “unrealistic” and “unpractical” without mentioning “man-hating”. But as Dworkin once wrote that without women’s spaces there is no feminist consciousness. SAparatism is a key principle of feminism. The very act of thinking without men is an act of separation.

This project is a way to reflect on the political significance of women establishing our own boundaries and saying no to men, in practice rather than in theory. 

Here are shots of the “No Men beyond this point” Action in Practice at Glasgow 2023 during the FiLiA conference.

I will replicate this action again in the future. Please watch this space 🙂

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