Feminist Discussion and Action Group

I was really intrigued when I read about the Bradford feminist discussion and action group in Marion's zine 'Who's That Bitch?' earlier this year. Although the group no longer exists, Marion, Julia, Sally and Judith, all members, agreed to share with The F-Word some more information about it.

, 16 August 2002

Could you give a brief introduction to the

Bradford Feminist Discussion & Action Group, for

someone who’s never heard of it before?

Marion: The group was an idea of Judith’s, who had

been in a similar group in Germany. She wanted to

discuss feminist texts in a small, friendly group, and

to link discussions of patriarchy to racism and

capitalism. The idea was to have a group of people who

got to know each other well and therefore felt

comfortable around each other, but it didn’t really

work out like that, since different people had

different commitments and couldn’t always make it.

The actions came later, when we got so inspired

after reading an extract from Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty

Myth, that we decided to do something about it. (Other

texts we read and discussed included Gender and Nation

by Nira Yuval Davis, and The Drama of Being a Child by

Alice Miller…)

When did the group start? Is it still in existence?

M: Well I don’t think it really exists anymore (except

in our hearts… individually) because a lot of us

left Bradford (including me) and it wasn’t really

practical. But like I said, I think we are all still

members in our hearts and minds!

I can’t remember the exact time it started, except

that it was sometime in autumn 2001, and it tailed

off in spring/summer time 2002.

Where did the idea for the group come from? e.g.

Are there other similar groups in existence (are there

any in the UK?)?

Have you been involved in anything like this before?

we all acknowledge the consciousness raising

groups of the 60s

M: It was Judith and Julia’s idea and they took

their inspiration from a group they were in in Germany

although you’d have to ask them about that! I don’t

know if there are any other groups like ours around

in the UK but it would be good to know about (get in

touch!). We all acknowledge the consciousness raising

groups of the 60s, although none of us are old

enough to have been around to experience them.

Personally I’ve never been in a group like this


Who initiated the group and how did you find members?

M: Judith sent an email out to everyone she knew in

the area. So most of the members were people who

already knew each other (but not me, I only knew

Judith and Julia, and I made a lot of friends through

the group). People brought along other people that

they knew. We also advertised around the University

but only a few people got in touch. There were a lot

of people on the mailing list who received the notes

from the meetings via email, but who never attended.

Did you publicise the group in any way?

M: Yes, we put posters and flyers around the

University and advertised at some events at the 1in12

Club (a local anarchist space), but we didn’t get much

response. I think we could have definitely done more.

I would if I was thinking of organising a group again,

or restarting the old one.


did have a range of perspectives

How many people were in the group and what was the

range of ages? Were there men as well as women in the


M: Yes there were three or four men (three attended

regularly, one only once). Most of us though were

women. I think the oldest person was 36 and the

youngest 18 (me) but I could be wrong. The usual

range was 20-30, so not very varied I suppose. But we

did have a range of perspectives because of coming

from different countries and backgrounds (German,

British, Israeli/American, Swedish, Japanese…) and I

think that was a strength. Also some of us were

parents/guardians and some of us not, some of us

gay/lesbian and some not, some of us disabled and

some not… Although of course we were all similar in

background in the sense that we were nearly all

white… and we all already had an interest in

feminism and anticapitalism, otherwise we wouldn’t

be there I suppose. Plus most of us were students or


How regularly did you meet and where (e.g. someone’s

home, in the pub, etc.)?

M: At first we met every week, but then changed to

every other week because it meant more people could

come. We always met in somebody’s house. We started

by rotating whose house it was, but then decided to

keep it at the same one to make it easier – especially

for Heather because when we had it at her house it

meant she could come after her son was in bed (no need

for a babysitter). The only time we didn’t meet in a

house was when we arranged an action in the town


What happened in the meetings? Were they structured in

any way? e.g. did you plan topics to discuss in

advance, did someone act to promote discussion?

M: Yes, we took it in turns to suggest a text to

discuss for the next meeting. If it was agreed then

that person would photocopy about 10 copies (this is

about the biggest number who ever attended, although

sometimes it was as few as three, but that didn’t

matter much to me). They would leave the copies in a

folder in the Fair Trade Cafe, where a lot of us

would pass regularly. This didn’t always work! For

example, the copies wouldn’t be there in time, or they

wouldn’t be there at all… but when it did work it

was great because it meant we all had time to read and

digest the text before-hand, and hopefully come up

with some ideas for discussion. Anyone who didn’t

manage to do that (sometimes all of us) would read

through the text at the beginning of the meeting and

we would always wait until they’d finished (although

sometimes chatter was distracting!). With one or two

texts that we found difficult, we read them out loud

together (in turns). This made sure everyone


…we would establish a note-taker or two to take

down brief notes…

Then we would establish a note-taker or two to take

down brief notes on what the discussion covered. We

all took it in turns to do this except for those of

us with problems writing eg dyslexia.

Then we would go round the group in turn and each

say some introduction like “i’m feeling tired tonight,

but i really enjoyed the text” or “hi, i’m ….. and

i’m nervous because i haven’t been here before”, or

just whatever we wanted to say. Nobody has to (!!) say

something in the rounds, but everybody has the space

to say something. Then the discussion was thrown open.

When we felt that the discussion had come to a good

end-point (although usually there was far more to

discuss! and to find out), or if it was getting too

late, we would agree to disperse, but not before

having a round like the one at the beginning, and

arranging a time for the next meeting.

After the meeting, somebody would type up the notes

and email them to the group. The discussion was

still open via email.

Our action meetings were similar in structure but

without the text obviously.

What kind of action has the group been involved in

and how did it go?

M: We had all sorts of plans! We wanted to make a

video asking people in the street what they thought

about feminism, and one about George Bush’s mental

health (!). But the only action that actually

happened, was that we made some stickers with slogans

like ‘you’re worth it as you are’, ‘drop the cosmetics

and smile’, ‘this isn’t a woman, it’s a myth’ and

‘someone is trying very hard to make you feel bad

about yourself’ and stuck them on magazines and

billboards in the town centre, that we found to be

propogating beauty myths (discreetly of course!). I

felt that that went really well in that we didn’t

get caught! But I don’t know how people reacted. We

put an email address on every sticker, for feed-back,

but nobody wrote. If just one person stopped to think

though, I think we succeeded. We also made some for

men’s magazines like Loaded and FHM, with applicable

slogans. Sorry I can’t remember them right now! That

was less successful of course because there was only

one man on the action, and us women felt very

selfconscious (and some of us disgusted!) picking up

men’s magazines.

it’s always good to exchange

and verify ideas… you get so much more out of reading

with different people’s perspectives

Would you recommend that others set up similar groups,

and why?

M: Oh yeah, because it’s so inspiring and like,

vindicating to talk to people about these things.

People who are actually listening, for a change. In

my day to day life, if I talk about feminism I feel

like I’m hitting a brick wall. Of course it’s not good

to isolate yourself but on the contrary I don’t think

we were, I think we were breaking down barriers.

Because we were all thinking these things but not

communicating them. And it’s always good to exchange

and verify ideas. You get so much more out of reading

with different people’s perspectives to compare, and

also when you can relate people’s different personal

experiences. The discussions often ended up having

nothing to do with the book but I think that’s good.

I learned SO much more than I would’ve done had I just

read them alone. I started thinking about all sorts

of things I’d never thought about before. And being

around other people encourages you to act on those

thoughts, rather than just think them. It provided a

base for thoughtful organisation and action against

a patriarchal capitalist system, and I think if we had

been together longer we would have done a lot more.

Even without that though, a couple of us have remarked

that it ‘changed our lives’.

Sally: I was a participant who hasn’t found the time

to help put together the rest of this interview, but I

would just like to add to Marion’s commentary that

this discussion group really affirmed me in many

changes I wanted to make, and made me feel like a lot

of my reservations about the status quo were real…In

the aftermath of the discussion group I cut off my

hair for starters, also finally reported an abusive

experience to the police, ended a relationship I was

unhappy with : this wasn’t just academic debate to me.

In fact it was a refreshing change from the

superficial, treacherous reasoning of much

contemporary culture, and I know other members of the

group felt the same way.

Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of setting up

a group? Is there anything you’ve learnt from the

experience that you could pass on? e.g. With

hindsight, is there anything that could have been done

better, etc?

M: Well, see above. There are plenty of things. Advertise, and welcome people from a diverse spectrum (including men, unless you specifically set out not to). But I think it’s good to have a fairly closed membership after the first few weeks, so that people already know each other and feel more confident in discussion. You can do it the other way too though.

Don’t have any kind of hierarchy – we did fine without one. And if one person constantly comes through as a leader, I think that should be

challenged. Some people will always be more confident than others and that’s a problem. But we tried to target it in a number of ways.

Basically just do what feels right and comfortable for you.

Judith: Make a clear beginning and a clear end at every meeting. Although the structure of an end and a beginning circle feels strange for people who don’t knew that method before, it is quite important for a

non hierarchical structure. Also important – (and that is one of the reasons I think, why the group wasn’t continuing in the end) – is to meet continuously and that people are reliable. That means that they say

reliably if they are coming to the next meeting and if not that they tell the group. That goes together with Marion’s suggestion to have a relatively closed group – so that you know who is coming.

Anything else you want to say about it:

M: I think you’ve exhausted me for now. I should mention that these are only my views and not neccessarily the rest of the group’s (most of whom

are too busy to write but were excited about the interview!).

Marion is the creator of “Who’s that bitch?” – a zine for the bored riot grrl in you! Issue 2 Includes an interview with Gertrude, cartoons, teenage angst, Valerie, interviews with extraordinary ‘ordinary’ women, music, film and activism. £1.50+A5 SAE to Marion, 14 Longbrook, Shevington, Wigan, Lancs WN6 8DB, UK.

Email: thelovelymarion@hotmail.com

Have Your say

Comments are closed on this post


  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds