Feminist Movers Makers & Shakers: Feminist Night School

How would you describe your outreach and what do you hope to accomplish?

Alli Feminist Night School (FNS) is a new community organization in Chicago which promotes intersectional feminism and is open to anyone who identifies as female, femme, assigned female at birth, or is gender non conforming. Post-election and feeling like crap, a group of people got together and started a “night school” in order to educate themselves on intersectional feminism and a host of other issues including affordable housing, immigration, under-served Chicago youth programs, education and more.

FNS is committed to developing fundraisers for different organizations in need. The first fundraiser will be on May 3rd and 100% of proceeds will benefit the Chicago Women’s Health Center. CWHC facilitates the empowerment of women and trans people by providing access to health care and health education in a respectful environment where people pay what they can afford.

How do you balance your mission of social justice with earning a living?

Elisse This is a collective so I can only speak in generalized terms, but majority of us earn money from our regular jobs and then spend all of our extra waking hours doing this shit for free. Whether it be working directly with Feminist Night School (organizing meetings, fundraisers, working on presentations) or within our community. A lot of us in Feminist Night School knew each other already through animal rescue. In my mind, the balance comes from enjoying the work and the people you do it with, so it’s not an obligation, but more of a fun hobby. A fun, important, badass hobby.

What do you hope people gain from experiencing Feminist Night School?

Elisse I mostly hope that people see what we’re doing and realize it’s easy and they can do it too. Local grassroots movements are the catalyst for change. So much more than any legislation or election of a single person.

What is your background in feminism and/or social justice?

Andrea As a collaboration, we come from all different backgrounds, fields of work, and personal perspectives. Some of us have degrees in Women’s Studies, others are teachers focusing on social studies and history, some of us simply want to learn more about the work our friends are involved in and how we can all contribute to making a change in our community. A few of us work in various social justice-related fields and many volunteer our time helping out various causes. We’ve named our group Feminist Night School as a way to bring us all together to learn from each other and find a common ground to create what we hope will be a grassroots effort to address issues women face right now in our community.

Is collaboration something you incorporate into your practice? Why or why not?

Andrea Collaboration is at the root of FNS. We’re just a group of friends who reached out to other friends and so on who all came together to learn from one another and begin working together on common causes. Despite quite a few voices being at the table we’ve worked very democratically, voting on topics to discuss, organizations to support with fundraisers, and working together to keep our group moving forward. I can only see our collaborations growing as we continue to grow and work together with and support other already-established groups.

What inspired you to embark on this path?  

Alisha We all have our individual reasons but I think the last election motivated us to come together and seek ways to collaborate and act.  While many of us have been active in different areas and in different roles in feminism and social justice, coming together felt like an important step.  We need to be the actors, we need to have a voice in the fight, and we need to support the causes we care about.  This group also believes in education and we have been educating ourselves, through the immense knowledge of other group members, about topics that are important, like affordable housing and immigration.  It is not the time to sit on the sidelines and hope that things turn out, we have to make sure they do.  We have the ability and the opportunity to make positive changes – and we take that responsibility seriously.

Why do you choose this group as your main method of engaging with feminism?  

Alisha As a group, we have an impressive knowledge base.  Feminist Night School has encouraged and empowered all of us to speak to the topics we know and help educate the entire group.  We have all benefited by leading and being active participants in the fight for social justice.  By creating Night School, we have created a safe space to learn and grow and a launching off point for other action items.  By using our networks and talents, we can support causes we care about and nonprofits by educating others about them and providing financial support.

What is your philosophy for doing activism?

Heather Activism is a central component of our collective, however activism has a range of definitions for our group. It could be educating our peers, raising money, listening to women of color, or calling our politicians. We remind ourselves that there are women all around us doing important work, and a central part of our activism is to listen to and support those women.

Who is your favorite feminist mover, maker and/or shaker?

Ashleigh I’m not sure that I have one favorite feminist – there are so many amazing, powerful and beautifully complicated women in my life who just continuously blow me away with their strength and compassion. For the sake of space and name recognition I will not list all these people and will instead go with the first name that popped into my head when I read this question – Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her life story is truly inspiring and Disney should retire some princesses in favor of an RBG-inspired character. While serving as the ACLU’S General Counsel for the Women’s Rights Project (which she co-founded) she systematically and pragmatically argued gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court. In 1970 she co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, which was the first law journal in the U.S. to focus exclusively on women’s rights. She is credited as inspiration for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act based on her dissenting opinion of a Supreme Court case regarding equal pay for women and men. The list of the fights she has taken up and advances that were made for women because of her literally goes on and on. There is obviously still work to be done but she is undoubtedly among the ranks of people who have improved my quality of life and provided inspiration to many. I am terrified of her absence on the Supreme Court. She can never get sick, retire, or die. Someone needs to find a way to make that woman live forever.

What feminist book are you reading right now & what do you think about it? Is there a particular quote or passage you found especially meaningful?

Lauren The Spiritual Activist: Practices to Transform Your Life, Your Work, and Your World by Claudia Horwitz. This writing is self-professed to be not a book, but a training manual, on how to turn inwards as we go along in our personal lives and remain resilient in creating social change as the days pass by.  Horwitz states, “We need a national culture of reflection that bends towards justice. We must develop the capacity and infrastructure for deliberate, ongoing, profound reflection, so that we might bring balance to the other forms of national culture we seem to be infinitely more comfortable with, the cultures of reaction, of military response, of traditional religion, of avoidance.”. I’ve found the text to be incredibly empowering. It’s broken up into three parts that take you through a personal course of reflection, guidance on reaching out to those around you, and lastly, how to turn toward struggle instead of isolating ourselves from what’s out there in the world.  It is filled with personal and group exercises, quotes, how-to’s, and an insane amount of resources. There are a number of meaningful quotes throughout the text, so instead of choosing one, I’ll leave you with the last one I read:

We live our lives forward but we can only understand them backwards. – Soren Kierkegaard

What are 5 ways our readers can support the work you’re doing?

Alli

  1. Follow us! Find us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with our fundraisers and ways to get involved.  and
  2. Come to our first fundraiser on May 3rd if you’re in Chicago! Tickets are $25 and include food, drinks, and the chance to win a ton of cool raffle items!
  3. Send us an email with ways you would like to help, donate, or contribute to what we are doing. We can be reached at feministnightschoolchicago@gmail.com
  4. Be active in your own community and create your own intersectional feminist groups. Get involved and stay involved in your community!
  5. DONATE! Funds are necessary to keep small grassroots organizations going. Consider donating to FNS via the EventBrite link in #2, or send us an email for alternative options.

ARE YOU A FEMINIST MOVER, MAKER & SHAKER? WE WOULD LIKE TO SHARE THE IMPORTANT WORK YOU DO. LEARN MORE HERE.


Feminist Night School (FNS) is a community organization started by a group of people in the Chicago area who wanted to stay informed on important issues and educate themselves on a wide array of topics ranging from the history and practice of affordable housing, education, healthcare, trans rights, and more. FNS believes in intersectional feminism and equality for all people. Our group meets once a month to have meaningful discussions on various topics, write postcards to our representatives on key issues, and of course, eat some snacks. We have also started to host benefits in an effort to gain attention on FNS and raise funds for some very worthy causes in the Chicago area and beyond.


 

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