Notes from Womxn’s Caucus at Rent Strike Weekender - 13th July 2019

Housing is about the emancipation of women. And the emancipation of women comes through better housing.

There is gendered discrimination in housing like in all activism, women are more likely to be overburdened with labour and less likely to be granted equal respect.

CW: sexual harassment, rape, gendered violence

Gendered discrimination in housing:

  • Mothers, especially single mothers who depend on benefits: vilified. More vulnerable to abuse of rights and laws from tenants, more likely to not afford rent.

  • queer women

  • sex workers: most are women, and finding/keeping housing is incredibly difficult.

  • migrant women/ refugee women: Less able to participate, are more likely to find themselves in care roles for their families and loved ones, and to have ‘second jobs’ in their reproductive roles. Less time for activism.

Gendered discrimination in housing campaigns:

  • LACK OF RESPECT/RECOGNITION/CREDIT: women in general are less likely to be listened to/ hold positions that reap respect. Talked down to, ignored, unable to take more public positions,…

  • GENDERED ROLES: more likely to take on administrative, care and reproductive labour. Taking minutes, arranging meetings, making food, being responsible for childcare, emotional support, etc. Also more likely to take on responsibility and mental stress of day-to-day campaigning and actions when cis men have liberty to enjoy actions and fully experience them.

  • SAFETY: Risk of sexual harassment and rape: destroys campaigns, especially when abusers are not held accountable for their actions. Abusive people release trauma and pain wherever they go instead of building strong communities of care and trust. And this is a massive issue in activism. The same goes for racialised, queerphobic, ableist violence.

  • INTERSECTIONALITY - gendered discrimination (that also intersects with other marginalized positions they hold in society):

    • sex workers are hypersexualised/ subject to whorephobia and in some cases are excluded.

    • trans women and non-binary people are subject to transphobia

    • women of colour: gendered racism, misogynoir

All of this means that womxn are not only less likely to be able to enter activism, but they’re less likely to stay in these campaigns and have their voices & specific interests heard. So damaging for campaigns when womxn are not listened to, are made uncomfortable and cannot be comforted because emotional support isn’t given back to them.

Building a housing campaign for women has fundamental questions of access, safety and equality.

Solutions - for a rent strike campaign to be accessible to womxn it has to:

  • Offer childcare (note here: childcare should not be seen as an afterthought or a burden. Think of activities that are beneficial & entertaining to them. Parents think of their children first, and if they don’t think their children will benefit from a meeting, they won’t come themselves).

  • If possible have funds to reimburse travel expenses for larger events

  • Distribute labour fairly

  • Make space for womxn to voice concerns & hold people to account (self-organised caucuses, time at the end of each meeting, a womxn’s rep, mandatory longer debriefs after more consequential actions..)

  • Have strong processes of accountability and transformative justice in place (check out the Salvage toolkit for guidance on this); a written safer spaces policy is also a good idea, so that newcomers can know the rules and boundaries when they enter.

  • Listen to women, work together to raise their voices (in meetings, during actions, speaking to the press or with members of the public)

  • Have training against discrimination & gendered violence

  • Have democratic structures whereby womxn can feel comfortable and equally in charge.

  • Include demands that recognize the specific ways in which women are discriminated in housing: end of demonization of single mothers on benefits, decriminalization of sex work.

  • Ensure that labour (as well as credit!) is fairly distributed and that womxn aren’t predominately in charge of emotional/reproductive work while cis men have more ‘exciting’ and public tasks.