Consciousness-Raising Group
22nd May 2013 5.30pm


Of Our Own Making
The Farm House, Wysing Arts Centre

This workshop invited a small number of people to form a Consciousness-Raising Group, an activity that seeks to make people more aware of personal, social or political issues. Taking its cue from the example set by The New York Radical Feminists this session was open to women only, though with Simone De Beauvoir’s proviso that ‘one is not born, but rather becomes a woman’. All participants were invited to become women for the duration of the workshop, requiring them to take an active and engaged role in reimagining and identifying themselves as women; thus encouraging participants to draw upon and foster their empathetic capacities.

Once the participants had begun to become women, the consciousness-raising session followed guidelines set out by The Chicago Women's Liberation Union archives. The session allowed for a degree of creative thinking, and reimagining of positions within the group and beyond it. The session hoped to encourgage a new sense of solidarity, as the group sought to empathize both with the personas they chose to inhabit and with each other.

The sesson allowed for a preparation time of 15 minutes, where the guidelines were set out and the participants were invited to consider the personas they meant to embody. The remaining time was spent talking about the each individual's particular concerns and feelings about being women, with the discussion focused on, but not limited to, a specific issue.


Reflection 1

‘The consciousness-raising session was an opportunity to think from another perspective, and I felt more connected with the positions of my sisters mother, girlfriend and friends. For that short period I thought like a woman, I felt guilty at the end that I could return to being a man.’

Reflection 2

‘To stop and become aware of gender is not necessarily an easy or common place thing to do. On the 4th day of Of Our Own Making, a retreat at Wysing Art Centre in May 2014, Rose Gibbs led a Consciousness-Raising Group which asked 10 participants to do just that. The deeply personal conversation that was generated from a selection of questions addressing children, relationships and employment drew the group of people together and raised many important questions. For me it was an opportunity to voice my own concerns about my career and the instability of being a woman in the art world - it felt important during a retreat that looked to the future to also look to my own personal future and the fears that accompany it. I felt overwhelmingly that I am not alone in my fears. Gibbs was a subtle presence during the group, inviting each of us to develop the conversation into an ever more engaging participatory exercise that re-addressed the (perhaps) forgotten techniques of second wave feminism.’

Reflection 3

‘It was a great experience, and it definitely forced my to take up another form of 'consciousness' that I had never taken into account in depth before. Listening to other people concerns and comments also helped tuned up myself into my simulation as a woman. However, I realized that I would never allowed to be in that room as a man, and it was a good chance to learn and listen to what "we" (in term of man) would usually never be listening to. The outstanding and enlightening moment for me was when I need to consider the question of giving birth as a woman. MY first feeling was anxious, perhaps because of a fear of pain. As a result, my answer was I would rather prefer to adopt a child than give birth. This view will remain with me, and I would share it with my future partner. Those questions about professional life were interesting to think about too.  I think every man need to attend a session like this at least once in their lives. It makes them understand woman a bit better than what they thought they did.’

Reflection 4

‘To me, the Consciousness-Raising workshop offered a rare opportunity for us to reflect and ponder on our roles, emotions, and influences as women, within a safe setting. It would be even more wonderful if the session could be longer!’

Reflection 5

‘Regarding the consciousness raising group:
I liked the atmosphere you created. It felt open and forgiving.
I could see how things were reflected among the participants. Of course one major difference were the people with or without kids.
I also liked the fact that the men had to force themselves to imagine another perspective.
Overall I felt it was a very supportive and empowering act.’