Feminist Think Tank: Past and Future

from The Leaves of Twin Oaks, Spring 2017

FemTO1

The Feminist Think Tank (FTT) group at Twin Oaks began in fall of 2015 in response to concerns about inter-community boundary-crossing issues. It’s gone through some changes since then and has recently re-formed. Originally, our process team was tasked with looking at the sexual assault and harassment response policy and organized a focus group meeting of women to help guide the process. This group continued to meet and ended up discussing all sorts of feminist issues at twin oaks, gradually inviting some gender-non-conforming folks and men to attend every other meeting. Over time, the group became more focused on events and activism in the community.

In our first year, we accomplished many things:

  • movie showing
  • play reading
  • two consent workshops
  • feminist dance party
  • feminist creek walk
  • reviving monthly women’s tea for female visitors
  • two men’s meetings
  • women’s (and mixed) tool-using workshops
  • introducing the values oreo to the visitor program
  • supporting racial justice at the Women’s Gathering
  • supporting the “visiting our visions” program
  • supporting the zine discussion group
  • publishing an article in geez magazine about living and working together in community despite having differing individual philosophies of feminism
  • sparking conversations with other communards
  • ftt e-mail list to share additional resources, articles, etc
  • bringing together folks from different social circles
  • helping to increase focus on the bylaws on a community-wide scale

As with many regular meetings at Twin Oaks, the original group dwindled in attendance over time due to a variety of reasons (people leaving the community, scheduling conflicts, general attrition, interpersonal conflicts, political differences, etc) and so we decided to revamp the group this past fall 2016. The new incarnation of FTT now meets every two weeks and is open to anyone of any gender who:

  1. Acknowledges the patriarchy exists
  2. Identifies as a feminist or feminist ally, and
  3. Recognizes that patriarchy is at play at Twin Oaks and wants to do something about it

Since re-forming the group, we’ve organized another two consent workshops prior to the 2017 New Year’s Eve party, designed and distributed fingerbooks about consent expectations for the New Year’s Eve party, had several folks participate in the Women’s March on Washington, and have continued to discuss our sexual assault and harassment response policy.

Ideas we have for the future include a consent tea party, consent fingerbook for Validation Day, increasing men’s support around the Women’s Gathering, more feminism 101 programming and educational opportunities, better bridging of issues between Twin Oaks and the outside world, doing more outside activism in order to gain connections and resources, re-inserting Twin Oaks into radical circles, dealing with the perception gap between how men and women see feminism at twin oaks, a feminist discussion group, and more. While Twin Oaks is certainly less sexist than mainstream society, we’re definitely “not utopia yet” and need to continuously strive to improve our culture at twin oaks and the world at large.

FemTO2

Feminist Think Tank: Past and Future

What’s Egalitarian?

by Raven MoonRaven

This blog focuses on egalitarian, income-sharing communities, also known as communes.  Several weeks back I put out a piece called “Why Income Sharing?”  This might be considered a companion piece, exploring the egalitarian nature of the communes.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Egalitarian as meaning: “Believing in or based on the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.”

For the way the communes structure themselves, the opposite of egalitarian is hierarchical.  Most businesses and religions are organized in a hierarchical way–where the leaders have leaders and the bosses have bosses.  Cooperative businesses are one big exception to this.  I also think it’s interesting to note that there are a few very egalitarian religions–that is, religions without hierarchical leadership:  some forms of Quakers, the Chavurah movement, and the Reclaiming pagans.  (I’m personally curious to hear of other egalitarian religious groups.)

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Many intentional communities define themselves as egalitarian: almost all co-op households and many ecovillages and cohousing communities.  The reason that the communes that we talk about on this blog use the term egalitarian is that there are many hierarchical income sharing communities, where there are leaders or gurus who decide how to manage the money.  (Unfortunately, these are also known as communes.)  The Federation of Egalitarian Communities  in the US was specifically set up to support secular, egalitarian income-sharing communities, as opposed to hierarchical, religious communes.

How egalitarian are the communes in the FEC?

Twin Oaks is the community that some people wonder about.  They have planners and managers and make decisions by a type of voting (many of the newer communities have none of these things and make decisions by consensus).  There are folks who wonder if the planners run the community–aren’t they in charge and don’t they have the power?

But planners can only be in the position for eighteen months (hardly gurus running the place) and what’s more, their power is limited by the Twin Oaks membership.  And since they, themselves, are members of the community and live with, work with, and eat with everyone else (as do the managers) they find themselves very beholden to the community.  They constantly read what people write on the O & I board and pay attention carefully to what members think.  An unpopular decision can have pretty bad consequences.  I heard one story about a planner who after making a membership decision that many people disliked, was run out of the dining room by a member who was upset by the decision and wanted to make it very clear.  This makes it difficult to find people who want to be planners.  And apparently, recently Twin Oaks ended up (at least temporarily) without any planners.

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Similarly with managers.  Folks at Twin Oaks point out that most people work in a lot of different areas and people who are managers in one area are just workers in another.  It can happen that in the morning person A will be the manager in an area that person B is working in and in the afternoon person B will be the manager in another area that person A happens to be working in.

And, again, Twin Oaks is the most structured of the communes, the only one with planners and one of the few with managers.  In most of the communes, it’s just a group of people living together, sharing income, and often working together. In the communes, leadership is just something people do, not a position.

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So my point is that the communes on this blog not only share money, but they share leadership.  That’s what’s egalitarian about them.

What’s Egalitarian?