Earlier this spring, The Ladies Rhythm and Movement Club (The LRMC), a knowledge bartering collective based in Toronto, wrote a web feature with tips for starting your own radical peer education group. We had more questions for The LRMC, but also wanted to continue the conversation on what it means to operate on an inclusive feminist mandate. How do we ensure that safe, inclusive spaces exist and that mainstream power structures aren’t perpetuated? What does inclusivity mean? Locating and engaging with these spaces of difference, overlap, and congruence are all part of this conversation.
We invite you to continue this dialogue in the comments.
Shameless: What has been the biggest lesson learned since launching The LRMC? Why? (Or what has surprised you the most?)
LRMC: The biggest lesson learned? Eyebrow care. No, I’m kidding - but that was a great workshop.
We launched The LRMC with a mandate of radical peer education; that knowledge could be in free exchange with knowledge between women in our community who would act reflexively as teachers and students. I think the biggest thing we’ve learned since the launch is just that this system really can work when you’re lucky enough to meet the kind of dedicated, inspired people that we have since we started this project. Every time The LRMC gets together at a skills workshop or seminar, we also see a little bit more of the incredible capacities of the people around us and the dynamic character of the community to which we’re trying to contribute. We wanted to learn new skills without going broke and it turns out, a lot of women feel the same way we do. And now that we’ve launched our website, we get to learn new skills and hear stories every week from contributors from across the country and the U.S., culminating in a new workshop every month in Toronto led by an expert in their field.
Shameless: The LRMC is Toronto-based. If someone (or several persons) want to start a knowledge bartering collective in a town or rural setting that doesn’t have the same population base or resources, what should they know? What tips would you give them?
LRMC: The best tip we could give anyone who wants to start a collective of any kind: do what works. Toronto is a pretty fitting backdrop for The LRMC but it does present its own challenges: there are so many really excellent people, skills, spaces, and inspirations to draw from, but people are busy and often far away from where we hold many of our workshops. We try to embrace what’s available, emphatically and graciously accept what contributors can give, and keep playing jazz until we know what works.
Online communities can easily navigate past city lines and break down the divide between urban and rural communities. We’ve found that since the launch of our blog and website, we’re able to expand our reach to cities and towns across the world, and we embrace anyone who wants to reach out to us over the Internet and become part of the fold.
If you’re in a rural community, or you don’t have Internet access, the same rules apply: do what works. Stir interest with fliers, offer snacks and play loud music until someone talks to you, meet with community leaders; do whatever you can until you have a club of two. It won’t stay that way for long.
Every event, every new column on the website, is a new animal. The LRMC started with two women, a lot of wine, and just a few teachable skills between us. If you’ve got two ideas in free exchange, you’re already well on your way. It won’t be long before others want to get in on the action.
Shameless: It’s not uncommon that groups founded on inclusive principles end up replicating mainstream power structures (what bell hooks calls white supremacist capitalist patriarchy) and don’t end up challenging/dismantling privilege as originally hoped. As a group founded on inclusive feminist principles, what steps are or will be taken to acknowledge varying degrees of privilege among members? OR what steps are taken to ensure that The LRMC is a truly safe, accessible space for women of colour, Indigenous folks, individuals with disabilities, trans and non-binary gendered folks, and queer communities?
LRMC: The LRMC was designed to address problems of marginalization and intersectionality by providing a positive outlet for those affected by it. The LRMC works on a sliding scale of contribution – give what you can and participate when you can. This simply means that the sum of The LRMC’s reach – as an organization, a community, a radical skill-sharing school, or a political combatant against gendered oppression, or discrimination of any kind – is entirely dependent on those who get involved. We make no claim to advance an agenda that specifically addresses issues of race, accessibility, or other types of marginalization that our peers experience, but we do offer a platform from which to express those experiences in a public arena, be it through co-education, art, protest – it’s up to our members.
Shameless: How can The LRMC improve going forward?
LRMC: We’re always looking for more hands on deck. The LRMC operates entirely on the knowledge, support, and dedication of our members, and the best way for us to continue to develop and improve is to keep bringing in fresh meat. If you’re in Toronto and you’d like to attend or lead a workshop, or if you’re anywhere and you want to contribute to the blog, contact us. We’ll do everything we can to put your idea in lights, give you an audience, or just connect you with an extraordinary cast of likeminded people.
Learn more about the LRMC on our website, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook! Contact us if you’re in the Toronto area and you’re interested in participating in our next event, or if you’re anywhere and you want to contribute to our blog.