This article, written by Ana Elena Obando following the World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegro, Brazil, analyses perceived sexist contradictions at the WSF and challenges resistance movements to self-reflect and become more inclusive. It argues that the violence against women in the Youth Camp of the WSF, which saw 90 reported cases of harassment, assault, indecency and rape, yet only one arrest, is a stark reminder of the WSF's failure to include a gendered perspective, and how this is not only detrimental to social movement building, but also has real, harmful effects on women personally.
Three contradictions are noted by the author:
• Despite sharing general opposition to neoliberal capitalism, militarisation and environmental destruction, Obando notes that in her experience resistance movements also share a lack of opposition to fundamentalisms, particularly religious, that impact women. This is not to say that social movements cannot work alongside religion; liberation theology, for instance, has supported movements in their fight against fundamentalisms.
• This contributes to compartmentalised and undemocratic resistance that feminists must once again strengthen from the inside, a resistance within the resistance, ensuring a gendered perspective in the building of an alternate world. An example of the issues faced lies in the Manifesto of Porto Alegro, a document produced by 18 men and 1 woman that establishes 12 points the WSF proposes globally without mention of a gendered perspective. The author notes that as an open space, the WSF is not a representative body for global civil society and cannot assume the right to speak for the entire group, and is an antidemocratic and sexist practice of power.
• There is a significant gap in WSF activities between the rhetoric of gender mainstreaming and practice. Women continue to navigate between women and with women, struggling to incorporate gender into other movements. Mainstreaming must go beyond merely adding the word 'woman' to policies, without budgetary support of real understanding of the concept.
The article finishes with a description of events at the Youth Camp of the WSF in Brazil. 35,000 students, artisans, feminists, etc. gathered in a “facade” of an open and progressive space; within this space young men kidnapped and raped women. This presents a fourth contradiction: the gap between espoused political values and individual action of the 21st century “Che Guevara look-alikes”. Obando writes that the camp succeeded in practising the values of the WSF (whose moniker states “Another World is Possible”), in that it failed to include women in a safe and progressive space. A group of feminists marched through the camp in protest, and the Lilac Brigade were formed: women who wore lilac bands on their arms to indicate their willingness to help other women who had suffered abuse. Women were angry, frustrated and saddened by events, asking if 'another camp is possible?'
The author concludes that the WSF must review both their methodology and their vision, and address the issues of sexism, patriarchy and undemocratic organisation that threaten to do real harm in weakening collective civil society as a whole.