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Jess Sundin speaks at Utah workshop on struggle against male chauvinism

By Alyssa Ferris

Salt Lake City, UT – On Feb. 12, anti-war and international solidarity activist Jess Sundin visited Salt Lake City to lead a workshop entitled “Combating Male Chauvinism in the Revolutionary Movement.” The workshop was hosted by the Revolutionary Students Union and attended by students, activists and members of the community.

Sundin began the workshop by asking participants to write down the names of female revolutionaries that came to mind. When some found the activity somewhat difficult, Sundin pointed out that women have always had active roles in every revolution, but that male revolutionaries tend to be remembered. Sundin suggested that participants pick any revolutionary struggle that interested them, and then begin researching the role of women in order to better educate themselves about female activists.

“The root of it is women’s oppression in society, and male chauvinism in society. It’s not our movements or our organizations that are to blame. We pull in a lot of garbage from the society that we live in.”

Sundin explained that in the economy, women are treated as reserve workers. Women can be among the first to be let go from jobs and more likely to be offered only part time work. Due to inequality in the workplace and education, women are not given opportunities to progress to positions of authority in the workplace. Sometimes women’s roles in mass movements and people’s organizations mirror that bias.

Chauvinism does not only hurt women, however. Sundin said it is important to remember that sexism weakens the efforts of all activists and is a tool used by the ruling class.

“You want to keep working and oppressed nationalities people oppressed down? Cut half of them off from the other half,” Sundin said.

She said that within her own work as a revolutionary, she noticed there often can be a gender-based division when it comes to work.

“If we fail to respect women’s contributions in our movements, the default can be that men give all the political leadership and women just post fliers,” she said. “The reality is that women give just as much political guidance to the work we are involved in. The question is, is that guidance recognized?”

Participants shared numerous ways in which they had witnessed chauvinism in their revolutionary struggles. Some observed that men’s contributions are often celebrated and appreciated, when the same contributions from women are merely expected.

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