Manifesto for non-discriminating language(s)

Manifesto for non-discriminating language(s) in the QueerFem networkmeeting

The Queerfeminist inter/antinational networking meeting will take place between 19 and 25. of September 2011 in St Pölten, which is located between Vienna and Linz under the reign of the Austrian State, which reproduces and reinforces german as the majority language.

We want to deal with structural discrimination in an inter- and anti-national setting, and we want to have different languages available during the Queerfeminist network-meeting, because we don´t want to exclude anyone on that basis. If one person needs a translation, it’s just as important as if five or twenty persons would need it, especially when it comes to historical and/ or political, oppressed languages.

At each workshop, discussion, event etc. there should be the possibility to get translation, depending on the needs of the people who would like to participate. It is the responsibility of the people who give the workshops, lectures etc., and the people who take part, not to forget to check these needs at the beginning of the workshop, and it is also the responsibility of the people with different needs to express their needs for language accessibility. We ask all people who are interested to take part (doesn’t matter, if it’s for one afternoon or for the whole week) to write us as soon as possible and let us know what translation we should organise for which workshops (and whether they have the capacity to do a translation for someone else). There is the possibility to have frontal translation, and we think it’s better to do it like that whenever possible, as whispering translations exclude the people who get the translations, because they cannot take part in the discussion as the others. At the end, which languages are available for what workshops, and whether or not that is frontal or whisper translation, depends on the needs of the people who would like to take part.

Moreover, we expect all the participants and visitors of the QueerFem meeting to take structural discrimination and the different needs of the people who are present very seriously, not only in the workshops, but also around the dinner table, at the waiting lines for the toilet, or when you ask around how many people would like to have coffee or what food allergies one have, or who wants to play cards or hide and seek.

Speaking the different languages perfectly is not a requirement – in an antiracist setting noone should be embarrassed about their language knowledge or the lack of it, their pronunciation or their grammar mistakes. This is a strong principle during the networking meeting. It’s not as easy for everyone, especially because people with higher education and higher class background, basically more privileged people, tend to speak more languages or at least they are pretending it with more confidence. Even then it’s mostly limited to western languages, languages of the colonizers and post-colonial oppression, like english, german and french, spanish. That’s one of the important reasons, why we want people to share languages.

The difficulties with different languages and their inherent oppressive structures also include gendering language. Most (but not all) languages differentiate between female and male genders, when they talk about certain people in third person, and often even when they talk about objects, positions, jobs etc. This is a very strong part of reproducing hierarchy and it’s a long way to learn new ways of talking without saying genders all the time. Especially when it’s totally not relevant.

Noone should be named and labeled by other people during the Queerfem (or anywhere else actually) as female or male or any other gender category by another person. The only acceptable form of labeling someone is free voluntary self-identification. For example if a person say they would like to be referred to as they/she/he/zie/X/*/whatever that you can and should refer to this person that way, otherwise you should ask first what the person likes.
This doesn’t mean of course, one can’t name privileges and structural domination, and one can’t talk in a gendered way in a context where it is not only relevant information, but the main topic of the discussion or message. To talk about genders or sexualities is sometimes necessary to be able to talk about privileges. We all have to do our share to take each other seriously and to overcome language and gender hierarchies, and not to forget about them!

We don’t want to have one dominant language in the Queerfem meeting, we want to fulfill the different needs of the people with different backgrounds as good as possible. For this we need to know as soon as possible about the needs (on the website or by email). There will be also the possibility at the place to put the different language needs at the registration/infopoint table, but we have to organise the translators in advance. We need all the participants to take this very seriously in the way they deal with each other during the networking meeting and hopefully after as well in their lives.

We also encourage all of you to offer your help in the translation any time, now or later, or spontaneously at the place! All help is welcome to create a non-discriminative, open atmosphere as much as possible! Feedback about our concept, our way of dealing with languages is also very welcome!

Queerfeminist antiracist greetings
PlanLos! vernetz2

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