The overarching thing I want to share is that this has become exactly the conference those of us on the Governing Council hoped it would become: it's the place to be. If you're a scholarly type with an interest in feminism, then you don't want to miss this conference.
I got to hear a number of truly outstanding scholars--Andrea Smith, Astrid Henry, Juana Maria Rodriguez, among others--present work that wasn't familiar to me and that introduced me to new ideas. Equally important, I heard newer and emerging scholars trying out their works in progress, folks like Amanda Richey, Kimberly Robertson, and Michael Gill. It was so exciting! I had the opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the country whose work I admire, and we all marveled at the scholars who are now regular attendees, scholars like Chela Sandoval, Banu Subramaniam, and Angela Davis. Yes indeed, Angela Davis, who was a keynote speaker last year, was so impressed that she decided to come to this year's conference as a regular attendee. You don't get to be much more of a feminist rock star than Angela Davis, and the fact that my friend Astrid was working out in the fitness center next to her was super-cool for all of us. We tried to pretend it was no big deal, though.
The issues scholars were taking up at this conference were rich and diverse, but here are a few that I noticed coming up again and again:
- Motherhood: Obviously feminist scholars have been examining motherhood since the 19th century, but this is a topic that's recently become pretty popular. Most of us who are feminist moms are well aware that motherhood is overburdened and under-recognized, even today, and so we're having a closer look at how it's structured and how it functions--with an eye toward making things more fair.
- Girls: Girls' studies is a significant field emerging in feminist scholarship, and it's based on the obvious, and yet still sort of radical, notion that girls' voices, experiences, and creations matter. My Girl w/Pen colleague Elline Lipkin is one of the leading names in this area, and she and I discussed, among other things, whether girls' studies is linked in some way to motherhood studies. Is it a coincidence that the two seem to be especially popular at the same moment?
- Intersectionality: This is not new, but it's finally getting more attention--the recognition that every person's identity exists at the intersection of multiple categories (race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual identity, bodily ability, etc). None of us is simply anything, so it was exciting to see session after session (and book after book in the exhibit hall) examining who we are in complex ways. In fact, this was less a topic that scholars were addressing and more a foundational assumption underlying much of the scholarship being presented.
Plus, I was reminded of how much I love a gender-neutral bathroom.
Cross-posted (and edited--a better version!) over at She Writes.