Final Conference Program

fwsa-logoWe are very pleased to release details of the final programme for ‘The Lady Doth Protest: Mapping Feminist Movements, Moments, and Mobilisations‘ scheduled for 21-23rd June 2013. Full details of our conference schedule, including details of panels and special events can be found HERE

See you all in Nottingham!

– Claire and Trish


Conference Blog: Panel Session VIII, Sunday 23 June

Feminist Mobilisations (ii): Ethnography

Dr Manjima Bhattacharjya ‘The Union and the Agency: The Case of Fashion Models Organizing in India’

Bhattacharjya’s paper discussed her ethnographic work looking at the modelling industry in India. The paper suggested that modelling increased in the nineties due to globalisation and began to be seen as a possible route to social mobility. However, Bhattacharjya suggested that modelling also involved a social taboo as it involved putting oneself on display and wearing certain kinds of revealing clothes. The paper then discussed Model United, a trade union that was set up for models and discussed her ethnographic research with the founder of the trade union. Bhattacharjya suggested that the union was vocal on issues of exploitation and a desire for professionalism after the leader found out about trade unions in school.  Bhattacharjya stated that the leaders asked lawyers for advice, registered the union and over 100 women joined the initiative. Concerns included minimum standards and a rulebook on how employers should conduct themselves. However, soon repercussions could be seen, as there was a push back from employers. This led to the union collapsing. Bhattachariya compared unions with agencies, specifically the Elite India agency. She first outlined the history of agencies, suggesting that the advance payment system and matriarchal strategy helped boost their popularity. She also pointed to the fact that the 1990s saw an increase in worldwide offices due to globalisation.  The paper looked at the way that the Elite India franchise has grown and how the franchise owner has introduced strategies specific for Indian culture, including protection of young people, and reassurances to parents as well as more general aspects such as protection from bad debts and promotion of access of a corporate culture.

 Anusha Hariharan and Kaushiki Rao ‘Everyday Narratives and Negotiations from Activist Paces: The Cases of New Delhi and Beed, Maharashtra

This paper looked at the everydayness of activists lives, suggesting that we need to focus on the everyday as well as spectacular moments. Hariharan used her fieldwork to illustrate this. Her research focuses on Dalit activists in Beed Maharashtra, working specifically with the Research Development Centre. Beed is an area that is not highly industrialised. The paper discussed issues such as land rights and the work of land rights activists and looked at the everydayness of activism including the relationships that activists build with those with state functions, suggesting the importance of coalition building as well as dissent. The paper also suggested that women are able to carve a niche for themselves as activists in the region, especially around issues of Domestic Violence.

 Dr Stephanie Brauer ‘Chinese Women’s Organisations Combating Domestic Violence

 Brauer’s paper discussed the way in which Chinese Women’s organisations, and the Anti Domestic Violence in particular work with official state organizations and carry out capacity building. Brauer’s work is based especially on network building and the concept of embeddedness. The paper pointed to the way that Chinese advocacy groups need to affiliate themselves with state organisations through having registration status, or to build networks with international organisations or party officials in order to succeed. Brauer suggested that this created a balancing act between organizational success and the realisations of the negative outcomes for staff and organisations. The paper then looked at a case study of the Anti Domestic Violence Network which was established in 2000 and registered under the Chinese Law Society. The network is a cross disciplinary professional alliance initiated by scholars, activists and other social organisations. The network is highly dependent on international funding and has 121 individual members and 78 member organisations. Although state affiliated, it claims itself as an NGO. The paper tracked the development of the network and its focus on political advocacy. It spent three years from 2000-2004 establishing and researching for an anti domestic violence law which was then refused at first draft stage by the Women’s Federation. Between 2000-2011 it changed its advocacy strategy with a stronger focus on networks with semi official organisations outside of Beijing. In 2010 it lost its registration with the Chinese Law Society, and was re- registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2011. The Women’s Federation then accepted the anti-domestic violence legislation draft which was then handed to the National People’s Congress. Brauer suggests that the Anti Domestic Violence Network’s success can be linked to its embeddedness with semi official organisations  which was decisive in influencing legal change but stressed that legal change networks are both crucial and risky.

The Activism of the Arts: Performing politics and protest

Harriet Curtis (Queen Mary, University of London). “’End Rape in Los Angeles’: Restaging Suzanne Lacy’s Three Weeks in May for the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival.”

 Three Weeks in May (1977) was an art project recording sexual violence in L.A. with a central “rape map”, a map of L.A. covered with red stamps reading “RAPE”, accompanied with talks and press conferences. In 2012, the project was restaged as Three Weeks in January. Harriet Curtis asks if this repetition runs the risk of diluting the power of the original artwork. In fusing art and activism, and producing socially engaged practice intersecting with art, activism, and education, Suzanne Lacy blurs the lines between art and life and reveals their complicated relationship. For Harriet Curtis, the 2012 re-performance allows for a reinforcement of the feminist engagement with art in addressing its socio-political context. She adds that the obsession with authenticity in re-performance must be countered with an acceptance of historical inaccuracies, or else it may run the risk of losing its affectivity and becoming canonised and stripped of context. The 1977 version made to raise awareness about sexual assault in the “rape capital of the States” was exhibited in downtown L.A. to engage with the public. For Lacy, the purpose of feminist art is to provide an outlet for women’s experiences and to open the discussion and change culture. The 2012 project aimed at ending rape in L.A. and made use of social media to address a national and international audience, but it risked distortions, for example in the way Twitter was used to count the number of rapes every day, as opposed to the static “rape map”. The new project was also a campaign of branding, using recognisable colours and typography recalling the past to relate it to the present. During the 2012 exhibition, visual and video documents from the 1977 original project were shown, and although it is difficult for an artist to measure the social impact of their work, as it is inscribed in history and context, Harriet Curtis argues that documenting live work by making more live work to engage with it could enable the artist’s engagement further.

 Wendy Hubbard (Queen Mary, University of London). “Naked Solidarity on stage: Performing Protest in Nic Green’s Trilogy.”

 Nic Green’s Trilogy is a feminist performance first produced at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe festival with a naked chorus of female volunteers who change every week. Wendy Hubbard describes it as a “powerful” work, and acknowledges that this is a problematic word for a feminist performance because of its connotations and links with masculinity. She adds that the staged togetherness of the dancing chorus functions as a key trigger of affect for the audience as well as an empowering act for the performers. In a bid to explore women’s relationship with their own body, all three parts of Trilogy feature naked performers who form a crowd of volunteer. Because of the way they move, the bodies are unsexualised and carry no secret feminine essence hidden in the veiled body. However, race, class and sexuality are not engaged with and nudity is equated with liberty. Wendy Hubbard mentions Baudelaire’s remarks on the sensuality one derives from being part of a crowd. She also reminds the audience of the long and troubled history of public gatherings and the position of women in the public space, including the “Riot Act” prohibiting more than 12 people to assemble in public as it was judged a threat to the peace and the political status quo. Indeed, since the French Revolution, the crowd has been seen as a dirty multitude providing strength and determination, as well as being often depicted as feminine and irrational, so an intrinsically gendered threat. Wendy Hubbard concludes that Nic Green uses the amateur status of the naked volunteer dancer and the small budget associated with her position outside the mainstream art circuit to the advantage of her performance, not least by turning it into an open community for women to join freely.

 Eilidh Hall (University of East Anglia). “’Tantamount to Treason’: Chicana Protest Murals.”

 This paper looks at the refurbishment of Chicano Park in San Diego (USA) as a place to express and celebrate chicano culture. In 1970, members of the chicano community occupied the park for 12 days to save it from developers, and the city agreed to allow the community to turn it into a communal space dedicated to Mexican-American culture. Painted murals appeared as a form of political expression, derived from an art form flourishing throughout history in pre-Colombian Mexico. These depict themes as various as Aztec iconography, mexican patriotism, religious characterisation, and political figures. Eilidh Hall shows striking differences between murals painted by men (replicating patriarchal ideals) and by women (showing women in strong roles, for instance holding the sky). Tradition in Mexican-American society emphasises Machismo and Marianismo, an ideal of femininity as meek and spiritual akin to benevolent sexism. Eilidh Hall evokes the difficulties faced by women wanting to get involved in the refurbishment of the park. A male member of the Chicano Park steering group even called women who dared to paint murals “tantamount to treason.” The Chicano students movement in the 1970s was also deeply sexist, and women students who asked for an end to gender discrimination and tried to introduce women’s issues on the agenda were shut down and shunned. It is worth noticing that in 2012, when the murals were regenerated, women’s murals were updated and infused with new meanings whereas men’s murals just received a fresh coat of paint. 

Prof. Nicki Saroca (Asian University for Women, Bangladesh). “’For Better or Worse… Till Death Us Do Part’: Buklod Kababaihang Filipina and Filipina feminist protest in Australia.”

 The focus of the talk is the history of Filipino migration to Australia, especially women coming on a partner visa. This has led to a bad image of Filipino women in Australia as opportunistic mail-order bride or sex-slave. But violence exists both in discourse and materiality, and we must look at the unreconcilable rift between the sense of entitlement of perpetrators of domestic violence, who consider women and children as their property, and feminists who treat domestic violence and violence against women in general as human rights issues. Filipino women are very active both in Australia and the Philippines but remain invisible, which is a very real social issue since they are six times more likely to be victims of domestic homicide than white Australian women. Usually, the perpetrator goes to the Philippines looking for a subservient wife and experiences her challenges to his authority as unacceptable, which leads to violence. Buklod Kababaihang Filipina (or United Filipino Women Against Violence) was founded in 1993 to provide culturally sensitive ways to dialogue about violence and provide space for women to speak and share their stories. Till Death Us Do Part is a performance piece which toured Australia and was filmed and screened in the Philippines to inform women about domestic violence. It was inspired by twelve women’s experiences of domestic violence in Australia at the hand of their Australian, Filipino, or other migrant background husbands and partners. Prof. Nicki Saroca argues that we must look at the intersection of the materiality of violence and the discursive constructions of the Filipino woman to understand their situation. She also mentions the work of materialist feminists as corrective to Foucault’s heavily discourse-oriented theory, among which Dorothy Smith who looks at the ways the text shape people’s subjectivity and behaviour, for instance, the way we construct a partner as equal or as property (the text) determines if we will assault them (materiality). In the context of Filipino women in Australia, the media manipulate the text in constructing the victim of domestic violence who leaves her partner as a gold-digger.

Conference Blog: Panel Session VII, Sunday 23 June


Feminist Mobilisations (i): Politics and Tensions

Dr. Sarah Browne (University of Nottingham). “Diluting the Movement? The Women’s Liberation Campaign for Financial and Legal Independence.”

 This is a history paper questioning how feminist protest has been defined and how it evolved from the 1960s to today. Dr. Sarah Browne mentions the campaign for legal and financial independence for women, which embodied the 5th demand of the Women Liberation Movement’s 7 demands. It can be called a turning point in the movement’s history as its focus was firmly on the reasons of women’s oppression as well as eradicating said oppression. The campaign sought to disrupt the concept of the male breadwinner and the female homemaker, yet the 5th demand has not received as much attention as the demands for equal pay or contraception and abortion. The WLM was part of larger movements of the 1960s confronting the contradictions around what being a “good woman” meant. Women’s groups were formed everywhere in Britain, using direct methods of actions such as public demonstrations and challenging gendered ideas of protest. Dr. Sarah Browne explains that the campaign’s aims were to mobilise women all over the country to demand independence. Indeed, in the 1960s women were forced into dependency on (and by) the men in their lives in exchange for financial support. She mentions the example the the benefit system which prohibited women to apply for financial support if they lived with a man as further evidence of the assumption of female dependency. National movements such as the YBA Wife? (Why Be A Wife?) campaign allowed burgeoning women’s groups all over the UK to communicate with each other. This led to certain tensions between the purist members and those who attempted to reach out to more women and create a mass movement. Yet they still provided a welcoming and safe space for women to get involved, as opposed to the sexist and bureaucratic left wing movements of the time. Although the campaigns were criticised by some feminists as revolutionary, the reformist WLM was also controversial, mostly because of its focus on marriage and family, questioning the aspirations of many women. Dr. Sarah Browne concludes that the history of feminist protest is much more diverse that it is given credit for, and that the 5th demand campaign and its attempts to destabilise ideas about female dependency and to challenge set ideas of femininity actually enriched rather than diluted the WLM.

 Sarah Webster (University of Manchester). “Playing Billiards with the Boys: University of Manchester Women’s Activism before Second Wave Feminism.”

 The focus of this talk is women student’s activism between 1945 and 2012 in British universities. Sarah Webster asserts that the WLM emerged out of student movements which provided women with patterns of resistance. Left wing groups were an inspiration for women’s groups but they remained clearly male-dominated, so women started to organise outside of the famous movements of 2nd and 3rd wave feminism. Students in the 1950s were known as the silent generation and high-profile student protests kicked off in 1964 with resistance to sexism on campus, in student unions, and universities in general. Sarah Webster evokes the case of Manchester University, the last British institution to establish a joint union in 1957, which even then remained segregated. Arguments against a joint union included the fear that women would ruin the atmosphere at the bar and that they could not play billiards. The women’s union also called for equal representation when male students wanted to keep the key roles of President and Treasurer for themselves. Although they were forced to relinquish a few rooms to women, men kept the bar and billiards room, but women continued their form of quiet resistance by breaking the rules and constantly challenging the assumptions of male superiority. When the union’s bar was under investigation for licensing infringement, women enlisted as members to keep it open, thus saving the bar from closure. In the early 1960s, halls of residence at Manchester University also treated women student very differently from men, including earlier curfews and the need to justify every movement. In 1965, women fought to establish a nursery for student parents, and upon the university’s refusal on “moral” grounds, they proceeded to establish a student-run unofficial nursery that remained open for 25 years. These challenges to sexism appeared as acts of disobedience and subversion rather than campaigns and visual mobilisation like in the 1970s. Finally, Sarah Webster acknowledges that, if a tradition of student politics was passed down from one generation to the next, this was also true of their lack of intersectionality, that is a lack of concern about race and class as well as gender.

 Tanita Maxwell (University of Aberdeen). “Protest from Within: Femocrats, Funding and Social Change.”

 This paper looks at sites of feminist mobilisation, and particularly the relationship between feminist organisations and femocrats (feminist senior civil servants), and the concept of quiet resistance. Tanita Maxwell mentions the increasing popularity of online and social media for campaigns such as the “No More Page 3” movement. In 1999, the new Scottish Parliament started working alongside women’s organisations to develop a strategy to fight off violence against women. “Unobtrusive mobilisation” is described by Katzenberg as the newest form of feminist politics, brining a new language into the establishment. Tanita Maxwell also raises several issues linked with the fact that feminist organisations which received funding from the government are dependent on political changes and that their agenda may be set by the government instead of grassroots. Here, state funding provisions for feminist organisations could be seen as attempts to curb anti-goverment protests.

 Prof. Kalpana Hirala (University of Kwazulu/Natal, South Africa). “Married to the Freedom Struggle: Wives of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.”

 This talk is part of a wider project on women’s participation in the anti-Apartheid struggles. Prof. Kalpana Hirala looks especially at wives and mothers of activists to attract attention to lesser-known female figures. Her focus is on women of South Asian and Indian descent, not usually seen as political activists but politically involved and facing many challenges due to their husbands’ convictions, including imprisonment, hard labour, house arrest, banning orders, etc. She mentions for example the lives of Marie Naicker and Terese Venkatrathnam, both wives of members of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC).

 Writing Protest: Gender, Sexuality, and Embodiment.

Esther Akanya ‘Securitizing a Sanitized Beautiful Soul’

 Akanya began by looking at the overview of language of international security and the way that women are discussed in relation to war and security.  The paper went on to look at the way Elshtain discussed the concept of the just warrior and the beautiful soul, where men are placed in position as protectors of women and children. Akanya critiques Elshtain’s reading of Hegel’s beautiful soul, specifically the way that Antigone is read. Antigone is described by Sophocles as the first beautiful soul who went against the state to ensure that her brother was given a proper burial and therefore stepped out of the domestic sphere and the way that women were encouraged to act.  Akanya suggested that Elshtain’s reading does not show Antigone’s actions as antagonistic and therefore sanitizes them. Furthermore, she suggested that this can be linked to women and peacekeeping, noting that women can and should have agency within peacekeeping. The paper then went on to look at the various feminist readings of Antigone, noting that whilst de Beauvoir saw Antigone as a proto feminist, others have suggested that the story is phallic centric and locked in the public sphere. The paper then went on to look at the way that the UN resolution 1325 on women’s peace and security from 2000 conceptualised women’s role in war and peacekeeping. The resolution aimed to increase participation of women in peace and security, though Akanya noted that women still tend to be stuck at the grassroots level. The paper concluded by suggesting that discourse around women and peacekeeping still emphasizes the idea of the beautiful soul, repeating gender stereotypes and locking women in the private sphere. Furthermore, the paper suggested that the resolution tied women into a role as mother, linking reproductive capacities with peacefulness. Women were also infantilized, viewed as weak and women’s agency (for example as members of police forces) was ignored.

 Johanna Franklin ‘Reframing Resistance: Romantic Thralldom as Affective Social Performance in Jean Rhys’s After Leaving Mr Mackenzie

 Franklin’s paper looked at the main paradox of Rhys’s work, that despite Rhys’s engagement with feminist ideas her work has tended to be viewed as passive rather than subversive.  Franklin suggested that in After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, passive and unhappiness can be seen as performative.  Franklin argues that passivity does not necessarily be read as negative or as a patriarchal concept. The novel opens in Paris, with the protagonist cut off from her ex lover’s monet, dealing with heartbreak at the end of the affair. Julia visits London to ask for money and is given money by a man she meets. The novel is described as an anti-bildungsroman. Franklin suggested that Julia’s passivity can be seen as affect and that affect can be described as un signifying, pre subjective and noncognitive. Franklin suggested that Julia uses a performative and affective pose ( in this case looking in a mirror as her lover looks at her) as a way of breaking down the fourth wall, especially as her lover colonises her sight by imagining her looking in the mirror. The paper suggested that Rhys’s protagonist can be seen as a spectacle, and in a Bakhtinian sense embodies the carnivalesque with the recurring motif of the mask and the grotesque. Franklin suggested that Julia’s inability to act appropriately causes those around her to feel resentment and that this provokes an affective response. Franklin also suggested that Rhys ridicules Freud’s idea of passivity whilst the text can be seen as a reminder that the notion of free will is a fantasy constructed by language makers.

 Emma Young ‘Muddying the Water: The Politics of Sex and the Post/Feminist Moment in Michele Robert’s Mud: Stories of Sex and Love

 Young’s paper looked at the relationship between Robert’s short story collection Mud to post-feminism. Using McRobbie’s definition, Young suggested that post-feminism emphasizes the tropes of freedom and choice, as well as a suggestion that feminism is redundant.  She referenced Genz who argued that post- feminism rejects the concept of group oppression so that autonomy and agency are seen as negating the patriarchy.  Young suggested that the lead title of the collection ‘Mud’ can be seen to reflect a strong feminist impetus to rework and reincarnate. The paper also noted the connections between Robert’s work in 2010 and the rise of movements such as Reclaim the Night and Slutwalk, which both emphasized women’s right to body autonomy. Young highlighted how both movements challenge the notion of women “asking for it” and put emphasis back on male behaviour. The paper then looked at two of Robert’s stories ‘Annunciation’ and ‘Easy as ABC’. In ‘Annunciation’ Young suggested that Roberts highlighted that the binary of virgin saint is still prevalent so that the concept of choice is complicated, as it is a choice made within a patriarchal society. Young also highlighted the way that the story shows the way that women internalise sexist experiences (such as sexual harassment).  Finally, Young looked at the way that the silence is used as consent within the story, with the emphasis on the way that the protagonist is blamed for sexual encounters where silence was seen to stand in for consent. The paper then looked at the story ‘Easy as ABC’. In the story the protagonist is sold a new life, but is in fact sold into prostitution. The story uses the doll as a motif, with the protagonist Eva going from playing with dolls to being a doll. Young noted that throughout the story Eva’s name is only used one, suggesting that she is otherwise seen as anonymous. Young liked this to Russian dolls, suggesting that Eva’s sense of self becomes progressively smaller and smaller. Furthermore she compared the idea of Eva as a doll to sex dolls and the commodification of the female body as women’s bodies are objectified. FInally, Young discussed this in relation to Walter’s Living Dolls, suggesting that women’s bodies remain contested sites where male ownership and lack of bodily autonomy is prevalent.

 Prof. Kishori Nayak: ‘“Mapping Feminist Movements and Moments”: The Tradition of Dissent in Modern Indian Women’s Autobiography

 Nayak’s paper discussed the way that Indian autobiographies can be seen as presenting moments within the feminist movement in India and allowing voices to emerge from the margins. Nayak alluded to the tradition of dissent, also pointing to the way that the study of women’s autobiography has increased, and that the way that writing women’s experiences has increased. The paper drew on the work of Tharu and Lalitha in Women Writing in India 600 BC to the Present,  suggesting that in the nineteenth century and up to the present, autobiography has been used as a way to revolt against patriarchal restrictions and encourage strong female agency and selfhood. Furthermore, Nayak noted that contemporary accounts of Indian women’s lives, from Sex Workers to Transgender Women allows for a voice to be given to the voiceless from margins of various kinds. These include texts such as A Life Less Ordinary, The Truth About Me, as well as autobiographies written by nuns unhappy with the patriarchal system in the Roman Catholic Church in India. Nayak suggests that Foucault’s theory of subjugated discourse can be applied to Indian women’s autobiographies. Furthermore, she suggests that autobiography writers see themselves as a voice for their community, whilst also giving confidence to other women.

 Feminism, Kinship, Reproduction

Prof. Kimberly Mutcherson (Rutgers School of Law, USA), ‘The New Kinship is the Old Kinship’

 This paper looks at the U.S. fertility industry, in particular how arguments to change legislation around anonymity of donors is being challenged, and how this could affect ‘outsider families’ – e.g. marginalised family formations, particularly lesbian and queer families and single mothers. Professor Mutcherson’s research asks questions around what it means to procreate and how this relates to what a family is, exploring the transformative potential of assisted reproduction. The market of sperm is aimed primarily towards women as the buyers of sperm. Currently sperm is sold on an anonymous basis, and arguments for anonymity point to the importance of having a clear legal responsibility of children. Anonymity is also considered important in maintaining a robust market, based on an assumption that fewer men would be willing to donate sperm if they knew that at some point in the future their genetic offspring may attempt to seek them out. Increasingly there have been calls for laws around anonymity to change, and the right of anonymity of sperm donors to be removed. These arguments centre around the fundamental right to know: that children have a right to know their genetic origins, and should not be bound by decisions made by their parents before their conception. It is argued that this is not in the best interests of the child, because it may affect their understanding of who they are, and that secrecy is bad for families. Such arguments also often highlight the right of people to be able to access information related to genetic medical information. Prof. Mutcherson’s approach to the sperm industry centres a reproductive justice lens, a framework initiated by women of colour activists in the US, which advocates the right to have or to not have children and to parenting children in safe environments. The paper highlighted concerns about this renewed focus on kinship structures as bound to blood and genetic ties, at the expense of understandings of kinship as based on affective bonds. There is a clear risk that the revocation of anonymity will have particular costs for ‘outsider families’, undermining their integrity as legitimate family units. It is important to protect the notion of kinship based on affective rather than genetic ties. The paper also raised concerns that this focus on genetic ties affects our the ways in which meaning of identity is constructed, having potentially detrimental effects on the identity-formation processes of children born through assistive reproduction.

 Prof. Tanya Saroj Bakhru (San Jose State University, USA), ‘Movement, Consumption, and Choice in Neoliberal Reproductive Discourses: An Irish Case Study’

 Professor Bakhru’s research focuses on the experiences of refugee and asylum seeking women in relation to reproductive rights in Ireland. Asylum seeking women’s positions in Ireland are severely circumscribed in relation to their ability to exercise their reproductive rights freely. Their marginal status as asylum seekers means they are excluded from social assistance, denied the right to work, and their only means of state support provided through direct provision housing (which requires women to live in cramped accommodation, sharing bedrooms and bathrooms and without any dedicated facilities to support vulnerable women). Their isolation and vulnerability becomes particularly clear when looking at what happens when asylum seeking women are in need of family planning services as a result of a crisis pregnancy. Abortion in Ireland is only legal when there is a substantial risk to the life of a woman – and there is a real vagueness about how this is defined. However, the state can’t stop women from travelling abroad to get an abortion. But for asylum seeking women, a crisis pregnancy comes with very specific issues which family planning agencies are poor equipped to deal with. Particularly, although in some cases asylum seekers may apply for the right to travel abroad, this is a costly and complicated process. As a result, many asylum seeking woman are unable to access abortions, and either are forced to parent against their will or must resort to accessing illegal methods of termination. Prof. Bakhru locates her research within the framework of global capitalism, noting the importance of understanding how this context places access to abortion in Ireland within a market context, where only those who can afford to make choices in relation to their reproductive rights are entitled to do so. This is a great injustice which stands starkly at odds with the argument that sexual and reproductive health rights are basic human rights (as argued by the Irish Family Planning Association). The paper argued for the importance of analysing reproductive health through an intersectional framework, and in particular for the importance of understanding how global capitalism structures women’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights.

 Dr Aristea Fotopoulou (University of Sussex), “Reprotechnologies and feminist mobilisations: Mapping with digital methods”

 Dr Fotopoulou presented findings from her current research mapping actors and feminist mobilisations within online discourses on reproductive technologies. The starting point for the research was the 2011 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) consultation on compensation for egg donors. Egg donation is classed in the same category as all forms of ‘tissue donation’ (including sperm donation), which restricts payments to compensation for the loss of earnings and expenses (this amount was increased to £750 from £250 following the consultation). The impetus for the review was framed around a discourse of scarcity of eggs, with eggs constructed as something that limits women’s fertility treatment in Britain. From a Marxist analysis, this can be understood in terms of the creation of a need, shifting towards the construction of egg donation as part of an industry. Employing a digital sociology approach, ‘scraping’ websites for relevant content, Dr Fotopoulou conducted a media analysis of news stories, feminist blogs and policy websites to explore the ways in which discussions about egg donation were framed in relation to this consultation. She looked at who the main actors in the discussions were, how the issues were represented visually and how the dominant imaginary constructed the egg donor. She was in particular interested in how feminists constructed the issues and their influence on the debate. Her results highlighted how policy documents focused mainly on issues related to travel expenses and overseas travel, while feminist discussions also covered issues more broadly related to the law, women’s health, and politics of reproductive technologies more generally. When scraping for images, the dominant representations of egg donation featuring living ‘things’ (as opposed to those which featured medical images or technology), tended to feature babies and (chicken) eggs (including babies emerging from chicken eggs). When women were pictured, they were mostly posed together with babies and families, rarely on their own. And in terms of the HFEA’s own discourse, Dr Fotopoulou found that it did not make women’s labour visible at all in the process of egg donation, dismissing the invasiveness of sourcing procedures.

 Emilie Auton (University of New South Wales, Australia), ‘Under Examination: Representations of Genitals Examinations in Medical Textbooks’

 Emilie Auton’s paper discussed how medical textbooks, used to teach medical students in Australian universities, represent genital examinations visually, as well as how they instruct medical practitioners to carry out genital examinations. Her research compares and contrasts the imagery and instructions in relation to examinations of female and male genitals. The research found that the texts tended to convey that doctors govern the encounter with patients when genital examinations are carried out. Students are advised that patients will be positioned and undressed for them, and the texts do not acknowledge the importance of patients’ autonomy, nor do they raise the issue of the importance of gaining valid consent from patients if they are to be anesthetised. The discourse instils ideas that doctors must compete with patients over rights to their bodies. The research discovered a scarcity of pictures of healthy female genitalia, which meant that students were not provided with adequate information about variations in appearance. Pictures of women’s vaginas, often drawings rather than photographs, represented idealised and normalised forms. Texts also suggested that when conducting an examination, the doctor should reassure the female patient that it will be painless, dismissing the fact that many women do in fact experience pain. This may limit women’s confidence in indicating to the doctor if she does experience pain or distress. There was also a tendency to construct female bodies as vulnerable and in need of protection (some texts instructing that male clinicians should be chaperoned). In contrast, one text instructs female doctors to have a chaperone nearby when examining male patients. Such framing constructs female doctors as vulnerable and presents all men as potential predators. The differences in instructions for examining male patients were clear. The detail was more limited, and there were no warnings to be careful to avoid upsetting male patients or to reassure them. Auton pointed out the contradiction inherent in this difference: because of the ways in which women’s health is more medicalised, with women instructed to self examine as well as to have regular smear tests, men are likely to be less familiar with such examinations and may therefore require more reassurance. Auton also highlighted the lack of information within the textbooks on issues such as how to treat patients who have experienced sexual abuse or those who have language or cultural barriers. Neither did she find any information about how to sensitively examine intersex, transsexual or disabled patients. To conclude, Auton argued that medical texts define what is considered respectable treatment of the body in clinical contexts. Such assumptions are played out in material ways and therefore could and do have implications for women’s and men’s reproductive health. 

Conference Blog: Panel Session VI, Saturday 22 June

Cultural Memory and Transformation

Dr Debbie Withers (Co-ordinator Music & Liberation Project)

Reclaiming, protecting and securing the work of Feminist activists has always been important to the movement and continues to be today, but what does this process look like? Withers discusses the concept of cultural memory and its possibilities in remembering the past whilst transforming the present. However, following the contemporary work of Jack Halberstam advocating a need to forget what does this impasse mean for feminists today? The paper goes on to consider these questions in the context of the digital age as tools such as blogs offer the potential for a more immediate ability to archive and curate these marginal histories. However, as Withers discusses with the previous idea there is a tension with this aspect too as these digital tools also allow human capacity for retention to diminish.

 Sanne Koevoets and Dr Sara de Jong, ‘Teaching Gender with Libraries and Archives: Production, Regimes, and Techniques of Power in Information, Knowledge, and Archivization’

Koevoets and de Jong ask as digital technologies and archivisation collide interrogate the process of compiling and editing a volume of essays in the field of gender studies. Taking a practical approach that draws on theory as well as practice, Koevoets and de Jong consider the politics of archivisation in relation to feminist political and academic concerns. In reflecting on these issues this paper takes the theoretical gendering of space to a new level as it negotiates the complexities of (re)thinking the gendering of particular parts of archives and libraries. Resources that can often be taken for granted by some, the archive provides a powerful tool for facilitating the teaching of, and in, gender. Given the increasing move towards digital archivisation what does this mean for gender scholars? As the digitisation process itself is an undoubtedly political process (with some subjects and material being prioritised over others), the threat emerges that this sector may become overlooked.

Dr Margareta Jolly and Dr Polly Russell, ‘A New Archive of Protest: The Women’s Liberation Oral History Project’

In 2013 the British Library is set to unveil a major oral history project which will form part of its (and The Women’s Library) public learning programme as well as providing an invaluable resource for scholars and the wider community. Particularly welcome with this discussion is the ways in which it brings to the fore so many of the issues being discussed more abstractly in the field today to reveal how there is a lived and practical manifestation of key feminist issues. Complimenting the debate surrounding archiving of feminist histories presented by Withers earlier in the session, this talk is a reclamation and celebration of the strength of women’s voices in fighting for liberation and equality. 

 Dr Sheshalatha Reddy, ‘Spectres of History: Rebellion, Resistance, and the Jamaican Woman’

Taking the Morant Bay uprising of 1865 as the historical moment of focus, Reddy discusses the ways in which this event reverberates in culture as a spectre; an event of haunting. Like many of the papers at the conference, the intersection between race and gender comes to the fore as colonial discourses provoke national discourses of anxiety. Reddy discusses two key aspects (that of blood and bodies) to show how these anxieties are embodied and play out across cultural and literary representations. With writers like Andrea Levy (whom Reddy discusses) gaining pertinence in both academic and popular cultural fields this paper provides a timely insight into this particular historical moment. In turn, the paper more broadly offers a means of reading the body as a materialised means of resistance.

Audre Lorde and the Afro German Feminist Movement

Dr Stella Bolaki ‘Audre Lorde’s Legacies for Transnational Activism and Feminist Politics

 Bolaki discussed the panel within the wider context of her book on the Audre Lorde in relation to Afro German feminism. Bolaki talked about  way that Lorde discussed in A Burst of Light: Living With Cancer visiting Germany in relation to the black diaspora. Bolaki discussed the impact that Lorde’s work has had in creating a transnational legacy, linking this to the time she spent in Europe and the concept of a globalisation of consciousness. Bolaki highlighted the way that Lorde encouraged working across differences, whilst also suggesting that black diasporic differences were not homogenous. Finally, Bolaki suggested that Lorde’s work had a global reach. 

Tiffany Florvil ‘Affective Kinshops: Afro- German Women and Audre Lorde’

 Florvil’s paper discussed Lorde in relation to her written correspondence with Afro- German women. Using an exchange between Afro- German Marion Kraft, and Lorde, Florvil  discussed the importance of recognizing commonalities across diaspora, suggesting that there was strength in this sense of global community. Florvil suggested that Lorde encourage Afro- German women to use emotion in their writing. Furthermore, the exchanges between Lorde and Afro German women allowed them to claim space within the African Diaspora whilst also embracing differences 

Dr Dagmar Schultz ‘Audre Lorde- The Berlin Years 1984-1992

 Schultz discussed her film about Audre Lorde: Audre Lorde- The Berlin Years 1984- 1992.  Schultz met Lorde in 1980 at the UN Women’s Conference. Within Germany there was changes within the women’s movement, with many women moving into the peace movement. However, a discussion of anti racism was not happening. Schultz suggested that the film captured the way that Lorde was able to identify with both women and men and the way that she acted as a catalyst for Afro- German feminism. Schultz also discussed Lorde’s analytical approach to cancer and race and her determination to live a joyful life.  Schultz’s film has been show at forty festivals in eleven countries and has been well received with many stating that the film made Lorde feel real to them and there has been an intergenerational appeal. Schultz ended her talk by suggesting that archival activism raised awareness of the past as well as being useful in the present and helping the movement in the future

 Dr Katharina Gerund ‘Transracial Feminist Alliances? Audre Lorde and (West) German Women’

 Gerund’s paper looked at the way that Lorde intervened within white feminism. She suggested that Lorde forged alliances between very different people, influencing attitudes towards race, national identity, heteronormativity and gender. Gerund pointed to the fact that whilst fundamental to the Afro German feminist movement, Lorde was also important to white women and fostered sisterhood. Gerund suggested that although Lorde could be critical of white feminism, this criticism should be seen as an invitation and an impetus towards connection through criticism of white feminism. Gerund pointed to the fact that some white women were unwilling to engage with Lorde and reflect on their whiteness but that Lorde’s relationship with German feminism opened up the possibilities and explore the impact of racist assumptions.

 Visibility, Audibility and Reach: Unconventional Forms of Protest in India

Prof. Ashwini Tambe (University of Maryland, USA), ‘Making the Quiet Case for Divorce: Stree Magazine, 1930-1940)

Professor Tambe presented her research on Stree magazine (‘Stree’ translates as Woman), which was the longest running women’s magazine in Marathi, published monthly from 1930 to 1986 (Professor Tambe has herself been involved in creating a digital archive of the magazine). Stree was an iconic publication, with a readership consisting primarily of intellectual, urban and semi-urban middle class women in Maharashtra (including also a diasporic readership). The type of content the magazine offered was diverse, including everything from short fiction, fashion tips, travel logs, biographies of noteworthy women, photos of subscribers’ babies, patterns for knitting, news reports on women’s movements, information on women’s legal rights, to discussions of religious texts. Although the aim of the magazine was not explicitly social reform, Prof. Tambe argued that the magazine played a significant role in informing debates around women’s rights, and rendering as common sense more progressive understandings of womanhood. In particular, Dr Tambe spoke about the period of 1930-1950, and the ways in which the magazine took up the issue of women’s right to divorce. Divorce was legalised in Maharashtra in 1947, and the argument which this paper made is that Stree had an important role in changing attitudes towards divorce, and influenced a cultural shift within the urban middle class which paved the way for legislation. One of the ways in which Stree affected the dialogue was through its idealised representation of marriage. Rather than focusing on the duties of the wife, the magazine shifted attention onto what it meant to be a good husband. Dr Tambe showed a series of images from the magazine, featuring happily married couples. In each image, the women are the centre pieces, with the man in the picture symbolically positioned in the sideline or below the woman, giving her his full attention, gazing up at her mystical beauty. A companionate and equal marriage was idealised, but the magazine simultaneously emphasised women’s right to divorce if this ideal was not possible because their husband was considered lacking in some way. Dr Tambe presented examples of this from opinion pieces, letters to the editor and legal advice columns. Highlighting the subtle yet significant ways in which Stree shifted representations of (middle class) marriage towards that of a partnership of equals based on true love, including the expectation that women should have the same rights as men, Dr Tambe’s presentation argued that Stree’s  unthreatening and non-didactic approach to important women’s issues effectively sedimented feminist ideas to its readership.


Prof Shruti Tambe (University of Pune, India), ‘Rights through Ration Cards: The Case of Women Domestic Workers’ Associations in Aurangabad, India’

This paper looked at women domestic worker’s (WDW) collective organising in Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Aurangabad is a non-metropolitan site with a mix of populations, including many Muslim women working as domestic workers. Over the last few years, women domestic workers have been increasingly joining unions or other associations advocating for workers’ rights. Dr Tambe’s work examines the mobilisation strategies of WDW associations and unions – especially in the context of Ration Card campaigns – analysing their collective bargaining power in the context of liberalisation and globalisation. These campaigns expanded their membership three-fold in the period 2007-2011. This can be explained as a result of the introduction of new law for the welfare of women domestic labourers in India, which  made it more possible for WDW to advocate for their rights through official channels. Dr Tambe’s work highlights how the current sociological discourse and category of ‘worker’ is problematic and needs to be redefined in order to capture the experiences of WDWs. WDWs in Aurangabad range in ages from 14-60, are mostly single earners and supporters of families, mostly from lower caste, lower class and minority communities. Their average income is below $2 and many of the women live in precarious situations. The campaigns for ration cards have been particularly significant within WDW association and unions. Ration cards are issued by the authorities to people on below poverty line incomes, and gives card holders access to subsidised food. But their significance goes beyond discounted food – all the WDW whom Dr Tambe interviewed stressed the importance of ration cards in legitimising citizenship in the city. Ration cards function as a legitimating form of identification, which can then be used to open bank accounts and access credit, to register to vote, as well as to access health care and pensions. The women were fully aware of how to make best use of the ration card to access different resources, and these were the reasons they gave as to why they were committed to ration card campaigns. On a more negative note, the campaigns for ration cards have had limited success, with only a minimal proportion of applications for ration cards having been approved and issued. However, the campaigns of the WDW associations and unions continue to grow and strengthen, and are part of a process of strengthening a vibrant civil society, which continues to foreground issues of dignity and citizenship of women domestic workers.

Dr Rubina Jasani (University of Manchester), ‘From ‘Randi’ (prostitute) to ‘Rani’ (princess): Politics of Desires and Sexuality in Communal Conflicts’

Dr Rubina Jasani’s paper emerged from her longitudinal ethnographic research on Muslim widows in Naroda Patiya, Gujarat, following the communal violence of 2002, in which 919 women were widowed. Her research explores the experiences of ‘political widowhood’ of Muslim women, with particular attention to the women’s articulation of sexuality and desire. Following their widowhood, there was great pressure on the women to enact a particular public performance of grief and widowhood – they were constructed as embodiments of community honour and as martyrs’ wives. Their lives, movement and bodies were under constant scrutiny, and their personal grief entangled with community grief (the same pressure was not placed on widowers). Part of the requirement of political widowhood was a relinquishing of both sexual and individual identities. However, as the research highlights, such constructions are contingent on time, social class and globalisation. The longitudinal approach to fieldwork meant that the research was able to track changes over time and in different moments in the ways that the widows were able to express and satisfy their desires. The paper honoured the memory of one of the widows whom Dr Jasani came to know through the research, Bibi Babu, who was murdered in 2006 because of her refusal to conform to the pressures placed on the widows to enact a political widowhood, arguing instead that her grief was private, and acknowledging publicly her desire and yearning for companionship. Her death equated the expression of sexuality with extreme danger, meant to teach the lesson to other widows that if you exercise your sexuality then you will die. However, and inspired by Bibi Babu’s courage, Dr Jasani’s research suggests that the widows have continued to negotiate desire, and that the community has gone through different phases in terms of how the widows’ sexual identities have been articulated as well as constructed. During the 2007-2009 fieldwork period, she notes that with the arrival of mobile phones in the slums, there was an increase in flirting and an ability to have secret relationships. And in the 2009-2012 phase of fieldwork, secret marriages were revealed, new babies were born and the establishment of ‘pragmatic companionships’ as well as ‘weekend husbands’ became more possible. Dr Jasani concluded her talk reflecting on how these changes can be explained – can time explain the play of agency? How is agency exercised? She also noted that Islam was often utilised in ways which legitimated desire. Class was also noted as a key variable which affected the women’s ability to exercise sexual agency.

Conference Blog: Panel Session V, Saturday 22 June

United States Women’s Studies Movements: Examining the Intersections that Differences in Power and Privilege Create for Women of Colour

Prof. Kumea Shorter Gooden ‘The Double Jeopardy of Racial and Gender Bias:  Implications fro African American Women’

 Shorter Gooden’s paper discussed the intersection between race and gender in relation to African American women. Shorter Gooden’s discussed the way in which Black women are often given short shrift in two ways. Firstly within feminism, “women” is often used as a code for upper middle class women. Secondly, when talking about the experience of African Americans, the issues faced by black men are often brought to the fore. The paper then went on to discuss Shorter Gooden’s research, The African American Women’s Voices Project which looked at black women’s experiences and perception of racism and sexism. The project involved open ended surveys with 333 people and in depth interviews with 71 women. The participants were aged between 18-88 and were from all regions of the US. Shorter Gooden noted that it was not a representative sample and that she had used snowball sample. The research found that 90% of women who participated had experienced racial bias, 68% had been affected by negative stereotypes and 58% had changed the way they acted in order to fit in or be accepted by whites. In addition 40% had downplayed their talents to black men. Shorter Gooden discussed the idea of shifting, the ways that black women respond to and cope with racial and gender bias, for example ways in which one walks, talks dresses and styles her hair as well as internal changes such as self esteem racial identity and mood. Shifting, however can also involve fighting back and committing to social justice or joining a womanist movement. A few women had suggested that they had not experienced racial bias, however Shorter Gooden suggests that this in itself a form of shifting. Shorter Gooden suggests that all disenfranchised groups shift, for example women, LBGT people and men of colour. There are adaptive elements to shifting, in that it helps those from disenfranchised groups cope with discrimination, help build bridges as well as allowing for the capacity to fight back. In contrast there are also maladaptive consequences including physical and emotional health problems. The research findings also showed some broad themes that affect African American women, these include a myth of inferiority, invisibility (although paradoxically there are at times tokenism). The research suggests that although black women have higher body self esteem, this is beginning to erode and female beauty standards are still described as white, thin and blonde. Finally, Shorter Gooden suggests that the stereotype of the strong black women is also prevalent, and that this stereotype often covers up the underside of this belief that black women do not belief that they need help. Finally the paper discussed the attendant health problems that are associated with these themes, these include hypertension, depression and HIV.

 Prof. Ruth Zambrana “Theory of the Flesh”: Feminist Voices of Latinas in U.S Women’s Studies

 This paper looked at the feminist voices of Latinas in US woman studies. Zambrana began by stating that 16% of the US population are Hispanic with 65% being of Mexican origin. Contrary to discourse surrounding immigration, Zambrana noted that 63% of hispanics are native, 10% are naturalised citizens whilst around 26% are non-citizens. This contradicts discourses around immigration that suggest that hispanics are newly arrived immigrants. Zambrana than discussed the history of the Hispanic population, pointing to the fact that until the seventies they were classed as white but were also treated as racialised subordinates. Zambrana suggested  that the history of Hispanic oppression is yet to be written. The paper then went on to discuss the way that the Civil Rights Movement raised the importance of implications of colonialism, then going to to discuss the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Zambrana suggested that there was a rise in the 1970s of Mexican American Scholarship. Furthermore, Zambrana discussed Chicana feminist thought, how women’s experience in the US affected and shaped who they are as well as how race intersects with other identities such as class. Zambrana suggested that Chicana feminist thought challenges reductionist explanations of Latina’s experience and uses lived experiences as a theorizing lens. She also pointed to the way that negative stereotypes, such as seeing Latinas as sexualised restricts access to opportunities. Zambrana asserted that intellectual Latina feminist leadership is a small and relatively invisible in Women and Gender Studies and that Latina academics do not feel that their research is valued or viewed as important.  Furthermore, Zambrana discussed her research which looks at the way that occupational stress has affected the health of Latina academics.

 Prof, Seung- Kyung Kim Asian American Women in the Academy:  A Historic perspective on the need for women of color solidarity

 Seung- Kyung Kim’s paper looked at the challenges that Asian American women encounter whilst working in women’s studies academies whilst looking at whether Asian American women identify as Women of Colour. Her research study looked at ten Asian American women faculty in US women’s studies departments with various ethnicities, countries of origins and who were at various stages in their career. The paper suggested that one of the problems when looking at the way that Asian American women are represented is that there is an ignorance of the social and economic variation between Asian American women as the term is used to describe women from different cultures, from those whose family came to the US some time ago, to recently arrived refugees. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the phrase is often associated with East Asians, rather than South Asian women. However, the term Asian American can also be seen to reflect solidarity across differences and is also used as a political stance that is linked to resisting harmful stereotpyes. The paper then went on to discuss the model minority myth. Seung- Kyung Kim suggested that the model minority is intertwined with the myth of meritocracy, so that Asian Americans are portrayed as high achievers despite racial prejudices. This, in turn is used to silence claims from other racial minority groups whilst also silences Asian Americans. Furthermore, it relieves institutions of responsibility for racial injustices. The model minority stereotype also means, according to the paper, that Asian Americans are excluded from policy responses to the underrepresentation of racial minorities. There is also, the paper suggests, a conflation of Asian Americans and foreign nationals who travel to the US as students. The model minority also ignores social differences between different groups. The paper then went on to discuss the way in which Asian Americans are seen as less visible as Women of Colour and are less visible within Women of Colour collectives.

 BRIDGE Panel – Why gender matters in activism

This panel showcased the work of BRIDGE, which is a gender and development research and information programme within the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. The presenters have all been involved in a project producing the Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Social Movements and presented on different elements of this work.

 Jessica Horn (Akiiki Consulting, Independent Feminist Scholar), “Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Social Movements”

 Jessica Horn presented a summary of the findings of the report Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Social Movements. The research engaged people involved in social movements in different locations globally, to explore the gendered dimensions of movements for social justice, in order to build knowledge around what gender-just social movements may look like. A key point which Horn made was the importance of language in doing this research – and the primacy placed on making sure the research was both understandable and translatable to all social movement contexts.


The research aimed to answer questions such as: What accounts for ongoing reticence within progressive social globally to integrate gendered politics and practice? What are the challenges and tensions? What have people done? What are the possible routes to change? What more needs to be explored? The project talked to activists within a range of (women-only, women-led and mixed gender) social movements globally.


Many of the challenges and tensions which the project has documented will be familiar to those involved in progressive social movements: Women’s issues being sidelined (to be dealt with ‘after the revolution’), feminism understood as “not part of our culture”, the difficulties of sustaining change after heightened moments of activism, and the challenges of sustaining an intersectional approach within activism, as new constituencies emerge and new identities are politicised. Horn talked of a need for “deep structure work” within social movements – work which transforms culture, power dynamics and hierarchies within movements, which “changes hearts and minds”. The BRIDGE report suggests the following ways of ensuring gender-just movements:

  • Tackling gender inequality must be understood as an integral component of justice for all and should be explicitly named
  • Movements must create a positive environment for internal reflection on gender justice
  • Movements should actively support women’s full participation and leadership
  • There must be a zero-tolerance on sexual violence and harassment within movement spaces
  • Labour within social movements must be distributed along gender-just lines
  • Care work and reproductive roles must be considered and re-distributed to ensure women’s full participation
  • Movements must pay attention to and oppose the often gendered dimensions of the backlash from the external opposition
  • All gender identities and variations must be included within movements, and attention paid to shifting understandings of gender.

 Horn ended the presentation with an emphasis on the importance of building inclusive alliances and solidarity across movements. Copies of the report can be accessed by contacting BRIDGE []

 Dr Manjima Bhattacharya (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India) – A Tale of Two Movements: How Human Rights Was Gendered

 Dr Manjima Bhattacharya presented her case study of human rights and women’s rights movements, focusing primarily on activism within the United Nations structure, but also on some NGOs. She talked about the important work done by women’s activists globally as part of the UN Decade of Women (1975-1985). During this period, and as a result of the work done surrounding the three world conferences in Mexico, Copenhagen and Nairobi, women’s issues were pushed onto national government agendas. Dr Bhattacharya argued that these conferences were important also for the effect they had on women’s confidence, in learning how to negotiate with their governments and with the UN. At the same time, radical concepts were being incorporated by feminists into human rights discourse (for example, making the argument that domestic violence is torture), and in the process exposing how human rights protections tended to be based on the idea of the human as a liberal western male. The presentation provided a broad overview of how important women’s rights issues, particularly around violence, have been pushed onto national, regional and global agendas as a result of women’s global activism within the UN structure, both during and after the Decade for Women. But also outside of the UN during this period, development organisations and donor agencies have been ‘adding gender’ to their analysis, and there has been increasing cooperation between human rights and women’s rights groups. Dr Bhattacharya also talked briefly about her case study of Amnesty International, and the ways in which this human rights organisation has taken up gender as part of its human rights remit (including the challenges and contradictions which this has raised).

 Dr Jenny Birchall (IDS, Sussex) – “Women’s rights and gender equality in the Coordinating Network for Latin American Rural Organisations (CLOC)”

 Dr Jenny Birchall’s presentation was based on research done by Pamela Caro, a women’s rights activist in El Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo de la Mujer (CEDEM) in Chile. The research is based on interviews with 10 women leaders of women’s organisations in 7 Latin American countries. All the organisations were part of Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC), which is the women’s arm of the La Via Campesina movement. The case studies highlight many of the challenges that women face within mixed-gender progressive social movements, as outlined in Horn’s presentation (above). The CLOC organisations have worked hard to place women’s issues on the agendas of the movements, with arguments such as “Without feminism there is no socialism” and “With women home to stay, agrarian reform is delayed”. CLOC organisations have formed autonomous women’s spaces within their movements, enabling women to speak up for themselves and having a strong, collective voice, through providing training and support to build confidence. They have also set up and worked to encourage men to attend gender training schools. Dr Birchall played a video clip of an interview with a women’s activist leader in Chile, Francisca Rodriguez. Rodriguez talked about the ways in which she has taken a stand for women rights within the movement, and how as a result she has been seen as a role model, as someone more capable and daring, creative and dedicated than women are stereotypically assumed to be. She also highlighted the huge spirit of sacrifice which she felt was required to do this work. The case studies showed the vital role that women activists play in pushing through changes towards gender justice in social movements. Other key learnings included the importance of gaining broad-based buy-in and commitment to add legitimacy to women’s organisations and a recognition that culture and power dynamics need to be addressed within movements (policy documents make little difference in themselves). The research also highlights the importance of strategies and methods being tailored and appropriate for specific contexts. CLOC organisations are a great example of this, through their work developing and articulating a popular rural feminism which speaks to both women and men in their communities. 

Memory, History, and Young Women’s Political and Civic Engagement in Europe

All papers on this panel are part of a project commissioned by the European Union titled “My Place: Memory, Youth, Political Legacy and Civic Engagement.”

 Prof. Nickie Charles and Dr. Khursheed Wadia (University of Warwick). “UK Feminista and Young Women’s Activism.”

 This paper opens with mentions of two particular events: the Spare Rib spat and the Emily Davison remembrance events. The Spare Rib spat refers to attempts to revive the famous feminist magazine followed by a public appeal for money to fund the relaunch. The original creators of the magazine criticised the appeal for funds on the grounds that Spare Rib was born of grassroots movements. This vision stands in contrast with 21st century capitalist activism. The Emily Davison remembrance events, including Clare Balding’s documentary, highlighted the fact that although militant suffragettes are remembered by the establishment of today, they were strongly reviled during their lifetime. Back in the 1960s, there was no gender studies departments or women’s NGOs in the UK, and much less means of communication to mobilise young women. Today, there are about 200 grassroots movements in the UK. Dr. Khursheed Wadia uses data from interviews of feminist activists between the age of 16 and 25 and observes them in meetings and events. She find that important factors in becoming activist include family influence, negative experiences of abuse or discrimination, and level of education. Academic feminism is presented as providing useful resources and a framework for feminist activism, like in the case of sociology. She also mentions involvement at local and national level, and the changes brought about by new media. UK Feminista (since 2010), for instance, trains activists and provides information to local grassroots groups, which is consistent with the ongoing professionalisation of activism. Social media has given young women a voice by making feminism visible to them but its downsides include online abuse and bullying, as well as the possible manipulation of agenda and decisions by members who do not attend meetings. Finally, Dr. Khursheed Wadia reminds the audience that current academic feminism is the result of the 1970s feminist movements, and that feminism at university allows young women to make sense of their experiences.

 Prof. Airi-Alina Allaste (Tallinn University, Estonia). “LGBT Movement in Estonia? Gendered Activism.”

 This paper argues that activism has changed radically from class-based movements in industrial societies aiming at taking power over resources and modes of production to identity-based movements aiming at changing culture. The Estonian context is that of an ex-Soviet country, independent since 1991, which has undergone massive changes to its political structure as well as the introduction of new materialistic and individualistic values. It is fairly intolerant towards minorities and very patriarchal, upholding neo-traditional gender identities. This could be ascribed to a nostalgic desire to go back to the old republican days of the 1930s and the pre-Communist regime, thus idealising the past. According to Prof. Airi-Alina Allaste, gendered ideas start at home within the family context, but younger generations are increasingly influenced by the example of Scandinavia. Current activist movements in Estonia include LGBT organisations, queer and feminist activism, and public figures speaking out. Prof. Airi-Alina Allaste has observed several events and conducted interview with activists, which reflected the bad image of the term “activism”, connoted as wanting to put one’s issues first and the “show-off” mentality. She also mentions that the Estonian gay movement was started by lesbians, and that there are continuing tensions between lesbian and gay men activists. Finally, she raises the question of the overwhelming number of women working for NGOs in Estonia and suggests that is due to the fact that women are more likely than men to do voluntary work.

 Prof. Mariona Ferrer-Fons (Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona, Spain). “Las Indignadas in Barcelona: New Feminist Politics and Protest.”

 This talk focuses on the non-hierarchical “Indignadas” movement started in May-June 2011 in the context of economic crisis, conservative politics both at federal and state levels, austerity measures, patriarchal society, and political mistrust but active mobilisation. In the early days of the economic crisis, it affected mostly immigrant workers and men, but then the austerity cuts enacted largely affected women working in public services such as education, health, and care. Prof. Mariona Ferrer-Fons remarks on her methodology that is was not easy to gain access to the field because the Indignadas had bad previous experiences with researchers who failed to give them  feedback. She followed assemblies and actions such as strikes and protests, and adds that the original 15M Indignados movement was frustrating for women who saw their issues ignored. Although younger activists a present at protests, they tend not to get involved in regular meetings. The Indignadas are favourable to LGBT rights, campaigns to end violence against women, abortion, support for prostitutes against police raids, gender equality, and emphasise the importance of care within the group. They place themselves as anti-capitalist and against state repression but from feminist perspective. In short, “la revolucion sera feminista or no sera.”

 Ivana Mijic (Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Croatia). “From Theory to Practice: Feminist Women in Anti-Capitalist Collective.”

 This is a case study of a squat, more precisely a pharmaceutical factory in Zagreb occupied by artists and activists. Ivana Mijic was both a participant and a researcher working with visuals, field diaries, and interviews. She mentions a strong feminist tradition in Yugoslavia, at the time an egalitarian society open to Western influences. But theory is nothing if not followed with practice, and the war in mid-1990s triggered a re-traditionalisation including a reinforcement of outdated gender roles. Yet the most prominent figures of the anti-war campaigns in the 1990s were women, and they went on to found the NGO Attack, and later some younger members founded Medika, with an anarcho-feminist subculture identity. Although rapes and physical violence are present within the community, members tend to refuse police involvement and anti-capitalist activist women actually speak against feminism. Despite some homophobic members in Medika, Ivana Mijic mentions the example of a LGBT member who still feels safer in the squat there than anywhere in the city.

Conference Blog: Panel Session IV, Saturday 22 June

Feminist Pedagogies

Jeanette Silva Flores ‘Feminist pedagogy in today’s university classrooms: a critical approach

 Silva Flores’ paper discussed her current doctoral research and the way that women in the UK self define as feminists. The research discusses women from different categorisations, for examples lecturers, readers and professors as well as women who belong to organisations such as FWSA and GEA. The paper discussed preliminary research findings based on interviews with female academics, looking at the different ways that you academics practice feminist pedagogies. Flores suggests that there are a number of approaches based on teaching experiences and theoretical views, as well as the actors and content of their courses. The paper suggested that feminist academics often faced hostility from departments as well as from students. However, there is also an engagement and acknowledgement of the value of some feminist pedagogy premises, that some students are more likely to link feminist content to their own experiences. Furthermore, one participant suggested that teaching feminism helped foster emotional and caring relationships. The paper suggested that even when teaching non-feminist causes engagement can occur. The paper looked at the challenges for feminist pedagogy. suggesting that the marketisation of higher education and general devaluing of teaching practices mean that feminist practices become devalued. The paper also noted that the increasingly instrumental view of Higher Education (based on skills for jobs rather than critical thinking)  means that there is a lack of reflexivity and space for feminist pedagogic practices. Finally the paper looked at the possiblities from the feminist university teacher to manoeuvre alternatives, especially for optional courses. Furthermore, engagement is more likely from Black women, non- white men and those from working class backgrounds. Community engagement also provides the opportunity to explore the social impact of research.


Dr Maria Do Mar Periera ‘Protesting Within and Outside the “Academia Without Walls” Contemporary Transformations in Higher Education and the (Im)Possibilities of Articulation of Activism  of Activism and Academic Work

This paper looked at the way in which the current work demands on academics affects their ability to activism. Do Mar Periera looked at what gets lost because we do research, especially due to the current precarious nature of academia. The paper emphasised that there has long been a sense within academia that one of the biggest obstacles for activism by academics is that activism has been seen to undermine epistemic authority, and that activism is seen to pollute and contaminate one’s work. Furthermore, the paper drew on the work of Morley and Bellacasa to suggest that there is an emphasis in academia on the division between politics and knowledge. This means that for women’s studies and feminist studies that there is an emphasis on marking the boundaries of what is proper knowledge and where feminist knowledge lies. The paper then went on to look at the way in which the nature of the assessment and emphasis on impact and knowledge transfer has led to an institutionalisation of impact, so that activism as a form fo activity that engages with communities may be increasingly valued as a form of impact. However, Do Mar Periera suggested that there is a paradox involved within this as activism is accepted but on the condition that the researcher meets the requirements to produce large amounts of research as quantity becomes an important aspect of designating value. The paper suggested that the paradox invoked by this is that in order to meet the requirements to publish or perish, one finds that they no longer have time to do activism. Finally, the paper looked at current trends in academia, including the intensification of work and space, so that any space becomes a place where one can potentially do work, whilst increasing demands mean that overtime has become naturalised. The paper suggested that this can be linked to the regime of performativity where the amount of research produced becomes synonymous with the quality of the work. Do Mar Periera suggested that in order to stop striving to be perfect and stop seeing the increasing demands of academia as an individualised problem, but part of a wider structural problem within academia.

 Professor Karen Boyle ‘Home and Away?: Public Education Campaigns Against Sexual Exploitation

 This paper looked at the messages that public education campaigns around the sexual exploitation of women. Boyle began by emphasising the importance of media studies scholars looking at the way that sexual exploitation is represented by media campaigns, and pointed to the fact that the media visibility of sex trafficking has had concrete repercussions for women who have been trafficked who are seeking asylum. However, Boyle suggested that the emphasis on stories of kidnap and abuse often make it difficult for other more complex stories to be officially heard. Drawing on the work of Andrijasevic, the paper analysed the way in which groups had conducted public information campaigns about trafficking. In one example, a poster that showed a naked woman, with strings like a puppet attached to her shoulders. Boyle suggested the image represented trafficked woman as devoid of agency, passive, whilst the image was eroticising.  Furthermore, many of the adverts, focused on the idea of preventing women from making bad choices, juxtaposing innocence with knowledge.  The images presented the trafficked women at the centre, whilst male roles within trafficking were not alluded to. Boyle suggested that in these posters women are seen as either objects of either surveillance or consumption, with campaigns that insist on the boundaries between “them” and “us”. Boyle compared two ‘Look Below the Surface’ campaigns around people who had been trafficked not for the purposes of sexual exploitation  and those who had and suggested that images in these posters focus on the idea that we need to look beneath the surface as there is no visible signs of trafficking. In these posters, the trafficked person is pictured alone. In contrast, Boyle showed that in the campaign about sex trafficking, the woman is pictured with a man looming over her, with the punter as the one who has done the finding, and it is the punter who is seen as the potential rescuer with his sense of entitlement to buy other women unchallenged. In another set of examples, Boyle looked at the way that trafficked women are placed in spaces of consumption. The paper also highlighted the way that the women in these posters often conform to Western beauty standards in order to enhance the sense of vulnerability. Boyle suggested that there was a prostitution gaze where in anti- trafficking campaign one is urged to look out for trafficked women rather than being urged to look out for those who buy sex or traffic women. This, the paper suggested can be linked to men’s discomfort of sexual scrutiny (using an example where a Swedish campaign could not find any models to be in a poster title “one in eight men buy sex”) as it is usually women and children who are objectified. Finally, the paper suggested that none of the images studied suggested survival after trafficking or looked at the link between trafficked and local women.

 Sarah Kamal ‘Keeping it “Queer”: Critical Scholarship, Pedagogies and Classrooms’

 This paper began with Kamal asking the audience to draw what they think a classroom looks like. Kamal then went on to describe ‘queer’ as a verb to spoil and put out of order, suggesting that this could be achieved by teaching against the grain. Kamal briefly discussed her research. Kamal suggested that on a micro level her work looks at the everyday struggle of resistance in Palestine, looking at graffiti as minor literature with collective value. On a macro level, Kamal suggested that her work is a commentary on what is considered as privileged as academic knowledge within International Relations and look at the effect of queer theory on this. Kamal suggested that queer critical scholarship can be used to invade space so that the classroom becomes a place where the unsayable can be said. The paper suggested that there is political power at the margins that can be used to unsettle the dominant canon. Kamal discussed some of the issues that she has found in her own research, recounting how some of her approaches such as presenting her thesis as a photo essay have met resistance. Kamal suggested that queer theory can be linked to the idea of providing an alternative space that actively cultivates discomfort and provides an interpretative space that opens up space for critical thought. Furthermore, Kamal suggested that teaching can be used as activism, as a space to question the canon and actively work against it. Kamal gave examples of this, for example using reading groups instead of hierarchical seminar and guerilla pedagogy- active political teaching. Kamal concluded by looking at the way that graffiti queers aesthetics in a way that is always political, suggesting that this can be brought into the classroom. Furthermore, the paper suggested that there is power in margins and practices of dissent and that the classroom can be seen as a place to further social justice and counter the Academic Industrial Complex.

 Contemporary Feminisms, Young Women, and Global Feminist Politics

Dr Ruth Lewis and Dr Susan Marine (Northumbria University and Merrimack College, USA), ‘Third wave’ feminism: resisting caricatures, advocating compassion

This paper, presented by Dr Ruth Lewis, emerges from a wider research project on young female students and their relationship to feminism. There has been a lot of research on young women recently, mostly in relation to their cooptation and exploitation within the contemporary neoliberal capitalist context. But little attention seems to have been paid to what young feminists are themselves doing and thinking. The paper presents a series of ‘troublings’ which the researchers have observed through their research. Specifically 1) an observation that much of feminism currently happens outside of academia (raising the question of whether this is the result of a frustration with academic feminism’s perceived inaccessibility), 2) a tendency of ‘spokeswomen’ or ’stars’ being promoted within media coverage of feminism, 3) a disjuncture between feminist theory and young women’s activism, and 4) a reliance on caricatures of ‘second wave’ and ‘third wave’ feminists, as well as the tendency among activist feminists to caricature academic feminists as existing in ivory towers and disconnected from activism on the ground. Reflecting on these observations, Dr Lewis and Dr Marine are proposing a framework for researching young women which foregrounds theoretically-informed empirical examination of young women’s activism. Such research, they suggest, should pay attention to how young feminists are using social media,recognise the diversity of views within feminism, explore the lived reality of intersectionality, pay attention to the different spaces of resistance (the successful online campaign to hold Facebook to account for supporting rape culture was cited as an example), as well as explore how young feminists do or do not engage with feminist theory. Additionally, Lewis and Marine emphasise the need for a more compassionate approach to researching young women – in particular they stress the need to acknowledge the many challenges that young women face in negotiating their lives and identities. The paper suggests that such research should approach feminism as a tapestry, with history woven into the present, and where complexity and a non-linear narrative of feminism is emphasised.

 Maddie Breeze (University of Edinburgh), ‘Critique, Inclusion and Negation: Roller Derby, ‘Real’ Sport and Hybrid Strategies for Social Change’

 Maddie Breeze presented empirical research from her doctoral project on roller derby (an ethnographic project focused on one league, which Breeze herself was involved in setting up). Roller derby is a full-contact team sport on roller blades, primarily played and led by women. Skaters take on (often humorous and/or provocative) derby names, and the image of bright colours, fishnets, miniskirts and hot pants has been closely associated with the sport. A challenge to gender norms is often inherent in skaters’ self presentation and identities. The sport is organised on a DIY model, with all organisational aspects of leagues carried out by the skaters themselves. The league which Breeze worked with is overwhelmingly white and middle class, and about two-thirds identify as straight, and one-third as lesbian and/or queer. In this paper, Breeze focused on a theme which had come increasingly to the fore during the time of her research, which was of the skaters’ increasing concern with roller derby being taken seriously as a sport. In particular, Breeze talked about the how the skaters approached seriousness and their claims to recognition within the normative sporting world. In earlier days of roller derby, a common assertion, also amongst skaters themselves, was that “roller derby is a sport for women who don’t like sport”. However, in the last few years, skaters across leagues have expressed a growing concern for serious recognition as a competitive sport. As part of this, national bodies have been set up in both the UK and the US. Breeze asks whether a request for legitimacy dilutes the subversive potential of roller derby, and finds through her research that skaters approach these claims in ways which are ambivalent, through a continued partial resistance against the demands which come with legibility and recognition. She finds that skaters ask to be taken seriously in ways which simultaneously refuse to do so according to normative expectations, but instead doing so on their own terms.

 Prof. Marcoux Faiia (Rivier University, USA), ‘Reasons College Women give for Participation or non-Participation in the “Occupy Wall Street” Movement: Is Activism Related to Self-Identification as a Feminist?’

 After visiting the Occupy protest in Chicago in October 2011, Professor Marcoux Faiia decided to initiate an exploratory study looking at young college women’s (non-) participation in the movement, and whether this related to their identification – or not – as feminists. Based on a US college campus in the North East, Prof. Faiia initially focused her research on her own campus, but then expanded her research to other campuses and online. In total she (and some of her Women’s Studies students employed as her research assistants) interviewed 80 women, asking them about their knowledge of Occupy, whether they were involved, and if so, if they faced any opposition to their involvement and also what, if anything, they had sacrificed as a result of being involved. The participants were also asked whether they identified as feminist and how they saw the role of women in the Occupy movement. Framing her research within social movement theory and culture theory, Prof. Faiia is interested in whether a sense of feminist injustice (i.e. an identification with feminism) increased and enhanced women students’ understanding of the issues raised by the Occupy movement. Her findings suggest that there is a correlation, with a higher percentage of those participants that identified as feminist also involved with Occupy. However, the majority of the women interviewed had not participated in Occupy, and this non-involvement was explained through the use of the ‘free rider’ frame, from social movement studies, which suggests that people tend to make decisions about participation in social movements based on an assessment of the personal costs, resources and risk involved. Common reasons for non-participation among the participants were expressed as concerns with being too busy with their studies, students holding conservative views and students involved in alternative lifestyles. 

Understanding and Resisting Violence against Women

Prof. Susan Hogan (University of Derby). “Frailty thy name is woman: Resisting Misogyny and Discrimination in Older Age.”

 This talk opens with the question of what is an older woman. Beyond determinist and essentialist categories, Wittgenstein argues that words gather meaning from the context in which they are used. Older women form a diverse group with cross-cutting allegiances, and this is a reason to doubt social gerontology’s base claim that all women are equal. Prof. Susan Hogan argues that visual anthropology has the power to challenge representations, and she welcomes contradictions in findings as starting points for discussion. She mentions for example a set of photography works featuring older women that has been criticised by viewers as disquieting or uncomfortable. These photographs capturing playfulness in older women were seen as displaying models in inappropriate behaviour because of the their age. Prof. Susan Hogan then presents the audience with a short film titled Look at Me and centred on art therapy, with a particular focus on the differences between what older women look like and what society dictates they should look like.

Dr. Tanya Seriser (UNSW, Australia). “Feminism, Rape and Speaking Out: Changes in Women’s Narratives of Sexual Violence.”

 Dr. Tanya Seriser starts her talk by acknowledging that the University of New South Wales, where she conducts her research, is based on land stolen from Aboriginal people. Her main theses are that the act of breaking silence and taboo around rape allows women to use speech as a form of political resistance, and that “speaking out” is in itself as feminist act. She studies 54 women’s autobiographies taking rape as the central event and looks at the evolution of the status of feminism in these works. Her findings suggest that rape survivors who wrote in the 1970s were speaking out but did not see their actions as intrinsically feminist. She also remarks on the consistent belief, from the 1970s to the 2010s, in the significance of speaking out in autobiographical accounts of rape, as all were explicitly written to aid other survivors and most titles refer to speech and/or silence. However, the narratives have shifted over the studied period, most significantly in the way they portray their relationship to feminism, as later stories find feminism increasingly problematic. Out of the 54 texts, 15 claim to be feminist works, 10 of which were published before 1989. In the 1990s, all the texts clearly distance themselves from feminism. Whereas in 1970s feminism allowed women to contextualise sexual assault, in 1999 rape women are distancing themselves from feminism, claiming that it does not allow women to get to their own understanding of their trauma. Feminism is seen as taking control away from women and generalising their experiences. Dr. Tanya Seriser takes the example of Alice Sebald’s autobiography Lucky, where the author uses social prejudice by performing race, class, and educational background to appear in court as the “all-American co-ed girl” and help put her poor black assailant in jail. This manipulation of discourse is also apparent in the Tegan Wagner rape case (2001), when the underage victim voluntarily disclosed her identity to encourage young women to speak out. The case became problematic, however, when not only feminist but also right-wing racists latch onto the story because the perpetrators happened to be a gang of Muslim Pakistani brothers. Indeed, the last chapter of her autobiography is sympathetic to the Cronulla riots, notorious racist protests against primarily Muslim Lebanese immigrants in Sydney. These more recent texts from the 2000s are not overtly opposed to feminism but do not mention it as a factor. This talk concludes on the need for more sophisticated, creative feminist discourses to look at the political effect of rape survivor narratives, and the reason why they see feminism as something outside of them and not coming from them.

 Dr. Rachel Simon-Kumar (The University of Waikato, New Zealand). “Engaging Feminist Movements in Aotearoa/New Zealand: TOAH-NNEST and the Politics of ‘Inclusion.’”

 Although Dr. Rachel Simon-Kumar is not a member of TOAH-NNEST (Te Ohaaki a Hine – National Network for Ending Sexual Violence Together, created in 2005), she is researching the organisation and its collaboration with the government and several marginalised groups. TOAH-NNEST is different from traditional models since it was created precisely for the purpose of being a strategic partner with the state in the field of sexual violence. This goes against the conventional view of grassroots movements founded in reaction to events and entering an interactive or dynamic relationship with the state. This paper outlines two major stories: the creation of TOAH-NNEST and the Taskforce on Sexual Violence. Rape Crisis centres first appeared in the late 1970s in the biggest cities of New Zealand and led the first women’s organisations. In 1984, neo-liberal economic reforms stopped funding women’s organisations, and by the late 1990s the number of agencies was halved because of the lack of funding. In 1999, Helen Clark’s coalition government took a more inclusive and collaborative approach to policymaking and created the Family Violence Taskforce. TOAH-NNEST was born as an equivalent for sexual violence, a national network of academics, practitioners and activists working together. The new organisation was denied funding at first, but a high profile rape case involving several policemen who were acquitted because the jury was not told that they were already serving sentences for rape sparked outrage from feminist groups. TOAH-NNEST was finally funded by the government and the Taskforce on Sexual Violence was established, involving TOAH-NNEST, CEOs and Family Court judges. In 2008, the economic crisis was a pretext for changes to the ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation). Under the new regulations, women victims of sexual violence must be diagnosed and satisfy a standardised medical model to get compensation. Despite its many successes, the government cut funding again in 2012 and left TOAH-NNEST struggling, thus showing its vulnerability to political changes.

 Dr. Kallia Manoussaki and Fiona Veitch (University of the West of Scotland). “Ambivalent Sexism in the West of Scotland: Attributions of Blame in Relation to Rape Myth Acceptance.

 This talk presents an interdisciplinary research project in psychology and politics. Dr. Kallia Manoussaki and Fiona Veitch are trying to establish if conservatism and inflexibility can predict rape myth acceptance and the attribution of blame to the victim. They mention the notion of ambivalent sexism, that is a combination of hostile and benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism appears to be a predictor of rape myths acceptance (RMA) particularly in women. In the West of Scotland, they notice a sexist culture with a clear increase in rapes and a decrease in prosecution. In 1999, the newly-devolved Scottish Parliament explicitly stated gender equality as a foundational principle, yet Scotland is a patriarchal society with rigid ideas of masculinity and femininity, and worryingly high levels of acceptance of sexual violence. Although there has been higher proportions of female MSPs in Edinburgh than MPs in Westminster, these numbers are now taking a dive. Therefore, there is a need for autonomous and organised feminist political groups working alongside the Parliament. Scotland is one of the few countries giving domestic abuse a gendered definition, yet four women are raped every day in Scotland!Dr. Kallia Manoussaki and Fiona Veitch also argue that right wing authoritarianism (a cluster of co-existing attitudes such as a cognitive adherence to the status quo and a refusal to consider anything new) can predict victim-blaming and RMA. Right wind authoritarians tend to believe in a just world of retributions where victims must have done something to deserve their fate. This relates to benevolent sexism and the way it assumes that women will conform to fixed sets of rules. Rape myths attribute blame to the victim and and position men as incapable to control their sexuality. A survey of 250 students at UWS using the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI) and the Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) scale and how they predict RMA. No gender difference was found on either ASI or RWA but men scored significantly higher on RMA. Dr. Kallia Manoussaki and Fiona Veitch recommend tackling benevolent sexism in particular since it victimises women even more than straightforward hostile sexism by pervading their attitudes and expectations. They also raise the issue of needing to acknowledge the “averted gaze”, that is to address men as perpetrators so sexism is not a seen as a “women’s issue” anymore Scotland must seriously debate its myth of an egalitarian society and promote gender equality despite the neo-liberal agenda making life harder for women.


Conference Blog: Panel Session III, Friday 21 June

The Politics, Poetics, and Performativity of Feminism

Emily Spiers, ‘Fragmented Identity and Playful Performance in Contemporary Popfeminism and Fiction by Women: A Comparative Approach’

Popfeminism (feminism that utilises and is utilised by popular culture) has emerged as a way of feminists moving away from the victim-orientated politics often associated with the second wave. Spiers connects the essayistic popfeminist writings in relation to recent fictional manifestations by women to show how the female figures in these novels are depicted as transgressing conventional gender roles. Comparisons between fiction and non-fiction as well as British and German contexts provide a varied comparative approach to the topic. Discussing texts including Full Frontal Feminism, The Noughtie Girls Guide to Feminism and Das F-Wort the paper considers a range of non-fiction and how it contributes to ideas of agency and identity performance. Indeed, the discourse of popfeminism tends to foreground ideas of autonomy and agency for women and the word ‘choice’ emerges as a central discourse in relation to notions of women’s sexuality and personhood.

 Dr Gwen Saunders, “Whatever in love means…”. Love and Marriage in Welsh Women’s Poetry of the Early Modern Period’

Inspired by a TV broadcast of Prince Charles and Diana’s engagement, when Charles says “Whatever ‘in love’ means” Saunders proceeds to explore the work of Welsh poet Alis daughter of Gruffudd (born c. 1520) who is firmly grounded in the bardic tradition. Despite talking about literature produced century’s past, a lively current runs throughout the paper which is particularly apparent in relation to the synergies drawn across time: the pre-nup is far from a modern development but something that occurred during the 16th Century – who knew! Similarly, the poetry is located firmly within a particularly social and cultural context and thus sheds light both on the original context but also draws comparisons across time. Reading the poetry in both Welsh and English Saunders gives a wonderful space to the language of poetry rather than merely discussing the issues and debates it produces. The figure of the woman poet in the 16th Century is completely free to write about issues that matter to her and women’s weakness becomes a voice of protest. As such, Saunders argues Alis protests against how society dictates how women should behaviour and against the phallocentric order of poetry.

 Dr Claire O’Callaghan, ‘The Lady Doth Protest: Tattoos and Corporeal Feminist Protest in Sarah Hall’s The Electric Michaelangelo

Writing on the body becomes a literal manifestation of feminist protest in the novel The Electric Michaelangelo by Sarah Hall and connects with feminist discourses forwarded by feminists such as Naomi Wolf about the beauty and control of women’s bodies in a patriarchal society. Opening the paper with the image of a tattoo eye on the PowerPoint, this image is one that is used in the novel and that comes to symbolise the treatment of women’s bodies. However, it also marks the start of Hall’s protest against the objectification of the female body. Based around the idea of the ‘Beauty Myth’ as theorised by Wolf, the paper is contextualised upon the notion of how the male gaze and control permeates in, around and through the female body. Written and told by a man, O’Callaghan classes the text as a male feminist bildungsroman as (in general terms) it is all about what the man learns about feminism. To help visualise the content the novel propagates, images of twentieth century women covered in tattoos are shown to contextualise what this body modification looks like as a symbolic rebellion by women. Despite the radical potential of this body modification, it is crucial to remember the limitations of such resistance and this is something Hall does not forget. The paper also goes on to discuss Amy Winehouse and how the British media’s response to her body typifies the vilification of women’s non-normative beauty as a cultural representation akin to Hall’s literary one.

Critical Ontologies: Asking ‘New’ Feminist Questions

Mia Eriksson (University of Gothenburg, Sweden). “’Wronged White Men:’ What kind of Conversation can or should we there be between Feminism and anti-Feminism?”

 This talks examines the trope of the “wronged white man” and the anti-feminist backlash in Sweden. Although some argue that feminism “has gone too far”, there is evidence that men still dominate the country despite Sweden’s self-image as an equal society. Mia Eriksson asks how feminists approach the idea of the oppressed man. As the elevation of nordic values and people is inscribed in a nationalistic discourse based on morality, multiculturalism is seen by anti-feminists as damaging for the nation. This shift from politics to morality is visible when these men refuse to question white male privilege. Despite the egalitarian myth at home and abroad, none of the Scandinavian countries is actually equal, and discrimination against non-white Swedish people, for instance, is rife. Mia Eriksson cites the “wronged white man” as a figure of laughter for many feminists as they claim feminism has destroyed the sacrosanct heterosexual family. She also proposes the “wronged white man” as a figuration embedded in the socio-political context. “Wronged” evokes hurt and “white men” evokes power, which poses a contradiction and constitutes a challenge to feminists’ position by presenting men as oppressed. She quotes Sara Ahmed’s remark that a common positioning of men as working-class is used to reflect a good image of the nation to itself. The confrontation between feminists and anti-feminists is often framed in terms of good versus evil, as the anti-feminists try to reclaim the power they believe to deserve by virtue of being white men and try to occupy what they assumer to be the “correct” position of white masculinity. However, and although it is anti-racist, Mia Eriksson argues that nordic feminist movements are still inscribed within nationalistic discourses about the wrong and right ways to be Swedish.

 Seetha Menon (University of Essex). “Domestic Violence on Neonatal and Child Mortality in India.”

 This is an empirical paper asking the question of the possible causal relationship between violence against women and child mortality in India. The country’s commitment to reducing child mortality by 2015 means that this study could have a political impact on policy. The results of various surveys on domestic violence in India yield greatly varying numbers and make it difficult to generalise. Seetha Menon uses several studies looking at women with children and their experience of domestic violence, as well as the difference between child mortality in North India and South India, regions with different levels of economic empowerment for women. She posits a strong causal link between domestic violence and child mortality but warns the audience that there is no evidence as to which causes which and that we should be wary of making assumptions. Seetha Menon also attempts to establish this link through an analysis of the practice of dowry, which is incidentally a major cause of female infanticide, the family fearing to be unable to pay the high price. She studies the evolution of the price of gold from an economist’s point of view in relation to the practice of dowry as a mechanism in domestic violence. She finds that women with higher financial independence who are able to control their dowry (in gold or jewellery) run less risk of becoming victims of domestic violence. The price of gold can thus be used to map and predict child mortality. The Demographic Health Survey (2005) looked at over 124.000 women in India and interviewed over 83.000 women about domestic violence. A standardised questionnaire was used to assess the frequency of domestic violence and found that 64 percent experienced no violence at all and 6 percent experienced all forms of violence. The findings from this economics study show that increased domestic violence leads to higher levels of child mortality. Although the law prohibiting domestic violence in India exists, it is not put in practice, and Seetha Menon argues in this talk that changing this fact would also reduce child mortality.

 Dr. Line Nyhagen Predelli (Loughborough University). “Recognition Struggles in Contemporary Women’s Movement: Towards More Inclusive Citizenship Practices.”

 The focus of this paper is the way majority women’s movements tend to silence minority women. A clear example of this is the fact that Dr. Line Nyhagen Predelli’s first grant application for this research project was refused on the grounds that Black feminism in Norway simply does not exist! She posits an interesting contrast between Norway, Spain, and the UK, which are very different countries in terms of social systems, commitments to equality, and patterns of migration. She focuses on citizenship as lived practice, including identity, and the relationships between ethnic minority women and majority women’s movements but also with the state. Dr. Line Nyhagen Predelli then mentions Nancy Fraser who argues that economic and cultural injustices are intertwined but says that it is ethnic minorities’ responsibility to make active claims for redistribution. In view of such statements, there is an urgent need for self-reflexive engagement with majority privilege and minority disadvantage. But this also means looking at the effect of the critique of feminism as ethnocentric as well the way majority women’s movements have reacted to the challenge of ethnic minority women. Dr. Line Nyhagen Predelli’s findings are consistent in all three countries: a lack of inclusiveness and a lack of interest in racism on majority women’s agendas, as feminist movements keep privileging gender as lens of inequality. Concerns are emerging about voice, representation, and legitimacy, as well as the misrecognition of existing organisations where minority women are already mobilised outside of feminist movements. She concludes by promoting an intersectional analysis including reflecting on privilege and favouring more inclusive citizenship practices.

  The Feminist Killjoy in the Feminist Movement

Terese Jonsson ‘Looking for Anti- Racism in Narratives of Britsh Feminism

 This paper looked at the way in which anti racism has been overlooked within the British feminist movement. Jonsson suggested that white feminists have marginalized and appropriated women of colour, both in activism and social media. Using examples from Spare Rib, Amos and Parmar (1984) and from contemporary blogs, the paper looked at the discourse that was often presented within mainstream feminism around anti- racism. The paper suggested that often racism is not discussed because of white women’s fear of being told that they have said something racist. Jonsson looked at the F Word book which strongly reiterated its debt to the women’s liberation movement but made little reference to anti racism within feminism. Furthermore, the paper suggested that when racism was mentioned it was within the context of pastness, so that it is not portrayed as being an issue in the present day.  The paper pointed to the way that discussion about race is often shut down and not properly discussed. Finally, the paper looked at the way that Black feminism is underrepresented in academia 

Gwyneth Lonergan Non- Performativity of Reading Audre Lorde: White Feminists and the Appropriation of Radical Women of Colour

 Using autoethnography, this paper discussed the way in which the referencing of Radical Women of Colour in Britain can be seen as an exercise in non-performativity. Lonergan suggests that the typical woman is constructed as white and that experiences of BME women are often ignored. Furthermore, she suggests that racism and sexism are often treat as separate issues whilst women of colour are often presented simplistically as victims of their cultures. Lonergan suggested that for mainstream white feminists there is a superficial appreciated of Radical Women of Colour, however their ideas are often changed so that they are radical in form and liberal in context.  The paper suggested that the use of the phrase ‘Reproductive Justice’ by mainstream feminists is indicative of this. Whilst the term was invented by Radical Women of Colour in order to move away from  the ubiquity of ‘pro choice’ which they argued ignored that the decision to have a child  needs to be seen within a wider social context  and not just be about access to abortion, this has been simplified by mainstream feminists to be synonymous with pro choice. The paper argued that the referencing of  American Radical Women of Colour by British white feminists, allowed them to distance themselves from the issues geographically, whilst the focus on second wave Radical Women of Colour further created a distance. The referencing of Radical Women of Colour allows for the non-performativity of anti- racism, so that white feminists can be seen to be anti-racist without doing any activism or changing how they think.

Dr Humaira Saeed ‘ Saving Brown Women: Transnationalism and the Third Wave’

 This paper discussed the actions of Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN in relation to Tunisian feminist Amina Sboui. Sboui was arrested by Tunisian police in May 2013, and in response to her arrest FEMEN, whose main form of activism is public nudity have carried out a number of protests in response. These include a topless ‘jihad’ photo as well as a topless ‘salat’ (prayer). The paper highlighted the Islamaphobia of FEMEN, who are now based in France as an example of internationalism rather than transnationalism. Saeed suggested that FEMEN’s actions ignore the differences between locations that affect how an action is perceived. For example, whilst in France the veil is perceived as a sign of oppression, in French colonised Algeria, the veil was seen as a protest against colonialism. The paper suggested that there is a danger that, in celebrating universality amongst women, important cultural differences are ignored. Furthermore, in the case of Sboui, she has become a cipher for all Tunisian women, whilst other kind of feminists who do not fit FEMEN’s narrative such as the Muslimah feminists and the rich history of muslim feminist is ignored. Finally, Saeed, drawing on the work of Spivak, suggested that Sboui’s own voice is not being heard as she becomes a representative for Tunisian women for the west  and therefore loses her subjectivity.



Conference Blog: Panel Session II, Friday 21 June

What lies at the interstices of Private Lives And Public Protests? Ethnographic Reflections on Contemporary South Asian Women Activists

This panel, convened by Dr Radhika Govinda, broadly addressed the themes of public/private, ethics, agency and coercion in relation to research on contemporary South Asian Women Activists. The format for the discussion differed from other panels: here the panellists had pre-circulated their papers to the chair, Prof. Patricia Jeffery. Prof. Jeffery summarised each paper in her own words, then followed this with specific questions for the author. Therefore the summary below reflects a combination of Prof. Jeffery’s summary, slides from the authors, as well as the author’s responses to Dr Jeffery’s questions rather than a direct summary of the author’s paper.

 Dr Sumi Madhok (LSE Gender Institute), ‘Producing Activist Subjects: Ethics, Ethnography and Responsibility’

 Dr Madhok’s paper reflects on ethical issues raised through her ethnographic work with a state sponsored developmentalist programme in Rajasthan which trains rural women to become activists in their communities. In particular, the paper attempts to unpick tensions which arise in relation to intersections of gender, agency and coercion. Recent scholarship on women’s activists has tended to present an idealised agency of women’s activists, which can be seen partly as a response to earlier representations of women as simply victims. However such triumphalism of course masks more complicated realities. In reflecting on the position of the rural women, Dr Madhok highlights the need to consider that agency and coercion are seldom an “either/or”, but rather a shifting and complex “and”. The women who were part of this project had agency as activists at the same time as they were vulnerable to coercion, both from the agency who in many ways controlled their ‘production’ as activists (and required this activism to take specific forms), and from conflicting demands from within their communities. The paper also reflects on the question of how to do ethical research on women’s activism, and on the positionality and power of the researcher. For example, the paper highlights the case of a woman being gang-raped during Dr Madhok’s period of fieldwork, and reflects on the fact that Dr Madhok’s had previously refrained from writing about this traumatic incident, for fear of inhabiting the voyeuristic gaze as a researcher.  

 Dr Radhika Govinda (The University of Edinburgh), ‘Personal and Professional Struggles of Grassroots Women’s NGO Activists in Rural North India’

 Dr Govinda’s paper addresses the personal and professional struggles of NGO activists working to tackle violence against women in Utter Pradesh. The paper is comprised of five case studies of the activists (developed through “examining activist narratives embedded in organisational narratives and as individual tales”), which tread the boundaries between private and professional in highlighting how the women learnt to recognise and deal with the violence in their own lives, and how this intersected with their positions as activists against violence. Personal stories within these cases studies included a woman who had left her marriage, another who was standing for election, and another who had stood up to a violent husband. One case study focused on the experiences of a male activist, reflecting on how his behaviour had changed as a result of being involved with an NGO working on male violence. The case studies highlight how working professionally against violence converges with personal experiences in differing and contradictory ways. Sometimes the intersections of the personal and the professional is positive and empowering, while at other times the outcome is more ambivalent, and result in experiences of dissonance between the public/private divide. Dr Govinda’s work raises questions around how gender norms are and can be challenged, and to what extent women activists against violence are able to end violence and coercion in their own private lives. The case studies also raised complex issues related to religion, case, class and the ways in which these intersect.

 Dr Martin Webb (Birkbeck College), ‘Policy and the Grassroots: Transparency and Accountability Activists working through Class, Gender and Space in Delhi, North India’

 Dr Webb’s paper was based on his fieldwork in Delhi with a Sangathan, a grassroots non-governmental organisation which aims to help the urban poor and protect their civil liberties.  The organisation was set up by middle class women, but relies also on the work of “community mobilisers” from the slums which the project works with. 3 out of 4 of the community mobilisers during Dr Webb’s fieldwork were women (although being an organisation primarily run by women, it did not have an explicit gender focus). The paper reflects on the relationship between these women and their involvement with the organisation, noting how there was a lot of mistrust on both sides. It also reflects on the public/private divide in terms of how the women negotiate their roles as activists, but also how opportunities which arise from their involvement with the organisation can be used to gain cultural capital and personal advantage. Prof Jeffery emphasised the role of self-interest in community mobilisers’ involvement with the organisation, although Dr Webb argued that his intention was not to suggest that their involvement was cynical and self-serving. Class was a key issue in these relationships, and also in terms of the functioning of the organisation. The only way the organisation could function was working through particular individuals positioned in particular ways in the city. So the middle class women’s involvement was essential in order for the organisation to appear as legitimate within civil society, and equally, the community mobilisers’ position within the slum was crucial in order for the organisation to be able to carry out its work.

 Dr Nida Kirmani (Lahore University of Management Science, Pakistan), ‘Challenging Conceptions of ‘Feminist’ Activism: Struggling for Autonomy and Respect in Lyari, Pakistan’

 Dr Kirmani’s paper presents a detailed case study of the experiences of a young woman, Saniya Naz, a community activist in Lyari, Pakistan, who has recently been elected as a member of the provincial assembly in the local constituency. Dr Kirmani’s research, based on interviews with Saniya herself and other people around her, explores the conflicts of agency, coercion and gender in producing Saniya’s position. In particular, the paper focuses on Saniya’s relationship with a male member of a local gang, who has been instrumental in backing her rise to local political power (it should be noted that the roles of gangs within Lyari are multilayered and ambiguous, acting in the service and protection of local people, doing ‘social work’, as well as engaging in gang warfare). Dr Kimani’s paper focuses on Saniya because she is an atypical case, and raises complex questions around agency, feminism and gender: Is Saniya breaking gender boundaries or legitimizing oppressive power structures? What does her case tell us about women’s activism in Lyari and in Pakistan in general? Is her rapid rise to power in the local political sphere a feminist success story? The question of research ethics also arises – what are the implications of writing about Saniya? Her public profile means it is not possible to anonymise her. Dr Kirmani emphasises that she is in the early days of her research. As Saniya has only very recently been elected, the question remains whether she will be able to engage in politics without being fully absorbed within coercive power structures or co-opted by her powerful male backer. Dr Kirmani expressed hope that Saniya will be able to negotiate further independence and power through this role.

 Dr Hugo Gorringe (The University of Edinburgh), ‘Questions of Honour: Dalit Women Activists and political discourse in Tamil Nadu, South India’

 Dr Gorringe’s paper raises questions around how caste and patriarchy intersect, through examining the experiences of Dalit women political activists in Tamil Nadu. His research is based on interviews with Dalit women in the Viduthalai Chiruthaigai Katchi (Liberation Panther Party), and emphasises the importance of looking at everyday processes in the negotiation of gendered and caste identities. Recent caste violence in Tamil Nadu have centred around discourses of caste honour and pride, and therefore have had some detrimental consequences for Dalit women. Where previously Dalit movements have focused on anti-caste activism and advocating for women’s liberation, increasingly there has been a focus on policing the borders of caste, and an emerging Dalit caste pride, in which women’s sexuality has become more tightly controlled. So contradictorily, the autonomy of Dalit women involved in the party has suffered as a result of its increased success. The party’s success has also resulted in a more public performance of masculinity. Dr Gorringe also highlighted how the women activists’ autonomy and ability to speak out about issues like domestic abuse changed and fluctuated as their position within the party changed, where women in lower level positions within the party may have more autonomy to speak out than women higher up. Through this renegotiation of gender roles in relation to a discourse of Dalit pride, Dalit women risk becoming positioned as symbols instead of political agents.

Cultural Representations of Women and Gender

Dr Sumana Ray, ‘ ‘Behtzi’: Bhatti, a Lady Protesting Too Much’

Addressing diaspora as a means of protest via its cultural production, Ray discusses the work of multi-ethnic playwrights and in particular Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti to ask how her work impacts on the community from which she writes. Whilst navigating the complexities of contemporary life, artists like Bhatti engage with diverse, problematic and contentious issues that originate within their communities. In turn, Ray argues, a cross-generational dialogue emerges around this work. By considering both the production and content of Bhatti’s play, alongside the critical reception of it, the paper offers a well-rounded consideration of how this text contributes to notions of protest. With violent protests by the Sikh community at the representations of sexual abuse, forcing the play to close, the politics of protest are mapped in literary and physical forms. A key point Ray makes about this particular artistic production is that it is not limited to just this culture and community (this is merely one specific example), but can be seen as symptomatic of cultures more broadly.

 Nahid Bashatah, ‘The Representation of Saudi Women in British Press’

Examining the representations of Saudi women in four British major newspapers (The Sun, Daily Mail, The Independent and The Guardian) in the ten years between 2002-2012, Bashatah argues that the images produced negatively affect British society because stereotypes have the potential to create hatred, violence and misunderstanding. In order to change this there needs to be a greater diversity in the newsroom itself so that standpoints are not always being articulated by (in general but not wholly) white, middle-class men and women. The veil, women driving, educational inequality and political rights are often regarded as the key points of (mis)representation of Saudi women’s lives (Mendes 2011). Bashatah suggests that representations of Saudi women are changing in comparison to recent decades but there is still a significant degree of misrepresentation as the result of racist and patriarchal misconceptions and discourses. The paper stimulated so many interesting questions and lines of enquiry that the chair had to postpone further questioning until the very end of the session!

 Ambrose Uchenunu, ‘Redefinition of Sexuality in Nollywood Sexploitation Genres’

Through costume (or dress) the genre of Nollywood cinema is undergoing a transformation in the way it (re)presents women and their bodies. Uchenunu suggests that this means of dressing is dictating a new culture for young women in Nigeria. As the content becomes correlative with soft-porn due to the overly-sexualised and revealed bodies, Uchenunu argues that a sexploitation of women’s bodies and the sensitivities of the receiving audience takes place.

 Nivedita Pathak, ‘From Tulsi to Afsar Bitia: Changing Portrayal of Women in Indian Television Serials’

This analysis has grown out of a personal journey growing up with India Televanision Serials and having witnessed a shift in the role and depiction of women in these Serials in recent years. There is clear relationship between society and these shows and a dialogue between them. With over 825 private TV channels in 2012 and 233 million TV-viewing citizens these soap operas are a significant part of Indian culture. However, despite the numerous protests against women’s subjugation and activism for gender equality in the country, Pathak argues that Television Serials in India do not necessarily mean that this translates to women being empowered. As the majority of these TV serials are aimed at housewives there are important repercussions following their depictions of women for these women. Despite many of these Serials missing key opportunities to challenge traditional representations of these women and write new scripts for them, Pathak’s paper has a tone of optimism that this is a pontential medium for feminist mobilisation. 

Attitudes to Feminism, Feminist Attitudes: Power, Privilege, Politics

Dr. Jonathan Dean (University of Leeds). “Still a ‘Bourgeois Distraction?’ Conceptualising Attitudes to Feminism within the Activist Left in Britain.”

This paper looks into the status of feminism and gender dynamics in contemporary left-wing movements in Britain. Since 2008, there has been a resurgence of activism in Britain, and although there is existing research on feminist activisms and post-2009 movements, little scholarship examines feminism as a key site of debate within contemporary movement. Dr. Jonathan Dean’s current research focuses on gender issues and the place of gender within these movements. His first example is taken from the Leeds Student Occupation of late 2010 and the early involvement of feminists, who then became marginalised as the movements progressed, and suffered the aggressiveness of male occupiers attempting to shut down all points raised about the gendered impact of cuts. His second example looks at the Socialist Workers Party’s rape crisis, when a female member accused a senior male member of sexual assault, but the latter was exonerated, thus furthering proof of the gendered hierarchy of the party. Dr. Jonathan Dean concludes that although some left-wing organisations denigrate women’s issues, feminism is still supported by the wider left. This shows tensions between left purism and intersectional left on the issue of gender, possibly highlighting opposition between feminism and traditional left-wing masculinity.

Dr. Alison Winch (Middlesex University). “The Girlfriend Gaze and the Homosocial Market.”

This talk focuses on the way the female body is consumed by other females, especially in a neo-liberalist economy that penetrates relationships between women by entering their private spaces for profit. Dr. Alison Winch takes the example of the Thinspiration blog featuring images of skinny (young) female bodies. Erin, the blog creator, denies any links with the pro-ana movement and appears to use a friendly, feminine language, peppered with the liberal rhetoric of individual empowerment and entrepreneurship. As the girlfriend culture is making women more visible to each other and enforcing mutual control through their own gaze, are men and patriarchal norms really absent? Dr. Alison Winch evokes the Deleuzian idea of the “perpetual training” of the neo-liberal subject, enacted through idealised femininity and peer pressure to fit in. The use of misogynistic vocabulary and rhetoric in girlfriends’ conversations as portrayed in the media exemplifies this trend, including the exploitation of intimacy. She concludes that we live in a neo-liberal post-feminist culture where women control each other, and where the desire for belonging means that women often willingly submit themselves to this policing of body and sexuality.

Dr. Jessica Baily (Sheffield Hallam University). “Gender, Power and Privilege in Feminist Activist Groups.”

The focus of this paper is the growing number of mixed-gender feminist groups, such as UK Feminista for instance. It examines the debate around men’s involvement in feminist movements and their impact on group dynamics. Dr. Jessica Baily mentions four case studies of groups, committees and collectives. She raises the key issues of male privilege, that is a sometimes unconscious entitlement to speak or lead that disrupts feminist dynamics, and practicing gender, that is acting according to one’s gender identification. The place of people who are viewed by others as men but do not self-identify as such is also of interest in a gendered environment. Dr. Jessica Baily mentions the example of a man who founds a feminist discussion group and acknowledges self-reflexive concerns to try not to speak too much, then forgets his resolution as time passes and ends practicing gender. Taking both physical and speaking space are also ways of practicing gender. Despite women’s different feelings regarding the impact of men in feminism,  there is no denying that their very presence has an effect on activism and discussion, sometimes fostering women’s self-censorship in a Foucauldian internalisation of discipline.

Dieuwertje Dyi Huijg (University of Manchester). “Spraying Feminist Slogans until the Police Comes: A Case Study of Whiteness, Inaction and Intersectional Agency.”

This talk asks the question of how power structures operate in activism. Dieuwertje Dyi Huijg recounts an anecdote involving feminists spraying slogans on the walls of Sao Paulo in Brazil. She looks at a particular group composed of several white middle-class women and one black woman. One night, the police comes and the black woman is arrested and the white women managed to escape. When they come back and meet the black police officers, the men’s attitude changes and become more respectful. This illustrate the urgent need for awareness on the subject of white race privilege, as degrees of power and control over one’s body and resources has an important influence on relations between people. Dieuwertje Dyi Huijg highlights the different experiences of a black girl coming from the favela, living under constant threat from state violence, racism, sexism, classism and homophobia in a complex intersecting network. In this anecdote, the white feminists mobilise their agency and structural advantage to get the black police officers to free their black friend, who is denied similar agency and described by the white activists as “slow” and “dreamy.” The white woman who was on the lookout that night and failed to make sure everyone ran away from the police was coming is exempt from criticism, and this preserves her from self-reflexion and fails to take into account whiteness as privilege.

DIFFIcult Feminisms? Rethinking Categories and Analysis

Rose Holyoak-’ Integration, Repudiation and Appropriation: Finding Feminism in Non-Feminist Social Movements’

Holyoak’s paper focused on the ways in which feminism is negotiated within anarchist and environmentalist movements, looking at the interesections between feminism and other ideologies. The paper discussed the interviews that Holyoak has undertook, suggesting that for some women involved in anarchist and environmentalist movements  who identify as feminists, feminism is a primary concern, whilst for others it is a more secondary concern, and may show itself through considering women’s needs when it comes to issues such as childcare when attending meetings and also being seen as a role model. The paper then went on to look at the ways in which sexism still permeates within anarchist movements. The paper discussed the concept of the manarchist- shorthand for the way that supposedly progressive men reinforce gender oppressions. Holyoak suggested  that this is perpetuated in  a number of ways. Firstly, through repudiation, which undermines feminism by suggesting that class is a bigger issue than gender. Holyoak argued that ultimately this invalidates women’s opinions and silences self identified feminists. The paper then went on to look at gender blindness, a post feminist viewpoint that acknowledges feminism’s importance but suggests that it is no longer needed, therefore de politicizing it. Women who object to sexism are therefore seen as being over-sensitive, allowing men to absolve themselves of responsibility. Finally, the paper looked at the concept of appropriation ,whereby feminism is claimed by the manarchist as a way to either attract women, but also as a way for the manarchist to not have to examine their own privilege. To conclude the paper, Holyoak discussed the way that this can be combated, suggesting the idea of women only organising but also stressing the importance of visibility with these issues.

 Despoina Mantziari- The Anti-Feminist Crusade: I Spit on your Grave (2010) and Post Millenium Rape Culture

Mantziari’s paper discussed the film remake I Spit on your Grave, comparing the original 1978 film with the recent 2010 remake. The paper suggested that the film shows that attitudes towards rape have not progressed since the release of the first film. The paper situated I Spit on your Grave in relation to anti feminism and rape culture. Mantziari began by locating I Spit on your Grave as a film within the genre of rape revenge stories, using Clover’s book Men, Women and Chainsaws to provide critical analysis, suggesting that rape revenge stories make rape the woman’s problem and therefore absolve men of responsibility. Mantziari noted that whilst the first film showed a brutal rape scene as well as following the protagonist through the emotional aftermath of the rape, the remake does not do this. Furthermore, she suggested that the violence in the film is stylised so that it becomes a spectacle. There is also an emphasis on the uselessness of the law. The paper uses Pojanksy’s work on rape culture and postfeminism and suggested that the way that rape is represented in I Spit on your Grave reinforces rape culture

Rosalind Greig-’ Protesting with Our Adversaries? The Dilemma of Campaign Popularity’

Greig’s paper discussed the internal power dynamics in transnational advocacy networks (TANS), using the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which began in 1991 as an example.  The paper discussed the way that grounded theory can be used as a way to explore internal power. Greig discussed that way that research participants emphasised the idea of decentralized leadership, so that anyone who participates becomes a leader, with the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership as coordinators and enablers. The paper emphasised that  participants felt that it was important that all participants felt that they had ownership of the campaign and empowerment, stating that domestic violence is an issue that belongs to all women. The second part of the paper looked at tensions involved within transnational advocacy networks. Greig suggested that there was a tension between whether ownership was spontaneous or facilitated, suggesting that when ownership is facilitated a parent- child like relationship can develop where the facilitator doesn’t explicitly state what their objectives are, but that is implied. The paper noted that there are also tension when a previous target of advocacy becomes a participant, as when the UN became part of the 16 Days of Activism, as people come to believe that the UN are the originators of the project. The paper concluded with a suggestion that grounded theory would be a useful way to further discuss these issues.

Imogen Michel- ‘ Would you Describe Yourself as a Feminist? Discussing Women and Feminism Within Scottish Peace and Environmental Activist’s Oral Histories’ 

Michel’s paper looked at the attitude that peace and environmental activists have with feminism. Michel’s research is based on compiling an oral history of Scottish peace and environmental activists. As well as incorporating feminist principles into the methodology (by, for example, allowing people and especially women to feel like they are the subjects rather than the objects of history and encouraging trust amongst participants. Another important aspect in ensuring that the methodology is feminist is that there is gender parity between men and women. Michel suggested that the women who are interviewed tend to downplay their roles within a movement even if they are experienced and committed activists. Having equal amounts of men and women ensuring that women are afforded a voice. The paper suggested that the vast majority considered themselves feminists, but that there is divergence amongst activists about what feminists means even if they do self identify as feminists. Michel suggested that those within the peace movement were more likely to identify as a feminist, hypothesizing that this is probably to do with Greenham Common and other similar peace camps that had a large number of women attending. Michel also suggested that even for those participants who do not self identify as feminisfts gender equality is still an important aspect of their activism

Conference Blog: Panel Session I, Friday 21 June

Negotiating Neoliberalism: Uncovering Narratives of Women’s Everyday Activism in Changing Times

Dr Katy Jenkins ‘Making the Extraordinary Everyday: Women’s anti-mining activist’s narratives of staying put and carrying on in Peru and Ecuador.

This paper discussed the way in which everyday and small scale activism can be seen as significant sites of feminist struggle, focussing on women involved in anti-mining activism in Peru and Ecuador.  Whilst much research focuses on the macro, Jenkins’ research drew on Scott’s (1986) and Cheru’s (2005) concepts of activism as small scale, or as Scott suggests, a ‘prosaic but constant struggle (1986:8). Jenkins discussed her research which involved in depth interviews with 27 women activists. Jenkins discussed the way in which the work of activists included not accepting gifts from the mining company and refusing to move. These actions, Jenkins suggests are everyday confrontation, they are not high profile and suggest that the extraordinary can be done within women’s everyday lives.  Despite often encountering increasingly violent repression and intimidation , Jenkins discussed  discussed the way in which the small acts of women involved in anti mining groups blurs the boundaries between what is seen as activism, as the women themselves do not often see themselves as acrtivists.

Laura Hutchinson ‘Pursuing “Small Revolutions”: Personal Action and Resistance Day by Day in India

Hutchinson discussed the way in which small activism is often in conflict with the desires for NGOs to pursue large scale and externally funded projects. Hutchinson discussed her current research which focuses on four case studies of NGOs in India, noting that there is often a conflict between the need or desire for NGOs to stage large scale protests and the more hidden forms of activism in the Tamil Nadu region of India. The paper highlighted the way in which, the marketisation of NGOs mean that fundraising becomes increasingly important, creating a conflict between NGO workers who recognise the importance of small scale activism, and the NGOs who may desire a more high profile approach. Drawing on research by Stahell and Cope (1994) amongst others, the paper highlighted the way in which hidden activism can provide opportunities for women in Tamil Nadu, often bypassing the strict rules of the patriarchal council regarding women’s activities.  However, whilst noting that hidden activism can often provide a covert way for women to do activism within a patriarchal culture,  their hidden nature required the activism to be done in devious ways, as making the authorities aware of the activism could lead for it to be stopped.

 Dr Carol Stephenson ‘The Eye of the Beholder: The Use of Photographic Images by Female Activists in the Fight for Justiec for Mineworkers in Cape Breton Island

This paper discussed the way in which female activists used photographs in order to produce an emotional response in order to affect change. As miners were made redundant in Cape Breton Island, conflict around the pension allotted the those now out of work lead to campaign led by two women, Edna Lee and Bev Brown.  The main contention was the that the use of a cut off point meant that many men were left without a pension and the health benefits that came with it.  The paper discussed the impact that mining has had on the area, suggesting that it is an integral part of the culture and community of the area, and that it was the divisive impact of the pension fund allocation that caused the women’s mobilisation. The paper discussed the way that the women used photographs in meetings with officials in order to generate an emotional response and in order to make the officials see the men how they saw them. Key to the activist’s campaign was the use of emotive language and an emphasis on the loss of dignity that the loss of mining an the pension allocation will cause. The paper emphasised the way that the photographs were used both as a method of negotiation, but also as a stimulus and as a reminder of what the women were fighting for.

 Reena Shadaan ‘“We are the women of Bhopal. We are flames, not flowers!” Maternal Activism in the  International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal

Shadaan’s paper discussed the way that female activism in the aftermath of the Bhopal gas disaster can be read in relation to the concept of mothering and motherhood. The paper pointed to the fact that most activists were women and that  a motherist motivation was key for many women, especially as many activists had children who were born with birth defects as a result of the disaster. However, Shadaan suggested that as well as a personal involvement, the women could also be seen as mothering on a larger scale.  Drawing on Patricia Hill Collins’ idea of other mothering, the paoer suggested that for the women, their activism was strongly linked to class oppressions as community solidarity was a necessity. Shadaan suggested that the women can be seen as subverting the traditional notion of motherhood by using their personal stories in a political way, in a manner linked to feminist ideas of the personal as politcal. By making mothering political, the women reject traditional notions of mothehood and submissiveness. Furthermore, the paper points to the way that activism has been passed down from mothers to daughters as well as the way that activism has gave women more power and agency.

 Feminist Politics and Women’s Writings

This panel contains four papers that all in some way engage with the relationship between feminist politics and the deployment of genre. From myth to poetry through to the “feminist blockbuster” and the Sikh woman’s novel each of these speakers interrogate what exactly these forms offer, proffer and contest in regards to feminism and women’s writing.

Prof. Maninder Kapoor and Dr Seema Singh, ‘What the Female Body Remembers: Shauna Singh Baldwin and Feminist Narratology’

Kapoor and Singh explore the tension between women’s experience as a site of shared oppression yet, simultaneously, being represented by a multitude of diverse cultural, racial, and social voices. Raising questions about the gendering of storytelling and narrative, the paper embraces the metaphor of the “growl” in talking about women’s writing and their argument gives women’s voices a sense of empowerment. Shauna Singh Baldwin’s What the Body Remembers serves as an illuminating case study in which they place the female body – as their title suggests – directly into the text to make the case for this feminist narratology. Crucially, this depiction of Sikh women’s experience in the novel places the othered and marginal on the centre stage and thus dismantles the phallocentric binary itself. Concluding the analysis: it is rhetorical writing with a feminist that marks narrative out as a form of protest and whilst the tools are the same, but the intent is always protest.

 Dr Anthea Taylor, ‘The Politics and Possibilities of “Blockbuster” Feminism’

The “feminist blockbuster” as a means of feminist mobilisation? Taylor interrogates the divide surrounding texts such as Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman to debate the divergent reception of the “feminist blockbuster” in popular culture and the academy. But, more broadly, the paper asks how has the form been put to use in culture historically? Taylor suggests that popular publishing is important to feminism in moving it forward into the wider society and culture. In recognising these narratives are hermetically sealed, Taylor explores what happens when these texts start to undertake their “public life”. The “feminist blockbusters” upholds the limitations of commercial feminism and, as bell hooks argues, are often written by and for white, middle-class women. Taylor argues that we shouldn’t perceive these texts as politically dubious but interrogate their feminist politics and realise their possibilities for speaking to and about feminism.

Linda Rhinehart, ‘Ecopoetry: A new Frontier in Women’s Writing’

Beginning by establishing a clear link between ecopoetry and women writers by showcasing how many contemporary ecopoets are indeed women, Rhinehart makes the case for this new frontier of genre and gender study. Returning to the gendering of space and the association of nature with the female body, the paper offers a clear means of delineating this theoretical and literary intersection. Artistic creativity merges with the politics that is at the heart of both genre (ecopoetry) and gender (women) and from this relationship a troubling of ideology emerges that seeks to challenge dominant discourses on many levels. The discussion of Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Spring’ and Linda Hogan’s ‘Rapture’ offer two interesting readings of the burgeoning field of contemporary women’s ecopoetry.

 Victoria Oldham, ‘Reimagining or Reification? Rewriting Gender Roles in Contemporary Literature’

At the heart of this paper is the question of whether by re-writing myth women writers can indeed achieve Angela Carter’s desire to (I paraphrase here) – put new wine in old bottles until the old bottles smash – and thus re-imagine subversively these women’s lives, or, if in actuality they only serve to fuel the dominance of the patriarchal original and proscribed gender roles. Oldham’s paper provokes some interesting questions around the problems of this entanglement and asks whether or not women can protest in this narrative mode or merely conform? In asking these questions the paper also manages to raise broader questions about how we can circumnavigate the limitations of gender roles per se. Three books that engage in this question particularly well, Oldham suggests, are Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Margaret George’s Helen of Troy.
Modern Movements and Mobilisations

Dr. Helen Hester (Middlesex University). “A(ffe)ctivism: The Mobilization of Emotional Response in Feminist Protests”

The focus of this talk engages with the way feminism appeals to affects and emotions, and in particular the subculture of Riot Grrrl emerging from the punk movement in the 1990s. Zines associated with the movement are seen as exploiting feminist anger and visceral reactions. Dr. Helen Hester looks at their goals and reminds the audience of the accusation of “man-hating” commonly levelled at women expressing anger, which explains how the punk aesthetic of the zines became a way of reflecting their content in their form. The cut-and-paste techniques, for instance, remake the female body through fragmentation, which is also present in feminist practice. Dr. Helen Hester mentions Barbara Kruger and other collage artists who use found images and re-contextualise them, creating an aesthetics of anger stemming from the juxtaposition of conflict within the works themselves as well as between the works and society. Confronting the viewer with a destabilising experience is seen as a means to physically engage with them. If the body genres consist in performing extreme reactions to trigger emotion in the viewer, Dr. Helen Hester reframes them to explore the effect on the audience’s bodies. The immediate appeal of the zines to anger are seen as fostering identification and corporeal mobilisations through anger, and thus provide space and legitimisation for rage. The talk ends on a warning note attracting attention to the possible undesired consequences of an uncompromising take on sensitive issues such as child abuse, including the risk of problematic appropriation and the lack of trigger warning. Several studies also show that anger can motivate people but fails, as a political means, to achieve specific goals, hence the example of pragmatic activists hiding their anger from the public space to avoid what they see as damaging their cause.

Isobelle Barrett Meyering (University of New South Wales, Australia). “Everyday Protests: Socialist Feminism and the Lifestyle Politics of Women’s Liberation in Australia.”

This paper looks at second-wave feminism’s focus on transformation of the self and way of life. Isobelle Barrett Meyering reminds the audience of the strong presence of socialist feminists in the feminist movement. She focuses on the Australian feminist journal Scarlet Woman (1975-1991) which was not tied up to any political organisation but had a strong socialist leaning. She also explains the defensiveness of socialist feminists towards radical feminists forming the majority of the movement. Indeed, the journal’s critique of lifestyle politics as ‘personal solutions’ reflected this defensiveness. ForScarlet Woman, the right interpretation of the feminist slogan “the personal is political” meant seeing one’s experiences as connected to those of other women and thus as a political rather than individual problem. However it did not mean that personal transformation was necessary. They also warned that too great a focus on lifestyle change could lead to feminists losing touch with ‘ordinary’ working-class women and rendering their politics ineffective.Scarlet Woman considered lifestyle politics as personal rules to live by but not as the drive for wider social change. Isobelle Barrett Meyering gives the examples of journal members Joyce Stevens and Janet Wahlquist’s attempts at collective living as evidence of them recognising the appeal of lifestyle change as well as its limitations. Communal living was then embraced as an alternative to the nuclear family and a way of living one’s politics, but not necessarily considered effective to foster large-scale social and political change.

Dr. Vikki Turbine (University of Glasgow). “Rethinking Women’s Political Activism in Contemporary Russia.”

The topic of this talk is the question of women’s involvement in post-Soviet Union Russia. Before 2012 and the Pussy Riot case, the lack of visibility of young women in the Russian political and social sphere could be ascribed to a rejection of participation and a rejection of the concept of equality derived from the memory of communist totalitarianism. The increased influence of conservative politics and orthodox religion could also be responsible for this situation. Dr. Vikki Turbine’s focus is a study of the wide political spectrum of women’s activism, whether pro or anti regime, and the way they use the female body (including Pussy Riot and Femen). Dr Turbine takes the the example of the “Calendar Girls” (2010) and explains her quantitative methodology relying on tracking links online and looking at comments. The original calendar was illustrated with photographs of journalism students in lingerie wishing Putin a happy birthday, then a response calendar was made by other journalism students asking Putin questions on human rights issues. The study of responses from the comments varied but concentrated on two main areas: whether the women’s bodies were sexualised and how intelligent they looked.Very few comments mentioned women’s objectification, feminism, or opposition politics. Dr. Turbine concludes that that even though women are getting involved in activism they are not always viewed as such, which could account in part for the marginalisation of young women within larger political movements. Her main concern regards the risk of Russia closing down the space for contestation due to conservative political and religious authorities, including a monitoring of online space.

Histories of Feminist Resistance and Protest- Notes from around the world

Prof. Samira Khawaldeh (University of Jordan, Jordan), ‘Women’s Protests in the Age of Phrophethood’

Professor Samira Khawaldeh’s presented her historical research, which explores women’s protests during the formative moment of Islam in 610-632, suggesting that this context is important for understanding contemporary protests within Muslim societies. She highlighted how the spirit of protest is important within Islam, pointing as an example to the concept of Jihad, and the fact that the greatest Jihad is considered to be speaking the word of truth in the face of a dictator. Professor Khawaldeh’s research highlights how women were active participants of the newly emerging community of Islam in the 7th century, with both the first Muslim (Khadijah) and the first martyr (Sumayyah) being women (Sumayyah was a slave woman who protested against her master for the freedom to  be a Muslim and was tortured to death). Justice is a central value within Islam, and Qu’ranic discourse from this period supported the idea that women and men were equal. Professor Khawaldeh shared verses from the Qu’ran which emphasise this, pointing to, among other examples, the non-gendered language of insan (human being), nas (the human speices) and nafs (soul or mind). Other verses tell of women coming together to organise against their oppression by men in their lives, and sending representatives to the Prophet to complain and protest their treatment. In all reported cases, the Prophet responded positively and granted their requests and supported their rights. Professor Khawaldeh concluded by bringing the discussion back to the present, arguing for the importance for young Muslim women activists to learn about this history and consider its significance for contemporary protest movements within Muslim societies (as even if they are familiar with it, they often dismiss its contemporary relevance). She argued that the “spirit of public belonging” for women which is evident from these historical narratives should be brought back as a model of protest of value within contemporary protest movements.

Prof. Maria DiCenzo (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada), ‘Challenging Theories of Abeyance – Feminist Activism in the Interwar Years in Britain’

Professor Maria DiCenzo’s paper highlighted the significance of paying attention to women’s organising in Britain in the interwar period. Her paper was organised around two questions: 1) what happened to the women’s movement after the first world war? and 2) how might we rethink our current theories of periods and phases of women’s mobilisation in order to capture these developments more fully? The interwar period (as well as the fifties) is often characterised within the narrative of British feminism as one of decline and demise, blamed on a loss of focus following the success of the suffrage campaign and a resulting fragmentation among feminist activists following. These assumptions have obscured widespread feminist activities in the aftermath of the first world war. Instead of a narrative of demise and fragmentation, Professor DiCenzo argues that it is more productive to consider this period of women’s organising as one of pluralisation and diversification. The fight for the vote had been a unifying goal for feminist activists at the beginning of the 20th century, and following the success of this campaign, women’s activists were suddenly faced with a whole new set of concerns. The sheer amount of issues which women were facing meant there was a lack of consensus about how to take the movement forward. As a result, women’s organisations required space and time to develop coherent political goals and demands. This was important work that needed to be done, and should not be considered as evidence of a movement in decline. Professor DiCenzo’s research highlights the need to draw on a wider range of empirical documents in order to map this moment of women’s activism, as where we look of course influences the kind of data that we generate. In particular it is important to look at documents from the women’s organisations that were active at this time. Paying attention to the discourses emerging from these sources highlights a need to look beyond insurgency as the only recognisable form of activism. Rather than describing the movement as in abeyance or decline, it is important to look closely at the kind of work feminist activists were doing in order to develop new strategies and organising priorities in response to a new set of concerns. Paying attention to this work forces us to rethink our theories of mobilisation, and also raises questions (alongside the problematising of the wave metaphor) about the dominant periodisation of the history of feminism.

Keynote Addresses at the FWSA Conference

fwsa-header-1000x185We are delighted to be able to share further details of the Keynote addresses at the FWSA Conference!

Friday, 21 June: Dr Nirmal Puwar

‘Space Invading As Protest’

The tension between bodies and space has played a productive part in feminist protests. Calling on different moments of feminist protest, the very ways in which space invading has been a central feature of protest will frame the direction of this presentation. The knotted and entwined character of nation, bodies and stone in protest will be mapped using different methods of investigation. The discussion will foreground the notion of artistic experimentation and institutional disruptions, space and the somatic norm to oxygenate discussions of protest in relation to gender, class and race. Working against the grain of melodramatic postures which too easily characterise protestors as heroines or victims, this conversation will work from the more muddled plane of politics in place.

Saturday, 22 June: Prof Nadje Al- Ali

‘Revolutionary Moments – Reactionary Processes: A Feminist Reflection on Protest, Mobilization and Change in the Middle East’

This talk will reflect on the gendered processes and outcomes linked to what has been coined “the Arab Spring”. Historically and cross culturally, women’s contributions to and participation in revolutions and revolutionary processes have frequently been side-lined in their aftermath: struggles for the “common good of all” are being privileged over women’s specific demands and interests. We have seen instances of marginalization of feminist demands, particularly in the Egyptian context. But what are the strategies and choices of feminists in the region in the current political moment? How have different historical trajectories affected the social and political spaces available for those local actors mobilizing for women’s rights? I will be building on my experiences of working on and with Iraqi women’s rights activists over the past ten years to reflect on current tensions and contradictions emerging, particularly in the context of Egypt. 

Sunday, 23 June: Prof Diane Elson

‘Challenging austerity through feminist analysis’

My talk will focus on feminist challenges to cuts to public services and social security in the UK, highlighting the work of the UK Women’s Budget Group (WBG), a network of academics and activists that analyses the impact of austerity on women in the UK, and advocates for alternative economic and social policies. I will discuss the collective methods of work used by the WBG (of which I am Chair), present some WBG findings about the impact of austerity, and discuss the problems of trying to make a difference to national economic and social policy. More can be found about the WBG on