Monday, July 02, 2007

30 Years of NWSA

2007 National Women's Studies Association Conference, St. Charles, IL

I recently attended the NWSA conference that was hosted in St. Charles, Illinois from June 28 - July 1, 2007. Because I was working at the conference as a NWSA staffer**, I did not have so many opportunities to check out all of the cool panels, workshops, and presentations that were going on. I did manage, however, to sneak away to a few sessions, which I have provided snapshots of here.

Overall, I found this gathering of feminist intellectuals and social justice oriented academics to be energizing. So much great scholarship! So many great people! It really makes one want to get to work...

(And, yes, there was indeed a feminist dance party. Don't you wish you had been there?)

Sandra Cisneros, Key Note Speaker

Sandra Cisneros spoke at the opening session of the NWSA conference and her moving and lyrical speech certainly was an amazing kick-off for the 30th anniversary meeting. While paying homage to Gloria Anzaldua, poetically making political points, and sharing poignant personal experiences, Sandra reflected on the need to find balance in one's life and the negative effects that depression, especially depression brought on by social and economic hardships, can have, and has had, on many women's careers. I found one piece of advice especially helpful in its simplicity: When you are in a rut or are stressed out and overwhelmed, sit down and do a project that you can finish in one sitting. Whether you make a home-cooked meal or do a small art project kindergarten-style, your ability to accomplish something concrete and creative in one session will leave you feeling more centered and ready to take on the rest of your to-do list. (She said it much more eloquently, of course.)

I'm looking forward to seeing the "unpublishable" poem that she shared in print one day!

Girls Working It

Linda Hirshman, author of Get to Work, provided a provocative performance about her polemic on choice feminism and the so-called opt-out revolution. I was impressed by Linda's ability to embody the provocative tone of her book; her performative speaking style sparked much debate about the work/life (im)balance many women face when deciding how to mesh motherhood and career and her training as a trial lawyer was evident. (An enthralling and entertaining paper session at an academic conference? Not so common!)

While I may not entirely agree with Linda's conclusions (I think my views might be more in line with those of Jessica Valenti in terms of building a feminist sisterhood), she is certainly succeeding in starting to get people talking about this important issue. Which, I think, is her main goal - and a laudable one.

Blogging Women's Studies

Jessica Valenti of Feministing and Courtney Martin led a packed paper session about how blogs can be incorporated into the women's studies classroom. While highlighting the importance of incorporating technology into the classroom to appeal to today's tech savvy students, Jessica and Courtney gave great tips on ways to utilize existing online resources, such as Facebook, to quickly and easily go web 2.0 without adding an extra burden to the tenure-striving teacher.

During this session, there was also an informative discussion about the benefits and risks of opening one's classroom to the world on the web. (I plan to follow up on the points that were raised about privacy, security, and safe space in a future post.)

Intergenerational Dialogues

Deborah Siegel participated in a book signing in the exhibit hall for her new book, Sisterhood, Interrupted. Deborah's appearance was tre appropriate given how the theme of intergenerational takes on feminism - riding different waves if you will - seemed to dominate many conversations at the conference.

**Please note that while I attended the NWSA conference as a member of the NWSA staff, this blog post reflects my personal views and does not in any way represent the official position of NWSA.**

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