This past weekend I attended The National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin! I presented on the panel Creative and Rebellious: Feminist Students’ Activism Through New and Old Media where I presented by paper Cat Talk: Feminist Strategies for Collegiate Feminist Student Organizations. It was my first ever academic conference (attending or presenting) and it was amazing. Like, what is my life.
So, because I’m drowning in my coursework and endless obligations this may be split into two posts.
SO, I slept for about 3 hours and woke up to arrive at the train station by 6am. My lovely partner Tré drove me through the cold, dark morning to meet up w/ Lauren, my co-presenter.
After we arrived in Milwaukee and settled into our hotel, Lauren and I took an Uber to Wolf Peach, a cool local restaurant w/ good online reviews (according to Lauren). Our waiter was super nice and helpful (finding vegetarian options isn’t always easy). They also had a gender neutral bathroom and an awesome view. Probably like a 8.5/10. I had to watch Lauren eat bone marrow which was weird and gross.
The next morning I got up, braved the beautiful cold, and picked up copies of the paper I was presenting at a local Fedex. Walking through the city center was a fun adventure and reminded me, ever so slightly, of my time traveling in the UK. One of my favorite experiences, much to Lauren’s dismay, is walking through new cities without a set destination.
After a breakfast of coffee, a muffin, & anxiety medication, I put on my conference badge and pronoun ribbon and attended my first panel (Writing for the Popular Press: A Workshop for Feminist Scholars, moderated by Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of The Feminist Majority Foundation and Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine!).
The first day was filled with attending awesome panels, speaking with passionate students like me before and after said panels, and spending a lot of time and money in the expo hall.
The expo hall might have been my favorite part of the conference. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the panels but the expo hall allowed for more one-on-one discussion. I spent around three hours in the hall the first day, spending time at every booth and talking with as many people as I could.
I could write endlessly about all of the fucking amazing feminists and organizations I learned about. I was able to speak with women and organizations I previously admired and learn about so many organizations I’d never heard of.
Some of my favorite booths were:
Inanna Press is a Canadian independent, feminist press. I probably would have only spent 10 minutes or so perusing the stacks of books lining the booth if the woman running the booth (Editor-in-Cheif Luciana Ricciutelli!!) hadn’t engaged me in conversation. I spoke with her about how having women-lead feminist presses is important and unfortunately rare. We spoke about my dreams of working with feminist or nonprofit publishing and the benefits of creative restraints in writing. (I went back the next day, too.)
I bought one book from the Inanna booth called Motion Sickness by Ursula Pflug with illustrations by S.K. Dyment. It’s a small flash novel made up of 55 chapters of exactly 500 words each, with each chapter accompanied by a scratchboard illustration. The dark cover initially attracted me, though it is definitely not something I would normally pick up. But after talking with Luciana about the book (subject matter, creative constraints, the editing process!) I obviously decided to buy the book as a birthday gift to my lovely partner Alex!
I read the book on the trained home and was completely engrossed. I’m actually going to stop writing about it here because I’m going to dedicate an entire blog post to it. Ah, so good!
So, this exists? How cool! The Wiki Ed Foundation focuses on connecting universities (professors, staff, students) with the publishing power of Wikipedia! They provide professors with information about how to use Wiki in class assignment, which helps basically everyone. (Knowledge is power!)
My interest in the Wiki Ed Foundation lies in their commitment to making knowledge accessible to as many people as possible. Which, is a very feminist concern. I spoke with Samantha Erickson, Outreach Manager at Wiki Ed, about the gender divide in who edits and contributes to Wikipedia (spoiler: 90% of Wiki editors are men), the insane amount of women w/ red links (pages that haven’t been created–like for Lena Waithe in Aziz Ansari’s Master of None what??), and the importance of creating accessible feminist information to those who don’t have the privilege to go to a university and take Women’s and Gender Studies courses.
As an avid Wiki reader (plus a English and Women’s Studies major), speaking with the women at the Wiki Ed booth inspired me to think more critically about the information that is available on Wikipedia and how I can use my knowledge and privilege to expand it.
I expressed great self restraint by not immediately going to the Bitch Media booth. My love for Bitch has grown exponentially this semester as I’m doing an independent study course focused on feminist publishing. I read Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine last month (& bought it at the booth because I foolishly got it on loan from the library) and was engrossed in the cool, feminist history of the website I frequent today.
I spoke with the awesome women at the Bitch booth about their Bitch on Campus program, the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers I applied for (I’ll find out if I’m a fellow next month-ah!), the difference between Bitch and Ms. Magazine (which is a focus of my independent study), and how cool their free ‘bitch’ buttons were!
I love the work that Bitch does to bring feminist discussion into mainstream internet and feminist culture. I’ve written nearly all of my academic papers using feminist theory to critique pop culture (mostly TV shows and Harry Potter). It wasn’t until I read Andi Zeisler’s book Feminism and Pop Culture in one of my first Women’s Studies classes (Gender, Sexuality, and Pop Culture) that I really realized there were feminists all over the world doing the same thing.
The first day at NWSA was more amazing than I thought possible. Speaking with passionate people (professors, authors, students, activists!) reignited my love for feminism in both academic and outside. I was able to have conversations with people who are doing what I want to do and get advice and talk about our shared interests and passions.
After the first day of attending panels and making my way though the expo hall I presented my paper! I think I’m going to leave that for another blog, though. This was is pretty full of pretty cool stuff already.
I’ll be back soon w/ more info on what I presented and what I learned from presenting.
You should probably check out all the sweet links in this post.