Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Female Conference Delegate's Check-list.

Sadly, academia is no better than the rest of society when it comes to institutional misogyny: it takes five minutes over coffee to hear the most appalling examples perpetuated by people who probably think they know better, or exist within structures and cultures which do not encourage reflection or critical perspectives.

Which is why this Conference Sexism Bingo Card exists (click to enlarge):

Take it along to your conferences and see which excuses you hear. Having seen it, I wondered how the conference I've co-organised on Welsh writing in English holds up.

  • Organisers: one male, one female.
  • Prize winners: both female. 
  • Keynote speakers/special guests: 4 female, two male.
  • Presenters: 25 female, 13 male.  
  • Panel chairs: 3 female, one male (more tbc though).

I can't say anything about the attendees yet, as bookings have only just started to trickle in, but I have to say that the Association for Welsh Writing 2015 conference is looking fairly good. Largely female speakers and chairs, A wide range of texts, periods and subjects covered, with no evidence of personal or institutional sexism. We hope the atmosphere and personal behaviour will match this, and I'm pretty certain that it will. We hope too that the debates and critical perspectives taken are also free from patriarchal perspectives which can't be captured in a check-list such as that I employed above: power and discourse are so intimately bound up with notions of sex and gender that unbundling them has to be done slowly, carefully and (obviously) retrospective, and I have no intention of acting like some kind of ideological cop.

The one cavil I have is that of the papers with an identifiable author-subject, it's running in favour of men by 17-11. There has been a concerted effort in the field recently to promote the study of work by female authors, sometimes in the teeth of some who wrongly believed that the political-industrial nature of Welsh anglophone culture meant that there were only male writers. This is part of the wider discussion to be had about female writers and their histories of suppression or exclusion. They were always there, but ignored or silenced by family, publishers, reviewers and also academics. Hence this book:

So I think AWWE15 proves that the top line of excuses doesn't hold true. Nor does 'women never volunteer to present'. Perhaps it's easier in the humanities, which have a larger proportion of female colleagues than some other disciplines, but I'd have to be an idiot to think everything was fine.

If you'd like to attend a conference like this, get in touch. March 27th-29th, Gregynog, Powys.

1 comment:

Cherry said...

Well, incoherent and worthless it may be, pedantic it certainly is, but do you have to promote the abomination that is 'attendees'? By whom are they being attended? They are attenders if anything.