Femininetastic!

Every spring the Civil Liberties and Public Policy program at Hampshire college puts on their annual conference. I’ve been fortunate to attend a handful of these weekend events, and after a 2 year hiatus, managed to make it to their 30th anniversary conference.

There are many aspects to the conference, but one of my favorite parts are the various workshops offered throughout the weekend. I attended a few of them, and I’m sure I’ll be processing out loud (via the blog) about them eventually. However, the one that is still stuck in the forefront of my mind is the “Femininetastic” workshop.

Perhaps it’s because I recently wrote about labels and how we and others perceive ourselves, or maybe it’s because I find myself constantly thinking about the issues brought up in the workshop. The short blurb that attracted me to the workshop in the first place stated,

Femininetastic! What does it mean to be a woman in the feminist movement, and how can we create communities and a culture that affirms and empowers our own activism and lives? Speakers will discuss how they have defined, challenged and embraced different models of being a feminist today. (Speakers: Paris Hatcher, Kathleen Adams, Wyndi Marie Anderson*, Toni Olin-Mignosa)

What was interesting is that the workshop started off in a different, but just as compelling, manner. Moderator Wyndi Marie Anderson began by discussing not only what it means to be a woman in the feminist movement, but started delving into the issue of femininity.

Searching google image for “femininity” brings up some interesting photos

All throughout the workshop the topic of femininity as it relates to feminism was brought up. Both the panelists and those in the audience kept ping-ponging between the two topics of femininity as well as creating community within the feminist movement and the two intersected heavily at times.

As I listened to the various women on the panel, as well as the questions and comments being thrown out by the audience, I couldn’t help recall the recent blog post I wrote about labels. Finally, I raised my hand and stumbled through my jumbled up question. I asked if they had any thoughts on how the term “feminist” has come to be seen as a dirty word, and what can we do to help encourage those who say “I believe in all these ideals, but I’m not a feminist…”

Thankfully, the women on the panel all seemed to understand me, and had interesting things to say. Kathleen Adams had shared her story about creating Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen, a yearly event that celebrates women via music and art. She talked about using Hip Hop as a way to reach out to those who might not otherwise fin themselves at an event put on by feminists. She said that once there, most people realize how they truly do strive for the same goals as the feminist movement an find it easier (and perhaps more palatable) to absorb via a comfortable medium.

Some people in the audience also had some interesting thoughts, including a woman who works for a university’s student center and tries to get the various women’s groups to include the Greek system in events, as a way to bridge the two groups and perhaps create some unity and understanding rather than exclusion.

I left the workshop with some thoughts to process, new ideas to mull over, and even having met somebody new (who came up to me after the workshop ended to continue talking about a point I brought up). The one thing that I’ve always loved about the annual CLPP conference is the energizing boost it gives me. I feel ready to take on the world…whether that means ranting against people who feel that pink nail polish will destroy society as we know it or tutoring/talking with the teen moms at the place I volunteer or even helping my son learn to ride his two-wheeler. Let’s hope this momentum I’ve got going sticks…

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