Feminism in the 21st Century event, 5th March 2014, The Friends Meeting House
Organised to highlight the upcoming International Women’s Day, and to bring together a group of likeminded individuals, Feminism in the 21st Century: Privilege, Bias and Feminist Practice offered a platform for different academics and activists to air their views about the relevance of feminism in modern society. Convened by Manchester Metropolitan University’s (MMU) Dr Ginette Carpenter, Dr Anna Bergqvist, Caroline Baylis-Green, and IHSSR’s Helen Malarky, the event was an opportunity to question the feminism that has become ‘mainstream’, and debate issues such as objectification and silencing.
“The aim is to bring together academics and activists into the same space – we held this event outside MMU in order to encourage the public to attend, which means we can open up dialogues and conversation – it’s fairly diverse,” said Dr Ginette Carpenter, speaking just before the opening panel, “There’s a lot of active debates about feminism, but they are silenced in the media or sensationalized. We need to talk about the fact that feminism hasn’t had its day. To pretend feminism isn’t relevant anymore is a big fat lie!”
The event also hosted an activists’ fair, featuring the sale of books on feminism, more information about events in the community, and a stall for more information about the popular ‘No More Page 3’ campaign. There was also entertainment in the form of the talented WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) Choir, and a short film focusing on Women in Theatre entitled To Hear Her Voice. With plenty of tea and coffee available, this was an excellent opportunity to learn about other Feminist events taking place in Manchester, as well as enjoy the buzzing atmosphere of the day.
The event developed out of MMU’s popular Humanities in Public programme, which aims to invite the community to engage with Humanities. This term the scheme has offered a series of exciting lectures and events through the Institute of Humanities and Social Science Research (IHSSR) around the topic of Women in Philosophy. Dr Anna Bergqvist introduced the event by commenting on the links between Feminism and Philosophy, and the importance of feminism in the world today.
“For me, one central aspect of feminist practice lies precisely in its ambition to prompt change by freeing peoples’ minds: the continuous work that it takes in deciding for yourself what is valuable and living your life in accordance with that decision. It is my hope that we will grow together in exchange of ideas in this pursuit of authority of the lives that are ours,” she said, before introducing the first panel, which featured Dr Jules Holroyd and Dr Finn Mackay and their intriguing debates on objectification in society.
The second panel, discussing the importance of intersectionality in feminism, was particularly memorable, focusing primarily on issues of class and race. Rhian E. Jones confronted the ‘chav’ stereotype, and the issues of feminism appearing as inaccessible to individuals who fit outside of the white middle-class. Reni Eddo-Lodge drew attention from the bustling audience immediately with her passionate speech on the importance of black feminism, and the necessity of intersectionality.
A success all round, the event drew in a magnificent crowd of people, all willing to listen to, and put forward their own, views on the role of feminism in the 21st century. With a final plenary from Iris van der Tuin from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, the event drew to a close, leaving the audience with much to think about and many (including myself) with a deeper knowledge of the important roles of feminism in modern society, and the inspiring effect it can have. The final panel, introduced by Dr Ginette Carpenter and featured debates from Jinan Younis and Dr Katherine Angel, discussed the silencing of feminism within society. Dr Angel discussed post-feminism and the rejection of feminism in the light of consumerist attitudes of choice and empowerment, and Jinan Younis shared her experiences of attempting to set up a feminist society at her high school, pointing out issues of silencing within different institutions. The necessity of modern feminism was emphasised by both speakers, and provided thought-provoking ideas and attitudes about the idea of ‘rejecting’ feminism, and the effect this can have on modern society. Jinan was quick to point out the importance of teaching feminism to young people, and instilling a sense of self-worth in young girls especially, in order to make the younger generations more aware of the importance of feminist discourses.
Dr Anna Bergqvist is currently Lecturer of Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University, having also taught as the University of Glasgow, Stockholm University and the University of Reading. Her principal research interests are aesthetics and moral philosophy, with special emphasis on particularism, meta-ethics, normativity and related areas.
Dr Jules Holroyd is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Nottingham. Her research focuses on political philosophy, feminist philosophy, and moral psychology.
Dr Finn Mackay has been involved in feminist activism in the UK for over twenty years, and founded the London Feminist Network and the revived London Reclaim the Night in 2004. Finn completed her PhD in the Centre for Gender & Violence Research at the University of Bristol, investigating changes in the British Women’s Liberation Movement past and present. Finn is currently an Associate Lecturer in Sociology at the University of the West of England and a trainer for Welsh Women’s Aid.<
Caroline Baylis-Green is a PhD student based in the Department of English. Her research is predominantly focussed on the construction of queer poetics, closeting, and desire in nineteenth-century women’s writing.
Rhian E Jones works in retail and writes on politics, history, popular culture and the places where they intersect.
Reni Eddo-Lodge is a freelance writer interested in social justice, liberation ad black feminism. Her work has appeared at the Guardian, the Independent, openDemocracy, feminist website The F Word and left of centre blogs like New Left Project, Liberal Conspiracy, and Bright Green. She is also Contributing Editor at Feminist Times.
Dr Ginette Carpenter is a Senior Lecturer in English at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research is in the fields of women’s writing, feminist literary theory, theories of reading and the reader and contemporary book cultures.
Dr Katherine Angel is the author of Unmastered: A Book On Desire, Most Difficult To Tell, published in the UK, the US, Germany and the Netherlands. She currently holds a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London, where she is completing a book on ‘female sexual dysfunction’ in contemporary psychiatry, and conducting research on psychiatric classification in the US and Europe.
Jinan Younis is a theology student at the University of Cambridge. She has set up feminist societies both in her high school and in her college at university. Jinan recently won the Christine Jackson Young Person Award at the Liberty Human Rights awards 2013 for her feminist activism in her school, and is now working towards eradicating ‘lad culture’ which pervades university social life. Jinan is part of the Cambridge Women’s Campaign, and has previously written for The Guardian, Elle and Gender and Education Association.
Dr Iris van der Tuin is assistant professor of Gender Studies and Philosophy of Science at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
Alex is an English student at MMU. She is passionate about good coffee, boring films and ridiculously long books. She would like her writing to be seen and hopefully one day published. You can read her blog here and follow her on Twitter @aalexjm