Galvanizing the Women’s Movement was the title of the fourth annual event in our Shared Solidarities series. Held at Sheffield Hallam University in September, it followed the now-established pattern of bringing together campaigners and academics – who are also usually activists of some kind – to reflect on both theory and on concrete practices.
Each of these events has involved our Network partnering with another, having had a chance to discuss an outline of the event at the MeCCSA conference. So this year we teamed up with the Women’s Media Studies Network and were also much encouraged by the excellent articles on ‘Speaking Out’ and ‘Sexual Harassment’ that led the features coverage of last December’s issue of Three-D.
Inspired by these and by the continuing debates and action around the MeToo and TimesUp campaigns, we invited speakers and participants at the Galvanizing the Women’s Movement event to consider the current state of feminist politics generally and experiencesdrawn from particular campaigning issues.
Opening the event, the Acting Co-Director of our host, the University’s Cultural, Communication and Computing Research Institute, pointed out the usefulness of the very term ‘galvanizing’ for analysing the possible effects of MeToo. The questions she raised provided a framework for the day. It then started with a very apt presentation of how MeToo related to digital feminist activism – based on the current research work Kaitlynn Mendes is carrying out at Leicester University. It ended with the personal testimony of a Palestinian campaigner and postgraduate researcher on ‘Gender Oppression and Media Resistance in Palestine’.
In a panel discussion on women as advocates and representatives we also heard from the Yorkshire and Humber MEP on both her experiences of the European Parliament and on campaigns to make EU policies much more women-friendly. A local leader of the Women’s Equality Party described their work, including an ongoing campaign against Sexual Entertainment Venues like the Spearmint Rhino ‘Gentlemen’s Clubs’. And a member of the University’s Academy of Sport and Physical Activity examined the many fights to establish women’s sports, especially football, at national and international professional fixtures.
The afternoon session kicked off with a lively activity-based presentation, ‘Adventures in Menstruation’, from the #periodpositive campaign. This also included consideration of media effects and lead usefully into the well-researched talk by Karen Boyle, Strathclyde University and MeCCSA executive member, which looked in detail at how MeToo media coverage related to current feminist theory.