Feminism conference aims to challenge gendered notions of 'making'

By

Emma Greguska

It has been more than a century since women first called for the right to equal pay — yet they still make only 77 cents to a man’s dollar, according to 2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“As a Baby Boomer who was very active [in politics] when I was young, I would have thought that the battles would be very different at this moment,” said Maureen Goggin, professor of English at Arizona State University. “But they’re very similar.”

Goggin, along with fellow English professor Shirley Rose, is hosting this year’s 10th biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference: “Women’s Ways of Making” on Oct. 28-31 at ASU’s Tempe campus. The event aims to challenge gendered notions of “making.

Last hosted in 2013 at Stanford University, the conference is being hosted at ASU for the first time.

Goggin and Rose proposed the theme for this year.

“Women are often seen and depicted as passive, and so we thought why don’t we do something active that would display all the things that women make and have made, and produce and have produced,” said Goggin.

Rose added, “This is also the anniversary of a publication of a very important work in feminist studies, ‘Women’s Ways of Knowing.’ So we kind of played on that title, knowing that all of our attendees would hear the resonance of that in the theme.”

The conference will feature a variety of activities, from panel discussions about such topics as “Clothing as a Rhetorical Practice” to a hike on South Mountain.

And Goggin is quick to point out that it’s not just women who are welcome at the conference: “It’s people doing feminist work. It’s men and women, fighting for equality for everybody.”

For example, Department of English graduate teaching associate Steven Hopkins will present on the theme of “women’s ways of learning,” with a focus on the digital realm.

The conference also has a tradition of facilitating mentorships, according to Rose.

”There’s a strong emphasis on helping one another, bringing along graduate students, exploring the work-life balance at all stages of an academic career,” she said.

This year, 12 graduate students from universities outside ASU received travel awards to attend the conference — 10 of those awards are supported by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. A number of current and past ASU students will also be in attendance.

Dawn Opel recently received her doctorate in rhetoric, composition and linguistics from ASU, where she is currently pursuing postdoctoral research with the Institute for Humanities Research. She will host an interactive session that turns the concept of first-year composition classes on its head. Participants will move from expressing ideas via traditional longhand writing in journals to physically making something, and finally to coding it, using a game from the MIT Media Lab called Scratch .

“We’re really interested in seeing the way that digital writing or making changes the way we teach writing and communicate with one another,” said Opel.

“Also, computational literacies, like coding, are seen as traditionally male-dominated spaces, so we’re looking to open that up. One of the things that’s interesting about this conference is, when you think of ‘women’s ways of making,’ you think of arts and crafts. So we thought it was important to promote women who work in digital spaces, and shed light on male-dominated spaces and how women work in them and how they might work in them in the future.”

The conference will feature two events that are free and open to the public without registration: a screening of the documentary film “Threads” from 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, in the Pima Auditorium of the Memorial Union, and a performance by the Scottsdale Chorus, an affiliate of the Sweet Adelines International, at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, in the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre on the Tempe campus.

Rose herself is a member of the Scottsdale Chorus, which recently won its fifth international championship in the Sweet Adelines International Chorus competition in Las Vegas on Oct. 10.

To learn more about the conference and to view specific dates and events, visit the conference website here .

The Department of English is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.