‘Crapping on the table': Feminist interventions

Written by Kim. Posted in News

The last section of the  Gender, Media and Generation conference was directed towards the discussion of methodologies. The workshop reflected longstanding feminist concerns to enable discussions of the personal dimensions of research, with senior academics offering mentoring and advice for the ‘next generation’ of scholars. There is much cause for concern within higher education: the increasing managerialisation and audit culture, the impact of the changes to university funding and tuition fees, rising unemployment and casualisation of contracts, and the threat of yet further hurdles and requirements for academics to ‘prove themselves’ (such as the proposal to shift to a ‘pay to say’ model of academic publishing).

Feminist spaces can sometimes enable us to talk about the human cost and gendering of such policies. As the feminist slogan goes, the personal is political. These spaces should also importantly provide opportunities for us to build the connections that are required to resist and subvert structures of inequalities, both within higher education and beyond. In this concluding workshop, Bev Skeggs talked about the feminist academic struggles and ‘interruptions’ in the 1980s, referencing Stuart Hall’s (1992, p.282) comments that:

‘For cultural studies (in addition to many other theoretical projects), the intervention of feminism was specific and decisive.  It was ruptural. … As a thief in the night, it broke in, interrupted, made an unseemly noise, seized the time, crapped on the table of cultural studies’

Feminist academic work, to some extent, has become more ‘mainstreamed’ since those ruptural interventions into the academy. There are increasing numbers of feminist scholars addressing a huge range of topics relating to gendered inequalities. Feminist activism is also on the rise again, covering questions such as representation, poverty, violence and sexuality. This final session highlighted the need to continue to work to create spaces both inside and outside the academy that explore the shifting social landscape, but also the necessity to reflect critically on the power dynamics in our own institutions and practices, whether this is the continuing dominance of men in positions of seniority, or white academic voices more broadly.

As a group of ‘young’ and ‘mid’ career feminist academics, we are interested in what kinds of spaces could foster these discussions and how we can engage with them through this project. Do we need new publications, new forums for discussion or new ways of bringing the ‘unseemly voices’ of academics and activists together, or perhaps all three?

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