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Lehigh’s inaugural “Feminism in Practice” conference to be held Nov. 15

A trio of Lehigh doctoral students believes that rhetorical discussions on feminism can be transformed into concrete action in the daily lives of women and men, and are hoping a conference they are organizing on Saturday, Nov. 15 will be a starting point.

The “Feminism in Practice” conference is being coordinated by Liz Vogtsberger, Kristina Fennelly and Colleen Clemons—all graduate students in English, who also interned with the Lehigh Women’s Center. It will focus on change through empowerment, dialogue and action.

The program for the day-long event will include discussions on provocative projects such as “Bitches and Baby Mamas: A Media Representation of Two Women in Politics,” which will be led by Michelle Issadore, assistant director of the Women’s Center, and John McKnight, interim director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs; and “What Does Sarah Palin Mean for Feminism?” led by Dawn Keetley, associate professor of English.

Speakers will address relationship violence, sexual assault, feminist narratives, the teaching of feminism, and empowerment of low-income, teenaged single mothers, among other topics.

“There will be a lot of pop culture,” Fennelly says, “but we feel that these topics can serve as an impetus for exploring people’s views on feminism.”

The organizers were inspired to create the inaugural event at Lehigh after attending one at another university.

“We thought it would be the sort of program that would really work here at Lehigh, and a great way to bring the graduate community together,” says Vogtsberger, whose academic focus is in post-colonial literature.

“A core component of our mission”

Rita Jones, director of the Women’s Center, said that she is excited the three doctoral students saw the Women's Center as a “central and foundational space from which to plant the seeds for this conference.

“This conference is a core component of our mission, and its focus on outreach, research, and leadership makes it an important representation of the Center's future,” Jones adds. “With this successful inaugural event, the Women's Center staff sees a bright future not only for the conference but, particularly, for these graduate students.”

Drawing on the Lehigh Valley academic community and national lists of those interested in related issues, Fennelly says that they are already attracting attendees from across the country.

“We didn’t know what to expect in the way of a response, but it’s been great so far,” she says.

They also hope to draw on the university’s business college community in order to spark much-needed discussions on feminism in the workplace, and work/life decisions.

The group secured funding from offices across campus, including all four of the colleges, the Student Affairs division, the Humanities Center, the Women’s Center, the Graduate Student Life office, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and the Women’s Studies department.

“We’re delighted to offer support for this conference,” says Kathleen Hutnik, director of Graduate Student Life. “The students organizing are reaching out to graduate students, faculty and staff across campus, and I love seeing that sort of interaction and cross-fertilization of ideas.”

For more information, please visit www.lehigh.edu/~infemcon.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2008

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