FRG Conference, Feminist Research & Talking to the Media

After the FRG Conference it took a while to get back into the swing of things, so here is the long overdue update on the 2016 Conference and a few other thoughts I’ve had over the past month.

As I recall it was a snowy April day, which was unfortunate for some of the out-of-town speakers who could not make it. The day started off well however, with a keynote by Dr. Jane Nicholas, associate professor in the departments of Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies and History at St. Jerome’s in the University of Waterloo. She spoke about the history of the freak show in Canada, specifically in relation to children (also the subject of her upcoming book Not a Sideshow: The Freak Show in Canada, 1900-1970). I was surprised to learn that the CNE continued to host these shows until relatively recently. Dr. Nicholas described the abuses that went on in these shows, their harmful legacy, and the complicity of the medical profession in funding and promoting the shows. Dr. Nicholas described how the shows would often be housed nearby, or next to, so-called beauty pageants – effectively defining the bounds of “normalcy” by highlighting those deemed in the margins. Her talk uncovered another dark facet in our Canadian history, one which should not be forgotten. I look forward to reading her book.

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Keynote address by Dr. Jane Nicholas

There were a number of interesting panelists on women’s friendship and activism in the early 19th century, bisexuality and intimate partner violence, how to best collect information on gender identity, rape acknowledgement and women’s experiences with verbal sexual coercion. We ended the panels with a brief, super informal talk about some of the research we do at the FRG. Oh, and we also had a raffle!

Next came my favourite part of day, our poster session and social at Green Bean Cafe. The food was great as were the posters and exhibits. I tweeted about a few of them. Here are some pics:

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Keynote address by Dr. Jane Nicholas

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2016 Conference organizers (minus Ev & Abby)

Overall it was a tough planning year, but we worked really hard and pulled it off. Big thanks to everyone from the FRG, presenters, panelists, Dr. Nicholas, the kind individuals who donated, and all our community supporters.

At FRG I was asked to speak with a reporter about the conference about the importance of feminist research. It was a learning experience for me as some of my alleged quotes didn’t actually come out of my mouth! I’ve heard that talking to the media requires a special set of skills, a way of talking that gets your point across in short printable bits. Well, it isn’t a skill that I have apparently. SO. What I was asked to speak on was why I think feminist research is important. Knowledge in many fields was developed on a foundation of research that relied on white, upper class men as research participants. Theories of what was considered normal were developed using this population, making anyone who didn’t fit those categories “abnormal”. Feminist research creates a space for new theories and knowledge to be developed, a space where the experiences of other identities can be valued. To me, especially being a social psychologist (in training), feminist research is important because it looks beyond the individual to the systems, histories, cultures, and interactions that help shape that individual and their life. I’m not quite sure how to conclude this, but those are my thoughts at the moment. Will catch y’all up on the rest of April soon!

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