That said, I must admit that in recent times I’ve become quite lazy, and sometimes even dismissive about big-noted ‘Women’s Issues’. I got cynical, bored with detail, and didn’t follow up much in this area any more.
Just yesterday, though, on hearing about these two incidents, I got angry in a way I hadn’t been for a long time:
Of course, these horrific things are happening all the time, and part of my disengagement is from feeling overwhelmed and saturated by the information/outrage. It’s hard, and unconstructive, to be constantly outraged. I need to find better ways to engage with these issues and help make them matter more broadly.
My apathy is all the more dire because I come from a Women’s Studies background in my undergrad studies and higher degrees. I’ve written an Honours thesis that focused on representations of women and the feminine in sci-fi horror and fantasy film, and a Masters thesis that examined Asian Australian women writers and their cultural positioning.
Being scarred by the one and only Australian Women’s Studies conference I’ve attended (god, almost 10 years ago now) may have been the start of my palling interest in Women’s Studies per se. That still very White-dominated forum amazed me; we’re talking the late 1990s/early 2000s here.
The session in which I presented was a bit of a sociopolitical horror movie:
- An academic in the audience actually made ‘ching chong’ nonsense sounds out of a prominent Chinese scholar’s name. She had the gall to come up to me later and defend it by saying, “No-one knew how to pronounce his name!”. She also told me that she hoped I wasn’t offended by what she’d done because it was all in good fun…seriously, she said this.
- I was the second of three presenters on the panel. The first speaker was a very established professor in women’s studies. Her new area of research overlapped with mine slightly, and she quoted me (in a negative way) in her paper. Nothing wrong with robust debate except that:
(a) she mis-quoted me quite badly (and I couldn’t say anything at the time that didn’t sound whiney, lame and protesting too much), and
(b) she totally butchered my name THEN leaned forward during her paper to say to me, “Is that how you pronounce it?”
I’ve never put a paper in for a women’s studies or feminism conference again. Ever.
I’ve also shuffled away, topic-wise, from gender studies material. I don’t think this was a deliberate effort to get away from it, and just the way things transpired, but it has meant that I’ve been fairly out of touch with feminist politics and reading.
I’ve mulled all this over today, and will be doing something about it – personally and academically. Can’t live with myself, otherwise.