Feminist Futures: Critical Engagements with the Fourth Wave: A Symposium at Queen Mary

University of London, 27th June 2015

Email feministfutures2015@gmail.com to book a place:

As the year 2014 drew to a close, the media’s annual summations were awash with celebratory claims regarding the achievements of feminist individuals and organisations across the world, from the work of grassroots activism to new energy generated by prominent political, cultural and popular talking heads. While The Guardian boldly claimed 2014 to be a watershed year, with women’s voices apparently attaining ‘an unprecedented power’, Time magazine went so far as to state that this ‘may have been the best year for women since the dawn of time’.[1]

This one-day symposium invites critical reflection and debate on what has been called feminism’s ‘fourth wave’. Over the past few years, the ambivalent attitudes that characterised the postfeminist climate of the 1990s and early 2000s have arguably been replaced by a vibrant unveiling of new feminist potencies on the streets and online. The economic crash of 2008, the ensuing austerity measures, and the spread of an insidious rhetoric targeting under-privileged and marginalised groups, have laid bare to many the structural inequalities embedded in the UK. Critical Engagements with the Fourth Wave: A Sympoisum at Queen Mary, University of London, 27th June 2015 Renewed engagement with feminism has been galvanised in this highly politicised environment by a range of issues that continue to confront women into the twenty-first century, from unequal pay, to the objectification and abuse of women’s bodies, to ‘everyday sexism’. Alongside grassroots activism, and publications aimed at a general readership, this putative ‘fourth wave’ of feminism has mobilised political activity online. In the face of the ever-new forms of misogyny churned out by digital media, feminist internauts are fostering valuable spaces for women to stake their claim to the virtual worlds of the future.

However, there are also concerns being voiced about the directions in which these new feminist energies are channelled. What does it mean when members of the coalition government don T-shirts proclaiming ‘This is what a feminist looks like’? Are the ‘feminist’ advertising campaigns run by the beauty industry cause for celebration or concern? Does feminism really need to be ‘re-branded’ as Elle magazine proposes? What happens when ‘feminist’ discourses are co-opted by the political right? Furthermore, there is a sense that, despite its vigour, this ‘fourth wave’ is undertheorised. As Kira Cochrane put it in in her recent exploration of the feminist resurgence ‘[this movement] hasn’t yet produced a swathe of theory’ (2013: 242).

In response to Cochrane’s concern, this symposium invites reflection and debate on the possibilities, limits and contradictions of ‘fourth wave’ feminist discourse. What specific concerns and issues are being foregrounded by the fourth wave? How do they relate to, reflect on, and advance former feminist and postfeminist debates? What is the relation between the surge in feministactivity on the streets, in the media, in popular culture and online, and critical discourses of feminism? How might feministthought, across the arts and humanities, engage with or theorise this new energy? And what misgivings remain in relation to the rhetoric of a ‘popular’ feminism, one that may well be steeped in neoliberal agenda, easily co-opted and instrumentalised by the very dominant forces that might limit its efficacy? The symposium endeavours to bring ‘academic’ feminism into close contact with broader political and cultural feminist discourses and to illuminate the impact of such debates already being felt within academic contexts themselves.

Feminist Futures: Schedule

9.30- 10:00 Registration, Coffee.
10.00 – 11.00 Keynote: Alison Phipps, Identity, experience, choice and responsibility: feminism in a neoliberal and neoconservative age
11.05 – 12.30 Parallel sessions 1.

Theory and Praxis 1
Julian Vigo, ‘Fourth Wave Feminism and Neo-Liberal Politics: The No-Platforming of Difference and Commodification of Gender’
Annette-Carina van der Zaag, ‘Thought beyond the Binaries’
Dolores María Lussich, ‘Tensions and bridges: between Queer Theory and fourth wave feminism’

Feminism in Ireland
Maria Deiana and Claire Pierson, ‘Fourth wave feminism in Northern Ireland: feminist activism in a society transitioning from violent conflict’
Fiona Reidy, ‘More than a Mother – Reproducing HERstory: a feminist analysis of the discourse and power structures of abortion and women’s rights rhetoric’
Izzy Fox, ‘Ireland’s Facebook Feminists: Intersectional or White Noise?’

In the news and in the streets
Samantha Joeck, ‘Stop Street Harassment: Universality and Solidarity as Tools for International Diffusion’
Emily Turner, ‘How does the reporting of rape cases demonstrate rape culture? A study focusing on news coverage of the Steubenville Rape’
Heather McKnight, ‘Reclaiming the Night: Fatal intersections in Concrete Spaces’

12.30 -1.15 Lunch

1.15 -2.40 Parallel sessions 2.

Theory and Praxis 2
Sarah Hickmott, ‘Not enough theory or too much? Towards the praxis of intersectional feminism’
Gill Ni Cheallaigh, ‘But I really think about my feminism!: Paperback feminism and the academy’
Helen Goodwyn and Emily Jane Hogg, ‘Room for Confidence: Early Career Feminists in the English Department’

Feminism online 1
Matthew Harper, ‘The fourth wave and the intersection between feminism and technology’
Emilie Lawrence, Riding the Fourth Wave and Challenging Misogyny; Funnymism, Digital Sisterhood and Taking the Online Offline

Feminism on stage
Caoimhe Mader McGuiness, ‘Feminist Fringes’
Gemma Commane and Liselle Terret, ‘Feminism and the Arts/Popular Culture: Going for Gold: Flushed!’

2.40-3.00 Tea

3.00 – 4.00 Parallel sessions 3

Turns and returns: new departures in feminist thought
Cristina Morar, ‘Brain and beauty: Renewed engagements with feminist thought through the body’
Natasha Lee, ‘Materialist Feminism Today’

Feminism in national contexts: Italy and Japan
Andrea Hajek, ‘”We were born after but by no means do we feel post” Re-defining feminist identities in contemporary Italy’.
Nozomi Uematsu, ‘A Twisted “Liberation” of Feminism?: A rhetorical analysis of contemporary Japan’s governmental campaign A Country in which Women Shine’

Film and Fashion
Sage Townsend, ‘Fashionable Feminism’
Francesca Hardy, ‘The unkempt bush: A burning question’

4.00-5.00 Parallel sessions 4

Rumana Hashem, ‘I am not a feminist, I believe in my freedom’: Concerns to the limits of feminism in the ‘fourth wave’
Tamsin Hinton-Smith, ‘Feminism, intersectionality and speaking nearby’

Feminism online 2
Tangwen Roberts, ‘Uniting Online: The ripplings of a fourth wave of feminism’
Karen Lumsden and Heather Morgan, ‘Back to the (feminist) future?: deconstructing (gendered) online abuse’

The politics of choosing
Kinneret Lahad, ‘Fourth Wave Feminism and the Politics of Choosing Female Singlehood’
Natalie Edwards, ‘Fourth Wave Feminism and the Rejection of Motherhood’

5.00 – 5.45 Wine reception

Twenty-minute papers offering critical perspectives on contemporary feminist debates across the arts and humanities, including philosophy, critical and cultural studies, history, geography, the social sciences, English and Modern Languages. Topics may include, but are not limited, to the following:
* theoretical responses to key debates foregrounded by the fourth wave, including women and work, material and structural inequalities; women’s bodies, sexualities, rape culture and consent, abuse and violence, pornography and sex work; everyday sexism

* feminism and grassroots activism

* feminist campaigns

* feminism and consumer culture

* feminism and popular culture

* feminism and the arts

* feminism online

* feminism and humour

* corporate feminism

* intersectional feminism

* feminism and queer culture


The conference will be a trans-friendly space.


Alice Blackhurst, doctoral candidate in French, University of Cambridge

Amaleena Damlé, Affiliated Lecturer in French, University of Cambridge

Anna Kemp, Lecturer in French, Queen Mary, University of London

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