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Challenging Gender, Embracing Intersectionality?


by Elena Dirstaru

Elena Dirstaru (University of Essex)

Elena Dirstaru (University of Essex)

Challenging Gender, Embracing Intersectionality? was a fantastic CHASE symposium right at the end of November at the Open University in Camden. Student led, it was a great event to be part of as a CHASE student, giving me the opportunity to meet up with some other students that I’d met at different CHASE events last year. The timing was great, coming right after the Encounters conference, and it felt like a natural continuation of discussions from some of the groups we were in.

Unfortunately I missed a big chunk out of the first panel, but the Q&A was really enlightening, focusing on a discussion of gender and representation in literature. The second panel, Institutional Glass Ceilings, started with Goldsmith’s Kristina Aloyan’s paper 'Career Promotion and Gender in Organisations: Does Culture Matter?'  which raised some really important questions regarding gender in the workplace, and deconstructed the often used but rarely explained term ‘glass ceiling’, specifically looking at what this glass ceiling is now. The second paper on the panel, Marie-Alix Thouaille’s exploration of the representation of single female writers on screen, showed the importance of studying these representations, as well as identifying a startling gap in literature when it comes to this specific subject. While my own PhD is in Film Studies, and have a BA and MA in Film Studies, the representation of single female writers never crossed my mind before hearing her paper; it has completely changed the way I watch films about female writers now, as I am looking for particular tropes associated with them, and, invariably, find them in the film.

Alice Violet (University of Essex), Azelina Flint, (University of East Anglia) and Sally Barnden (King's College London)

Alice Violet (University of Essex), Azelina Flint, (University of East Anglia) and Sally Barnden (King's College London)

I was the first speaker on the third panel, Feminist Geographies, and I presented my film, But They Can’t Break Stones. I was very pleased to be involved in a great discussion about women’s rights in Nepal, combined with Fahmida Akhter’s paper Revisiting Screen Memories and the ‘History Making Process: Women in Mainstream War Films of Bangladesh’, which specifically looked at the representation of rape in Bangladeshi films, a very important issue which has never been discussed in academic literature before. Jade Lee presented her own experiences and her approach to research in the archives, with a specific focus on women’s impact in her field.

Fahmida Akhter (University of Essex)

Fahmida Akhter (University of Essex)

The last panel, Intersectional Methodologies, unsurprisingly, looked at intersectional researchmethodologies in different disciplines that are not necessarily seen as being particularly intersectional, and raised very important questions about when it is appropriate to have an intersectional approach to the study of humanities. (the answer seemed to be ALWAYS) The first paper, Rebecca Lees’s ‘Understanding Roman Gender Through Intersectionality’ certainly posed this question, looking at Roman Gender and comparing it to present day gender, and how societal perceptions have changed, why, and how a classicist might tackle this issue in their research. Blake Gutt’s and Melissa Berrill’s paper ‘Medieval Intersectional Feminism?’ similarly questioned how appropriate an intersectional approach is to the study of Medieval Literature, as well as how certain subjects should be tackled in an academic teaching environment. ‘Feminists Rush in Where Statisticians Fear to Tread?: How Intersectionality Can Extend the Visibility of Qualitative Research’ was the last paper of the day, and it rounded up many of the topics discussed during the day, with a focus on visibility in feminist discourse and other discourses surrounding feminism.

I enjoyed the small scale of it, it gave everyone the opportunity to get to know each other in a more friendly way, not in a corporate-like networking event. It was very nice to see so many people with similar research interests in the same room and have the opportunity to talk to them about the event and their work and research. All the discussions were also very timely, covering subjects like ‘trigger warnings’ in Universities, a question that is currently in everyone’s mind. Overall, I felt that the entire day was a fantastic opportunity to hear unique papers on original research covering subjects that have rarely been covered before, or subjects that very well were covered in literature, but with a fresh approach which changed the perspective completely.