Gender Events Review

Miriam Sette, “G. d’Annunzio” University, Chieti-Pescara (Italy)
“Gender and Power” International Conference Review

The Online International Conference on Gender Studies: “Gender and Power” organised by the London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research took place on the days between 27 and 28 February 2021. The Conference hosted many participants from many different countries who gathered to exchange their experience and research, a couple of days, on this exciting field. The Conference was started by quoting Virgina Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929). Virginia Woolf’s chapter “Shakespeare’s Sister” explores the basic question of “Why women did not write poetry in the Elizabethan age”. Woolf sheds light on the reality of women’s life during that period and illustrates the effects of social structures and strictures on the creative spirit of women.

The first speaker of Session 1. Portraits of Influence: Paths to Progress was Gianluca Sardi, from the University of Teramo (Italy) / London Centre for the Interdisciplinary Research (UK), who presented a paper entitled: “From the Jennifer Worth Era to the Contemporary Times: The Role of Women in the East End of London”, an interesting paper that aimed at highlighting, recognising and celebrating working class women who have had to overcome socio-economic obstacles, to break through the cloistered and privileged boundaries of Higher Education and the University. 

Natalia Rueda, from Externado University (Colombia) presented a paper entitled: “Gender Stereotypes in Justice and Law”, a thought-provoking paper, which paid full attention on gender inequality issues, identifying areas where women or men are currently underrepresented, but also analysing the underlying reasons and constraints.

The last speakers of session 1 was Da Hyun Lee from Sungkyunkwan University (Korea). Her paper “South Korean Gender Ideology in Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: Childbirth, Career Break and Women’s Empowerment” raised a number of questions about Cho Nam-joo’s allegory for the repressed contradictions of South Korean society.

The argument of the three papers was gender discrimination and feminism. All the papers aimed to acknowledge and promote a different academic space, one where to conceptualise and capture the difficulties – and successes – of accessing and finding acceptance in the culture of higher education, work-places and the university.

The first speaker of Session 2. Warrior’s Way: Empowerment in Art and Literature was Miriam Sette, from “G. d’Annunzio” University, Chieti-Pescara (Italy). Her paper “Beauty and Power in Lady Roxana by Daniel Defoe” focused on Defoe, a prolific, successful novelist of the early decades of the 18th century, who contributed to the development of English fiction depicting reality from a clear perspective: that of gender and otherness.

Annika Ljung-Baruth, from the University of Vermont (USA) whose stimulating paper:Gender and Power: A Phenomenological Exploration of Collective Motherliness in Ellen Key’s Life World” focused on the bourgeois domesticity and feminine, maternal nurturance as a force vector, passive and assertive at the same time.

Rayna Danis, from Simmons University (USA), presented a paper entitled: “William and not Wilhelmina”: Examining Radclyffe Hall’s Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself Within 21st Century Transgender Studies”. The paper explored from what position, we may ask, is one—whether as a reader living in a very different context or as someone living in the same society—able to gain clear moral perspective? Moreover, how is this to be achieved in a work of fiction, as opposed to an overtly polemical or didactic piece of writing?  In a society bound by such taboos and whitewashed with such prejudices, Radclyffe’s answer is an understated but unmistakable sense of irony that not only gives us information about the particular ways in which prejudice works but also does so in a way that conveys the cognitive dissonance, the psychological strain that animates such a system of oppression.

Konrad Gunesch, from the American University in the Emirates (UAE), opened the Session 3. The Body Politic: Presence and Projections. His paperWorld Literature and the Male Protagonist’s Passionate Obsession with ‘the Eternal Feminine’: Lessons from 21st-Century Venusian Artists and Hollywood Movies on the Power of ‘the Neg’”addressed the problem of the very title analysing two publications: The Game (2005) and The Mystery Method (2007). Gunesch entertained his audience to pay full attention on gender inequality issues and discussed by using well-developed conceit, allusions to historical evidence and male figures (the two most popular modern pickup/Venusian artists, namely Neil Strauss aka “Style” and Erik von Markovich aka “Mystery”). He appealed to the audience’ pathos to establish his authority and extend the gender issue to a deeper level.

The papers by Mira Revesz, Simmons University (USA), “I Am With You”: Victim Impact Statements as a Platform for Solidarity and Empowerment in the #MeToo Era” and Darian Rahnis, Simmons University (USA)Silenced Voices: Italian Sex Trafficking and the Absence of Care” both represented the specific plight of those trapped women, so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder, as to be unable to escape from their social condition of exploitation, a theme that nowadays has a distinct place of prominence.

The two non-live sessions: 4. “Collective Conscience: Gender in Life and Media” and 5. “New Horizons: Beyond the “Fossil” Record” included fascinating papers by Djamila Mehdaoui, from the University of Foreign Languages and Art in Saida (Algeria) “Women’s Strategies in Relating Equality Across Difference” on women, women-writing and feminist history; by Danielle Peloquin, from the Fusion Education Group (USA) “Doing Justice: True Crime Podcasting as Women’s Work” on the benefit deriving from podcasting; by Samantha Papuha, from the University of Alberta (Canada) “Satirizing the Scandal: Gender and Indigeneity in Parodic News Reporting of the SNCLavalin Affair” on the language of the news and parodic satire in reporting the SNC-Lavalin case in Canadian politics; by Emma Dominguez Rué, from the University of Lleida, Catalonia (Spain) “Perpetual Childhood: Madness, the Female Gothic and the Dangers of Heteronormativity in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria or The Wrongs of Woman on Wollstonecraft’s most radical feminist work revolving around the story of a woman imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband; Giuseppina Scotto Di Carlo from Naples University “L’Orientale” (Italy) “An Analysis of the Use of Gender-Neutral/Inclusive Language among Italian Non-Binary Individuals: an online Survey”) on the necessity of gender-neutral language. All these papers called into question the deformation of men and women alike by misogyny in particular and by the ideological hegemony of patriarchy in general. This contradiction produced societies that had to strictly regulate certain things—above all, the blatant moral self-contradiction—in order not to fall apart. Yet the political and social landscape in the third millennium no longer ignores or discredits the new, social movements of gays, blacks, and women and other minorities that arose during this period in opposition to policies identified with old power-systems.

Silvia Pizzirani, University of Bologna

My (Female) Gaze on the Gender Studies Winter School (February 2020)


I first met the LCIR one year ago when I attended the Gender and Power International Conference. I found the experience extremely interesting on both academic and human level, so I decided to make a bigger investment and I attended the Winter School, at the end of February. Happy to say that it was a good catch.

The School took place in the amazing setting of Birkbeck College, University of London, near Russel Square, the very heart of university life. We started with a feminist tour of London (which my groupmates said was great but that, alas, I missed because of serious state affairs that concerned a kitchen sink and a plumber). Lessons started on Tuesday, with an amazing 3 hour course led by Dr Katherine Da Cunha Lewin on radical thinkers, healthcare and language. We did not even realize that time was passing: Katherine was really engaging and the discussion took off in a minute! After less than 30 minutes it was clear that our group was extremely enthusiastic and curious and we had many lively discussions from the very beginning. In the afternoon, we were able to present our research projects and then we had a great workshop with Dr Olena Lytovka on fatherhood/motherhood and the “gender tyranny” and how this creates different concepts of masculinity.

On Wednesday, it was time for Dr Tom Hoctor to show us how the copcepts of gender and class are constantly changing and how they have influenced Work throughout time in the city of Luton. Then, Dr Christine Tulley and Maddie Kurchik kept us busy with two interesting seminars during the afternoon. The first one dealt with time management and academic career from a gendered perspective, which was quite useful (especially for a procrastinator like me) and made me reflect upon how the perception and organization of time could change in relation to gender and home situation. Maddie strongly involved us in a discussion which was so relevant to us: to what extent male-generated norms influence academic writing and writing in general? How much could a cyborg approach help researchers and people in general to find their paths beyond these norms? Compared to the seminars I am used to, especially in my University in Bologna, a seminar like this was quite a (positive) shock for me: in the academic environment, we are rarely asked to stand up and think about our body and sensations, as well as to speak about our aspirations and ideas.

We used our coffee and lunch breaks (I can assure you that the LCIR fed us abundantly) to get to know each other better: on Wednesday afternoon we had our first tea/beer together, after the last session of the day. What a peculiar and lovely ensemble we were! Nine people from all over the world (Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Russia), with different cultural and academic background but who shared the same passion for research and for gender equality.

During the week we attended both seminars and less typical academic events that were extremely stimulating as well. On Thursday we visited Bishopsgate Institute and its gorgeous Archive, with the amazing Stef Dickers. You could say that “gorgeous” seems a little bit odd as an adjective describing an archive, but I can assure you that it is not even enough: in addition to hundreds of binders about labour and cooperative movement history, you can also find incredible documents about LGBTQ+ history in London and in the UK. And not only “proper” archive documents! Pins, banners, magazines, porn literature and even an exemplar of “Gay Bob” and its closet (google it, trust me). Not only institutional history but, actually, history from below. And I would add history of the people and for the people, because after years of researching in different archives, I can say that it is not easy to always find such a welcoming and prepared team of archivists who really wants you to go there and explore their material (not necessarily for academic purposes). After Bishopsgate, our afternoon continued at Barbican Centre with the stimulating exhibition Masculinity, which provided us with new topics to discuss with each other.

We could say that Friday was our “cinema” day: in the morning, we attended a short course in which Mary Wild taught us about the female gaze in cinema and how psychoanalysis could be a useful tool to deepen our understanding of it and of society mechanisms in general. We saw short clips of different movies and discussed them together, touching upon a wide variety of topics. Iwona Kościelecka also made us think about the female point of view in cinema and erotica and the difficulties in being accepted as a subject and not only an object, in both pleasure and art. Then Dr Konrad Gunesch presented his ideal plot for movies or literature: could writers stop putting in charge the less competent character (for example an unaware Robert Langdon) and focus more on the brilliant one (such as Sienna Brooks)? It almost seems that a woman cannot be more than a sidekick, even if she is the sharpest knife in the drawer. Finally, we ended our day with a really inspiring talk by Jessica Lynn on Transgender Studies, the story of her life (we can say, Herstory) and her work as an activist. I have to admit, a tear streamed down my face. We can easily support Transgender Rights and fight just because “we know it is right”, but being able to meet her, ask her questions and listen to Herstory in first person really opened my mind and made me more aware of the daily struggle of the Trans’ community. We were so absorbed in the conversation that they almost had to kick us out of the building! We missed the Vagina Museum visit, but one extra hour with Jessica was worth it. And then we had a really enjoyable Gin & Tonic.

On our alas last day we attended the Gender Narratives International Conference, in which we had the opportunity to listen to some of our colleagues’ presentations. It was the perfect conclusion for our Winter School: I was able to make use of what I learned during the previous days, and I engaged in many discussions with different scholars and students. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone but I can say that a small network was born during that week, and I suggest that you should put yourself out there and enrol in the next School organized by the LCIR!