Friday, April 07, 2006

Conference #3

Third conference in a week - I'll spare you the links on the assumption you've been paying attention - was only a one-day affair in Oxford, the Andrea Dworkin Commemorative Conference.

Naturally the attendees were predominantly female, and also less academic than usual. A scan down the list revealed an awful lot of 'Miss' and 'Ms' so-and-sos. I don't think there was a single Mrs (though there were a couple of Drs and a few without any title).

At first, I was pretty scared how it was going to go: The first speaker said how terrible it was that women have to wear make-up, bear their flesh etc. The second, involved in Feminists Against Censorship, how terrible it was that Muslim women can't dress as they like, and howDworkin's ideal of a sexless woman is allied with the fundamentalist right. She even got heckled from the fairly hostile crowd, and needless to say the debate was a bit emotional...

I felt sorry for Katherine having to chair that one, and like her and Dan made myself scarce at lunch. Thankfully things improved in the afternoon. Speakers who knew Andrea well - including her partner John and Catharine MacKinnon (with whom she worked several times) - spoke with sympathy - sometimes even struggling to make their points over their emotion. It was true testament to a woman I knew little about, but did seem a truly amazing figure (even if I wouldn't agree with many of her ideas, I can respect them).

Overall, even though Bas and I were able to spend some time bitching about crazy/radical feminists afterward, for one-sided or unsubstantiated arguments, it was the kind of debate rarely seen in Oxford politics seminars, and a very worthwhile experience.


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