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The 4th International Conference on Gender Studies

18th January 2020

The 4th International Conference on Gender Studies attracted scholars from Canada, China, UK, Germany, USA, Israel, India, South Africa and Switzerland. The participants debated issues such as gender and education, gender and social media, LGBTIQ issues, gender and literature and gender and patriarchy.

As with previous years, the conference was held in January (this time the 19th) and it featured a full day of presentations and discussions on the gender politics, discrimination and the way forward. Some very original research has been presented and some important issues have been raised.

For example, Natalie Quinn Walker from Wolverhampton University debated the position of male domestic abuse victims and the patriarchal discrimination they face. As all feminists know, in a patriarchal society both men and women face expectations and thus men are expected to be strong and not show emotions whilst women are expected to be caregivers and caring. As soon as someone does not fit into this role, problems emerge and in this case, the problem emerged with healthcare professionals who do not always know how to handle male domestic abuse victims and provide them adequate support.

Other participants raised other interesting issues such as drag queen performance, or the abortion support network and its inclusive work in providing services to both cis and trans individuals.

The conference was covered in live social media coverage, which can be found on our social media accounts. The call for the 5th conference on Gender Studies (January 2021) will be released soon.

Thank you for reading.

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The 6th International Conference on Women’s Studies

18th January 2020, the Queens hotel

The 6th International Conference on Women’s Studies was a truly fantastic experience with several interesting panels and intellectual debates about the position of women in the contemporary world. The best attended and most debated panels were, as it was expected, two panels on #metoo movement where scholars debated issues surrounding the origins of the #metoo movement. For example, Dr Linda Chavers of Harvard University and Kharoll-Ann Souffrant of the University of Ottawa raised an issue as to whether the movement speaks for Black women, in particular, because the movement only received prominence when white celebrities started to campaign and use the hashtag whilst the movement was originally founded by a Black women to capture their experiences of discrimination based both on race and gender. Dr Batya Weinbaum, editor-in-chief of Femspec journal and a prominent American feminist also raised an issue whether the #metoo movement can be taught without teaching the history of women’s liberation. Other scholars who participated in two #metoo panels also debated various practices of sexual harassment that women face and the place of the movement within these debates.

Apart from two #metoo panels, other panels debated a variety of issues that face women today. Therefore, in the panel on ecofeminism Maryse Helber of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, for example, debated the unsustainability of the sustainability debate and activism whereas Dr Martina Topić from the Leeds Beckett University (and the conference organiser for the Centre) discussed the unsustainability of corporate CSR practice. Faris Haddadin debated ecofeminist theory and the need to engage more with radical feminist theory that captures differences between men and women, which is a central tenant of radical feminism and fits into non-essentialist view of many ecofeminists who see ecofeminism as a branch of radical feminism.

Other than three panels above, we also had panels on patriarchy and inequality, women and leadership and women and religion. In all these presentations, we heard about distinctive issues that women face around the world such as, for example, misinterpretation of religion and consequences for women in Nigeria by Hannatu H Maina from the Aramil Foundation in Nigeria, the contribution of the name change towards gender identity by Ajimakin Ifedayo from Kwa-Zulu University in South Africa and many other presentations from around the world. A total of 19 presentations was heard on the 18th of January with participants from nine countries (UK, USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Poland, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, India) participating and sharing research. The call for the 7th conference on women will be released soon for January 2021.

The conference will result with a special journal issue with a topic of #metoo: past, present and what next edited by Dr Martina Topić. The announcement will be released soon.

The conference was covered in live coverage on our Facebook and Twitter pages. You can check for photos and the presentations on our social media.

Thank you for reading.

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The 6th International Conference on Media and Popular Culture

11th January 2020

The 6th International Conference on Media and Popular Culture, organised in partnership with Intellect attracted interesting contributions, mainly from studies on women in popular culture. The conference was held on 11th January in the Queens hotel, as part of annual conferencing held in January each year.

The papers presented debated the position of women in popular culture, predominantly in television series and also in the literature. In addition, we heard presentations on women’s film festival in Ireland and presentations on social media advertising.

The conference will result with a special number of the Journal of Popular Television published by Intellect on the topic of women and girls in television in the age of postfeminism. The issue is scheduled to be completed by 1st August and after the completion of peer review, the special issue is expected to be published late this year or early in 2021.

We already have papers from the conference participants who will submit for publication, such as on the representation of girls in the Game of Thrones, Police representation in BBC series and the Supergirl as a feminist heroine. However, a call will soon be released for other authors to engage with this important debate. The special issue will be co-edited by Dr Martina Topic (UK) and Dr Maria Joao Cunha (Portugal).

Due to the low representation of media and journalism scholars in the conference, the conference will cease to exist in the current form. Instead, we have partnered up with journal Femspec and Intellect again to host a conference on Women in Popular Culture and Sci-Fi in particular, which is planned for April 2021. The call will be announced soon.

Thank you for reading.

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#Women in the UK #Advertising: Project Findings

I recently completed an analysis of my British Academy funded project on women in advertising. The project was entitled ‘Blokeification as a social issue? The case study of women in the UK’s advertising industry’ and it was funded under the small grants scheme SRG18R1\181033.

In this project, I continued with my research on women in organizations. Previously, I started a research on women in journalism, which has shown there are some debates on whether women who succeed in journalism can only do so if they start communicating and acting like men, and thus become biological female who acts like a man (Acker, 1990) or if they become very blokish (Topić, 2018). I have, therefore run interviews with women in journalism and advertising to try to explore views and the position of women in these two industries to understand whether women need to become blokish to succeed. The advertising industry came as a natural choice for comparison due to academic literature warning about sexism in the industry, as well as public outbursts of sexism and misogyny by some senior men from the advertising industry. For example, in 2016, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi had to resign after causing fury for accusing women to be inert rather than discriminated in the advertising industry (see here ), however, this outburst has clearly signalled that the decisions in the adland are in the hands of old men versed in their ways and views of women.

I, therefore, interviewed a total of 41 women from London, Leeds, Wakefield, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Rickmansworth and Reading from the advertising industry. In addition, one woman from Cardiff, one from Belfast and one from Edinburgh were also interviewed. The work experience of participants ranges from one month to 34 years in the industry, with the majority of interviewed women having between one and five years of experience and 11-20 years of experience. The interviewed women were British, Bulgarian, Cypriot, German, Australian, Ukrainian, Italian, Canadian, French and Dutch, however, British women were predominantly recruited.

The project was divided to three key areas of inquiry, the office culture (exploring issues such as banter, social relationships at work, office conversations, dress code, exclusion from business decisions, office environment and promotions), general views of women and their position in the industry (exploring issues such as equality in promotions, views on their position in the industry, disapproval in the organizational environment, sexism and the position of working mothers), the north-south divide which emerged after 10th interview, and the leadership differences (exploring issues such as leadership styles of male and female managers, role models, own leadership preferences and self-assessment, and early socialisation experiences and its link with leadership).

The results show issues across all explored issues, such as banter and sexism in advertising offices, as well as difficulties in obtaining promotions, which particularly hits mothers but also others. Women of all ages and career stages report a variety of issues they experience in their daily work lives. The difference also appeared in experiences between women from the north and the south, where northern women reported less discrimination and better career opportunities as opposed to women in London who are much less satisfied with their position in the industry, which they often do not see as female-friendly. The full summary of results can be downloaded from this link.

I will also release findings from my journalism project during December 2019.

Thank you for reading.

References

Acker, J. (1990).Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizatons. Gender & Society 4(2), 139-158.

Topić, M. (2018). Not bloke-ified enough? Women journalists, supermarket industry and the debate on sugar in the British press (2010-2015). The Newspaper Research Journal 39(4), 433–442.

Dr Martina Topić is a Senior Lecturer in Public Relations in Leeds Business School and a founder of the Centre for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities. She is also a project lead for EUPRERA Women in PR project, British Academy project Women in Advertising and Leeds Beckett funded Women in Journalism project. You can find out more about her work at her personal website or at the Leeds Beckett website .

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EUPRERA: Women in PR (1982-2019)

Last year, I launched a project for EUPRERA on women in public relations in collaboration with colleagues from several European countries.

In the first phase of the project, we conducted an extensive literature review on everything that has been published on women in PR. It was quite an effort but ultimately the research produced some good results.

The first report of the project has been released in September 2019 and it contains an extensive literature review analysis, as we as all units of the analysis.

We analysed the literature review using thematic analysis approach and we have found that the highest number of articles has been published in the past decade.

The thematic analysis was conducted for all decades (1982 -1989; 1990-1999; 2000-2009; 2010-2019) and we conducted a thematic analysis for all periods separately, and this data was then compiled to one final thematic analysis graph (see below).

Thematic Analysis: Main Literature Themes (1982-2019)

The analysis revealed that the position of women in PR has reached a full circle in four decades of research and returned to the discriminatory work environment, as even though the position of women has significantly been improved since the early days, the reality is that many women still can’t progress in their careers.

The full report can be downloaded from Leeds Beckett

Martina Topić

Dr Martina Topić is a Senior Lecturer in Public Relations in Leeds Business School and a founder of the Centre for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities. She is also a project lead for EUPRERA Women in PR project. You can find out more about her work at her personal website or at the Leeds Beckett website

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#Crisis6: Is Crisis Communication a research agenda relevant to media and women’s studies?

In October 2019, we helped in organising ECREA’ Crisis Communication conference entitled #Crisis6: Innovations in Risk and Crisis Communication

While Crisis Communication is an established academic field with strong theory development and researchers based in countries all around the globe, it is not something that is commonly associated with women’s and media studies, even though it should be. It is enough to think of Alabama abortion ban and draconian penalties for women who try to abort as well as excessive anti-abortion campaigning and abuse in the United States to realize that Crisis is a feminist agenda as much as any other issue we normally research.

When it comes to media, we live in an era of fake news and Far-Right alternative facts websites where random populists and fascists distort facts to further their agenda. The media is indeed in a permanent state of crisis, especially if we look at data showing high distrust in traditional media and journalists to tell the truth. For example, in the UK, the Press-Gazette reported last year that only 2% of the British public trust journalists, which shows the extent of public distrust in the media .

This data is not without foundation since British media landscape suffers from serious issues with bias in reporting, which goes that far that newspapers, for example, are making editorial decisions on which side of the political argument to promote, thus effectively undermining the premise of media reporting being impartial.

Therefore, the Crisis conference came as a refreshing way of understanding the social world and a useful framework to analyse what constitutes issue and what constitutes a crisis and how organisations could communicate during a crisis. However, the research also has a wider social relevance because we could all educate ourselves a bit more about the crisis, which could ultimately result with the general public being less prone to propaganda and fake news.

The conference we helped in organising had experts from 20+ countries attending, and discussing issues such as theory development (e.g. Situational Crisis Communication Theory and Rhetorical Arena Theory and how these two theories could be combined to study crisis), shifts in crisis communication and response strategies, data breaches on social media and the crisis response, stakeholder mindsets and emotions, the use of strategic silence in crisis communication, media representation of crisis responses, vaccination debate as a global crisis, etc.

The full conference programme with abstracts of all papers presented is available at this link and readers can find more information about research and authors who work in the field

Whilst our forthcoming media and women’s studies conferences (January 2020) do not have crisis communication panels, the future ones will have to capture trends in this important and socially relevant research.

Photos from the conference are available on our Twitter account (@CRSSH) and a selection is available in the gallery below.

Thank you for reading.

Dr Martina Topić

Dr Martina Topić is a Senior Lecturer in Public Relations in Leeds Business School and a founder of the Centre for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities. You can find out more about her work at her personal website or at the Leeds Beckett website

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3rd International Conference on Gender Studies

27th January 2019

Venue: Queens hotel

Leeds, United Kingdom

RATIONALE

It has become quite common to use the term gender for sex, albeit this is incorrect. The infants are assigned male or female sex, while gender is more complicated because it encompasses not just biological sex but also personal sense of being male, female, both or neither actually. Self-perception of gender then affects gender representation, or how one presents themselves (e.g. the way they behave, dress, talk, etc.).

The incorrect use of gender is particularly prominent in Western societies where it became some sort of PC talk, and not many question this incorrect use of the term gender. Nevertheless, all recent research on gender and women studies demonstrates that patriarchy is alive and well, and that both men and women suffer from patriarchal perceptions of expected roles. For example, women still face difficulties in equality of opportunities for all jobs, and when equality is achieved and they enter a certain industry; they face difficulties in being promoted to managerial positions (glass ceiling). On the other hand, men face difficulties in embracing roles traditionally seen as feminine such as staying at home with children or applying for paternal leaves, which are still approved more to women than men.

When it comes to gender perceptions the situation becomes even more complicated because if one refuses to identify with sex assigned at birth and chooses to express gender differently, patriarchy kicks in even stronger and these individuals face not just discrimination in access to employment but also public mocking and in some countries even assaults. It is stating the obvious to say that many countries in the world still ban homosexuality and that LGBT individuals and couples are not just discriminated but also targets of public campaigns to ban them ever having the same rights as heterosexual couples such as marriage and adopting children (before they even asked for these rights), assaults, threats and intimidation, etc.

The question we can ask is how far have we got in achieving not just gender equality (for vast amount of research testifies we have indeed not got far albeit lots of progress has been made), but how far have we got in achieving understanding of gender? What kind of culture needs to be created to embrace diversity beyond positive laws (that exist only in some countries), but a true diversity where nobody will think they should have the right to question someone’s self-perception and self-expression, and a culture where all sexes and genders will be equal?

These and other topics were debated at the conference. The selection of photos is available at our social media profiles.

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5th International Conference on Women’s Studies

26th January 2019

Leeds, United Kingdom

Venue: Queens Hotel, City Square, Leeds, LS1 1PJ

RATIONALE

Feminists started to advocate equality and fight for women rights decades ago, and so far we have experienced several waves of feminism. While at the beginning of activism, the issue was in women’s equality in general for women were banned from exercising even basic rights such as the right to vote or work, current feminism is standing up against issues such as glass ceiling (where women can only progress in their careers up to a certain point, but fail to obtain managerial positions), wage gap (where women are paid less for same positions as men), as well as traditional battle against patriarchy that is clearly still alive and well. For example, even though it is legally possible for men to take paternal leaves and stay at home to take care of children and household, it is still women who have these requests approved more often than men, which testifies that patriarchal views of expected roles are still present. In addition, in some countries women are still banned from exercising basic rights such as the right to vote, work in all positions and even the right to drive. While there is a number of men that experience family violence, it is still women who mostly suffer from this type of abuse, while those men who do suffer from it fear reporting it due to expectation that the men is the boss in the house. Nevertheless, with the rise of Far Right political candidates and public speakers started to question Feminism and argue that it fulfilled its purpose, while at the same time re-introducing old prejudices and practices against women where an emphasis is based on their appearance, etc.

The questions the conference addressed were how far have we got, and what needs to be done to achieve true equality of both men and women, and a society where there are no expected roles?

A selection of photos is available on our social media profiles.

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5th International Conference on Media and Popular Culture

12th January 2019

Leeds, United Kingdom

Venue: Queens hotel Leeds

RATIONALE

It is an unobjectionable fact that media participate in formation of our daily lives by creating identities, images, and by generally influencing our views. This applies not only to politics (i.e. political campaigns), but also to the formation on how we see ourselves and others. Popular culture, on the other hand, also affects our daily lives by fostering images and ideologies, and by selling a way of life that is presented as acceptable or non-acceptable. Sociological theories presented five models of audiences (hypodermic needle model, normative model, model of satisfying needs, interpretative model, structural interpretative model), and scholars still debate usability of each model due to the influence of media and popular culture over current issues. In addition, the agenda setting theory of mass media influence postulates that media affect our views and influence what we think about even if media cannot influence how we think about issues. These and other issues were discussed at our conference.

A selection of photos is available on our social media profiles.

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2nd International Conference on Gender Studies

21st January 2018

Venue: Queens hotel

Leeds, United Kingdom

RATIONALE

It has become quite common to use the term gender for sex, albeit this is incorrect. The infants are assigned male or female sex, while gender is more complicated because it encompasses not just biological sex but also personal sense of being male, female, both or neither actually. Self-perception of gender then affects gender representation, or how one presents themselves (e.g. the way they behave, dress, talk, etc.).

The incorrect use of gender is particularly prominent in Western societies where it became some sort of PC talk, and not many question this incorrect use of the term gender. Nevertheless, all recent research on gender and women studies demonstrates that patriarchy is alive and well, and that both men and women suffer from patriarchal perceptions of expected roles. For example, women still face difficulties in equality of opportunities for all jobs, and when equality is achieved and they enter a certain industry; they face difficulties in being promoted to managerial positions (glass ceiling). On the other hand, men face difficulties in embracing roles traditionally seen as feminine such as staying at home with children or applying for paternal leaves, which are still approved more to women than men.

When it comes to gender perceptions the situation becomes even more complicated because if one refuses to identify with sex assigned at birth and chooses to express gender differently, patriarchy kicks in even stronger and these individuals face not just discrimination in access to employment but also public mocking and in some countries even assaults. It is stating the obvious to say that many countries in the world still ban homosexuality and that LGBT individuals and couples are not just discriminated but also targets of public campaigns to ban them ever having the same rights as heterosexual couples such as marriage and adopting children (before they even asked for these rights), assaults, threats and intimidation, etc.

The question we can ask is how far have we got in achieving not just gender equality (for vast amount of research testifies we have indeed not got far albeit lots of progress has been made), but how far have we got in achieving understanding of gender? What kind of culture needs to be created to embrace diversity beyond positive laws (that exist only in some countries), but a true diversity where nobody will think they should have the right to question someone’s self-perception and self-expression, and a culture where all sexes and genders will be equal?

These and other issues were subject of the conference.

Photos are available on our Facebook page and our Twitter account.