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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Conference venue: Queens hotel, City Square, Leeds, LS1 1PJ
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, e.g. women, ethnic groups, religious groups, etc. Agenda setting research has established decades ago that media set public agendas, and tell us both what to think about (agenda setting) and how to think about a certain issue (media framing). 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. All these influences form our daily lives and views of others, and while the media and popular culture do not influence all people, on all issues and at all times, they do have a significant influence on our views and actions.
Participants debates issues in media and popular culture in panels on media and identity, women in the media, film studies, media and history, audience studies, and agenda setting and media framing theories.
The conference had live coverage on Centre’s social media accounts, and a selection of a few photos is also available in the gallery below.
Conference venue: ***** Hotel De France, Schotenring 2, 1010, Vienna, Austria
Identities are various: personal, national, religious, regional, racial, gender etc., and it is very difficult to determine which identity is affecting us most. Sometimes it can be one, and sometimes the other. For example, during the presidential race in the United States between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, black women wondered which of the two identities represented them most: their racial or their gender identity.
National identity bears huge relevance and people are willing to die for their nations. Religious is as important as ever, and people are willing to sacrifice their own comforts and sometimes even to discriminate others because of their religious identities. European identity had been an issue of debate since the foundation of the EU when founders envisaged European unification based on a particular set of values shared among founders and prospective future members.
The notion of identity is often ending up in stereotyping and othering of those who have different identities, and irrespective of the approach we take in identity studies we always end up with the same dilemma: why are identities and identifications so important? These and other issues will be a subject of our conference.
In a lively and interesting debate, participants debated identity issues from variety of perspectives, i.e. women and identity, critical theory, war and media representation of identity, and sexuality.
Selection of photos is available in the gallery below.