Women’s lives, women’s stories

To mark International Women’s Day 2013, the University of Huddersfield’s Feminist Research Group are holding their inaugural event ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Stories: A Feminist Narrative Research Symposium’.

I write this on the day that Dr Catherine Hakim, a former sociologist at the London School of Economics and author of the Honey Money: The power of erotic capital announced on Radio 4 that ‘Feminism is dead’ – apparently we have equality and the pay gap is now trivial. What women need, she argues, is to learn how to negotiate better – in private and public life! Evidence, I think, of the continued importance of looking at women’s lives and women’s stories.

This year’s Symposium builds on the ‘Opportunities and Challenges in Feminist Narrative Research Symposium‘ that was organised by a group of postgraduate researchers at the University of Huddersfield in June 2012. Following the success of this event a group of us got together to set up the Feminist Research Group. The aims of the group are twofold: to provide a space where feminist researchers can come together and discuss / develop their ideas and research in a friendly and supportive environment; to organise a series of events to celebrate and share the work that we, as feminists, conduct directly and indirectly on or about women and women’s lives.

As many of us are involved in looking broadly at narratives we wanted the first event to focus on women’s stories – the stories they tell, the stories that are told about them, and the stories or narrative frameworks that are available to them to tell. We also all felt that International Women’s Day would be a great day to hold the event and celebrate women’s stories, women’s lives and women’s voices within research.

We have a really exciting and wide-ranging series of talks throughout the day. We also have poster presentations and during the lunch break we will be showing a video of a talk by the novelist Chimamanda Adichie and a series of I Poems – which, together with the papers, we hope will generate interesting and lively discussions.

Viv Burr will introduce the day followed by Jo Woodiwiss whose opening talk will look at the narrative frameworks available to women and how we can be constrained as well as liberated by the stories we (are able to) tell. We will then have the first of two panel sessions: ‘Women’s Voices, Women’s Narratives’ with papers by Marilynne N Kirshbaum, Berenice Golding and Sue Peckover, and Kate Smith that will look at ‘women’s stories of fatigue’, ‘supporting women and children experiencing domestic abuse’, and ‘narratives told by, for and about women refugees’. After lunch we have the second panel session ‘spoken and unspoken stories: constructions of ‘good’ mothering’ with papers by Abigail Locke, Kelly Lockwood and Julia Langley exploring ‘mothering, feminisms and infant feeding’, ‘narratives of women in prison’, and ‘younger mothers’ stories of mothering through relationship abuse’.

We are hoping this will be an interesting, inspiring and challenging day in which all those attending are able to listen and well as participate. We have therefore allowed plenty of time for socialising at lunch and coffee breaks and have booked a great space for interacting and looking at the posters, I Poems and film clip. The final session of the day, ‘women researching women’, is a roundtable discussion led by Grainne McMahon. The session will feature all the speakers but we hope that all those present will contribute to a lively discussion. To encourage everyone to participate in the final round table we will also have question boxes around the venue for participants to submit written questions.

Jo Woodiwiss, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Huddersfield, and member of the Feminist Research Group and organising committee for ‘Women’s lives, women’s stories’

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