Minutes of the first planning meeting for Scholar and Feminist 1980, 1979

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TO: The Scholar and the Feminist Planning Committee September 17, 1979 FROM: Christina Greene, women's Center SUBJECT: Minutes of First Planning Committee Meeting, September 12, 1979

Jane Gould opened the meeting by introducing Amy Swerdlow, who will be the Academic Coordinator for this year's conference. Jane also announced that a new sound system has been installed in the gym, thereby solving the sound problem that has plagued all the past conferences. The conference date was tentatively set for April 12, 1980.

Hester Eisenstein explained that the papers from last year's conference will be published in the spring of 1980 by G.K. Hall, a Boston publisher of scholarly and reference books. Hester, who is volume editor of the forth- coming book, noted that G.K. Hall has asked for the right to publish papers from past and future conferences.

To guide her in this year's planning, Amy asked for comments and suggestions from the group.

We began by discussing last-year's conference and suggesting possible themes and formats for the coming conference. Concern was expressed over the need

to give participants the opportunity to discuss with each other the provocative and sometimes difficult questions raised by the morning speakers. Several possibilities were considered for revision of the format. For example, workshops might be "spin-offs” from the morning papers or planned around

the themes of the morning session. These workshops might either be formed spontaneously at the conference or, planned by assigning participants to workshops before the conference. All workshop participants would then re- convene at a final plenary session and summary reports would be presented.

In order to achieve greater integration in the morning session, it was suggested that conference speakers exchange and read each others’ papers before the conference. (This was done two years ago with great success.) It was emphasized_that conference speakers must be selected before Thanksgiving to implement this idea.

Although it was pointed out that form and content are intermeshed, it was also noted that perhaps it is more important at this early stage in the planning to focus on theme. In deciding the conference theme and format, we will have to keep in mind that we are committed to a large attendance (650 attended last year) and that we must have prepared papers if a book is to published.

Because the emphases of the last two conferences were on the arts and humanities, there was a strong concensus that the theme for this year lean towards the social sciences. However, it was agreed that there was much room for flexibility and that, for example, communications arts or performing arts might be utilized as a way of exploring a social science theme. It was also suggested that we keep clearly in mind the connections between theory and practice; and that while a focus on more abstract and theoretical concepts might be appropriate, clarity must not be sacrificed. There was some discussion along these lines over whether last year's

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conference was too abstract and/or was billed misleadingly. There was a general sense in the group that the theme this year should incorporate the practical realm and perhaps be more generally accessible to a wider, more diverse audience. Although some discussion was generated on the question

of who our audience would/should be, it was stressed that above all, the theme should be of interest or of pressing concern to the Planning Comittee members. '

The remainder of the meeting centered on discussion of possible themes for the conference. One possibility is an examination of the return of intellec- tual feminism to psychoanalytic theory, a phenomenon which has caused 4 concern and anger among some feminist scholars and which is reminiscent of the "culture of poverty" syndrome. The economics of women's lives; prospects for feminism in the 80's; and a review and proposals for feminist utopias were all suggested as possible themes.

Much of the discussion centered on power as a possible theme, including such ideas as a feminist vision and definition of power; power and powerlessness; the connection between power and justice, explored from the perspectives of politics and the institutionalization of power, as well as inter-personal relations; the myth of female power; and the ways in which prevailing power structures obfuscate real power and power relations. The notion of power as enabling was mentioned, as well as women's tendency to shy away from power because it is often seen as bound up with negative aspects of justice and judgement. Some recent work on the concept of power was noted, particularly the question of redefining power as interaction between equals rather

than as hierarchical relations.

It was also noted that by selecting power as a theme, connections between the theoretical and practical aspects could easily be drawn. For example,

a theoretical discussion of the power in naming could lead to an examination of politics and the power of change. An examination of the new work on Marxism and feminism could also be incorporated under the theme of power.

Those attending the meeting were asked to pursue the idea of a conference on power and to come to the next meeting prepared to discuss this theme in greater depth.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, September 25, 4:00 pm in the Women's Center 100 Barnard Hall. We realize that it is impossible to set a meeting time that is convenient for everyone; therefore, we urge you to send any ideas or suggestions for the conference to the Women's Center. (280-2067)

Present:

Roberta Bernstein, Roslyn Chernesky,Julie Doron, Hester Eisenstein, Jane Gould, Anne Grant, Martha Green, Christina Greene, Elaine Hughes, Irene Finel-Honigman, Janie Kritzman, Sonia Levin, Ellie Louis, Brenda McGowan, Elizabeth Minnich, Ellen Pollack, Susan Sacks, Philippa Strum, Amy Swerdlow, Barbara Weinbaum, Batya Weinbaum, Kathryn Yatrakis