First, just a couple of administrative notes. For some reason, comment notification e-mails were not coming to me, and I missed a number of older comments in the moderation queue. If you’re one of those people, I apologize for not approving your comment sooner! Those of you who asked specific questions in comments on the About page, I did see your questions and I’ll be responding soon. Thanks for your patience 🙂 Also, I want to thank everyone who’s kept me on your blog reading list despite a few months of mostly dead time. This is a transition point for me in blogging, and the workshop at Omega on blogging reinforced something I knew already–that I need to post consistently and keep to a set schedule if I want readership to come and stick around. So from this point forward, I’m setting a minimum goal of three posts per week. I hope you enjoy the content and pass the word on about this blog.
That said, I just want to post a wrap-up about the conference in Rhinebeck. As you may have gathered, I was liveblogging and Tweeting from a mobile device, specifically an iPod Touch, and so the one-fingered typing has some limitations! Some of my favorite quotes from the weekend are on Twitter (peachy_penumbra), but I wanted to say overall how much I enjoyed the conference and how inspiring, funny, and yes, powerful, many of the women who shared the stage were. I also made some great friendships over a very short period of time, and got to meet a lot of cool young women who may not have been able to speak on the stage, but had a lot to say off of it.
For me, the conference was a mixture of feeling empowered and refreshed, and on the flip side, feeling a little bit angry and frustrated. On the one hand, there were these great organic conversations going on, the empowerment of being in what really felt like a safe space (so safe that yoga and naked sauna-ing were involved!), and fabulous speakers that made me feel like I could achieve a lot more than what I’m doing right now. Women like Gloria Steinem, Isabel Allende, Helen Thomas, Lateefah Simon, Jensine Larsen (etc., etc., etc.) are a great inspiration, even if some of the younger activists make me feel downright lazy! On the other hand, there were some negative aspects to the conference.
There was a lot of emphasis on nurturing, caring, embracing the “feminine” instead of only focusing on power and aggression. I have an instinctive clench-up reaction to that. Part of it is a psychological struggle that I’m going through personally and won’t get into at the moment, but another part is that this masculine/feminine dichotomy is so frustrating. I felt that a lot of women, especially older women, were saying things like embrace your feminine side, we’re learning these values to pass on to our children, let’s think about our husbands and men in our lives, etc. In other words, there was a fairly heteronormative, dichotomous gender-based structure to this whole thing. Lesbians and transgendered people were mentioned from time to time, but I think that there was a deeper structural issue at play. I noticed it in the insistence on labeling everyone’s “two sides” masculine and feminine in our intergenerational discussion, even when a woman was trying to say that these things don’t really have to do with gender. Why do we always have to think in twos?
Hopefully our generation is moving in the right direction on this, though, and I think we are. Overall, it was a great experience–inspiring, thought-provoking, and challenging. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to attend more events like this in the future.