Now that I’ve unpacked and recovered from a full weekend, I’m now ready to fill you in on the rest of my conference highlights:
I went to the DuBois Library to check out the University’s Digital History Lab. I was very impressed by the lay out and state-of-the art equipment in the lab itself but the staff didn’t seem prepared for the open house and just showed us the website. I could have done that on my own! Nevertheless, the website is a great introduction to the field. I then checked out the book exhibit, where I collected a bunch of discount flyers and plan to order way more books than I need or can possibly read! Then it was off to lunch with my fellow panelists for the first of my Saturday afternoon session (more on that later). In the afternoon, I attended an excellent session, #55 on “Racialized Childhood and Youth: Gendered Visions of the Coming Generation in Transnational Perspective.” A The most useful paper for my work was Zora Simic’s “What Sort of ‘Problem’ is Teenage Pregnancy.” One of the most interesting points I got out of her talk was the ways in which the “epidemic” of teenage pregnancy described in the 1970s conflicted with the female timetable and aspirations for girls set by liberal Second Wave feminists. I mentioned a post on Ms. Magazine blog complaining about Forever 21’s maternity line. The post complained that “With 65 percent of their clientele under the age of 24, the real issue here is the normalization of teen pregnancy.” Many of the commentators rightly clobbered Ms for that one — some observed that 20-somethings are not teens, some said they would have loved to have fashionable and affordable clothes when they were pregnant at age 19/20, and argued that the whole article did nothing more than shame pregnant teens. Finally, one teenager observed: ” As a 16 year old girl, I don’t walk into a store see maternity clothes and think ‘I guess it’s time to get pregnant” or “I suppose it’s alright to get pregnant because they’re selling clothes for pregnant women in a store targeted at my age group.’ Just saying.”
fter that, I attended part of session #72, “Researching and Interpreting Feminist Activism of the 1960s and 1970s: an Intergenerational Roundtable.” The session was packed and a bit uncomfortable because it was in an un-airconditioned room in 80 degree heat. I only had my iPod with me, so only got out a couple of tweets:
Problems of writing recent history and getting corrected by those who were there #Berks2011
Sheila Rowbotham women’s hist not just great rev moments need to look at stuff in between #Berks2011
It was a good thing I was monitoring the Twitter backchannel, because I almost missed the poster session. This is the first time the Berkshire Conference has offered this option. There were lots of great posters, but I also kept running into people I knew, or who wanted to introduce themselves to me, so I didn’t really get to look at any of them in depth. Tenured Radical has a brief clip of one of the presenters. Next time I hope the conference organizers have more than one day or at least a longer time period than two hours that doesn’t overlap with other sessions.
The highpoint of the day was the blogger meet-up in the graduate student lounge (aka bar)– here’s Tenured Radical at left presiding. After that, I went to the Green Street Cafe in Northampton for another great restaurant week meal.
Saturday was very busy — I did check out session #82, “Performing the Body,” where Lori Rotskoff’s paper “From ‘Daughters of Maybelline’ to ‘Sisters of Freedom’: Second Wave Feminism, Girls’ Activism and the Politics of Appearance in the United States” made me nostalgic for “Free to Be You and Me” and other feminist children’s programming of the 1970s.
I then took the morning and lunchtime to fine-tune my presentation for session 150, “The Transgressive Body: Young Women as Objects and Agents of Desire”; and my comments for session 154 “In and Out of the Doctor’s Office: Medicine, Health Policy, and Gendered Expectations.” After that, I was pretty well spent, so met up with some friends to knit and drink in the graduate student lounge followed by another restaurant week dinner at Sierra Grille.
Overall this was an excellent conference — the campus hotel was comfortable, quiet, and affordable. The conference staff were helpful and friendly and the quality of the sessions I attended were very high. If you attended the conference, submit your comments at the section of the conference blog called “Think/Learn/Teach/Do,” If you didn’t attend, I encourage you to attend the next one in Toronto, Ontario in 2014 — this will be the first time the Berkshire conference will be held in Canada.
For other reports, see the ones by the aforementioned Tenured Radical, “Classy Claude” at Historiann (who was unable to attend herself because of a last minute family emergency), and Another Damned Medievalist who calls on future Berkshire organizers to include more pre-16th century sessions.