Nearly one hundred guests from across the region met to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday 7 March 2014, at Firth Court. Hosted by the Women@TUOS Network and welcomed by Dr Rhonda Snook, Chair of the network, the event proved a lively, challenging and stimulating occasion. PVC Gill Valentine introduced her ‘Living with Difference’ research project, which also formed part of this event.
The event was conceived and organised by Claire Pickerden, White Rose Project Development Manager who introduced the themes of the day, and asked the audience to contemplate ‘The Future of Feminism’.
The prestigious panel was chaired by Libby Purves, eminent broadcaster and journalist and 30 years chair of Radio 4’s Midweek. First up was Bea Campbell, writer and long time columnist at the Independent, frequent contributor to the BBC’s Question Time, who set the scene by describing how she believes we are now living in a new gender settlement, which she is calling a neoliberal neo patriarchy. She asserted that our steady faith in slow progress toward equality is misplaced which demands from us a feminist renaissance. Dr Zahra Tizro, lecturer at the University of York St John, whose research interest focuses on domestic violence, gender relations and sexuality described how at least 2 women a week die in the UK and 1 in 3 worldwide, as a result of domestic violence, giving feminism a vital and vibrant role in continuing to tackle issues of sexual violence, and media sexism. Dr Finn MacKay, feminist activist for over 20 years including revitalising Reclaim the Night, coherently described how mainstream positions of power remain overwhelmingly in male hands and articulated clearly how the seven demands of the UK Women’s Liberation Movement remain relevant today. Dr Anita Franklin, last up, programme director at the Institute of Lifelong Learning at the University of Sheffield reminded the audience of the importance of creating and sustaining feminist alliances, particularly with those women who find themselves struggling with poverty in these times of financial austerity
Questions from the floor followed tackling issues of maternity leave, how male-dominated cultures need to be challenged and that feminism needs to define itself in order to remain relevant in the 21st century. Inspired and invigorated by the topics of the day, a lively lunch ensued with Firth Hall filled with animated conversations and much spirited networking by the guests present.
Our thanks to the funders of this event, the Women@TUoS Network, the ERC Living with Difference research project, the Women’s Professors Network, Public Engagement in Research and Women in Engineering. Also thanks to Claire Pickerden, White Rose University Consortium for organising, what may be becoming, the annual celebration of International Women’s Day.