The vision for The Online Feminism Conference (#OFCon14) was born out of a genuine need to bridge gaps within the feminist community. On October 10th, Clayman Institute postdoctoral fellows, Ashley Farmer and Alison Dahl Crossley brought together teachers, renowned historians, researchers, venture capitalists, activists, and organizers alike with the goal of amplifying feminist discussions taking place in online spaces. Attendees took part in a new form of consciousness-raising augmented by social media. When each tweet on Twitter, for example, has the potential of reaching millions of people across the globe, our political views and stories are made public on an unprecedented scale. Associate Director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Andrea Rees Davies, remarks that with social media “the personal is public.” Echoing the rallying cry of second wave feminism, Davies points to a central reality in today’s culture of activism. Many younger attendees confessed they first discovered feminism online, instead of at school or through books. While many recognize that the future of feminism depends heavily on its translation into online spaces, attendees spoke out about the challenges and experiences that they've encountered when engaging others in a feminist dialogue online.
The Online Feminism Conference began with Paula Giddings, who revisited her talk from the evening prior at the 2014 Jing Lyman Lecture Series entitled, “History Retold: Women, Race, and Movements for Change." Giddings framed the days conversation, walked through key moments in the women's suffrage movement, and outlined how race has historically divided feminist movements. By emphasizing the necessity for inclusive coalitions, Giddings set the tone for attendees to find more collaborative ways to come together and tackle issues facing women today.
Another recurring theme of the conference was how social media is a platform for the voices of those silenced by the “traditional” narrative. The next speaker, Feminista Jones (@FeminstaJones) compared social media’s power to handing underrepresented voices a microphone, empowering anyone who wants to speak up for change. Next, attendees enjoyed artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s (@fazlalizadeh) presentation on her street art documenting female perspectives on street harassment. Emily May (@emilymaynot) followed with a presentation on Hollaback!, an anti-harassment website and mobile app company that she co-founded. After a break out session about divisions in the feminist community, Dr. Meredith Clark (@meredithclark) shared her research behind powerful and successful Twitter movements. The conference concluded with a feminist hackathon where groups strategized and then presented their own ideas and solutions for creating impact. And of course, an Online Feminsim conference would not be complete without a few selfies, to document the day.
A more complete account of The Clayman Institute’s first Online Feminism Conference is on Storify, which captures the social media conversations tagged with #OFCon14. You can also watch the videos below to hear more from the speakers at #OFCon14 and to catch all the highlights from the Jing Lyman reception and lecture with Paula Giddings.