I’m taking a (probably undeserved) break from writing my paper on White Women’s Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States to describe a few impressions and reactions from my very first WAM! conference. I don’t have very coherent thoughts at the moment, since my brain power is being sucked away by catching up on academic responsibilities, but a few highlights and a couple of links for those folks who are interested:

  • It was awesome to spend a weekend surrounded by feminist activists from a wide variety of backgrounds, from bloggers to organizers, undergraduates to radical grannies. I had the opportunity to do a lot of feminist star-spotting, since there was a healthy representation of bloggers and writers present at the conference whose blogs I read and books I own.
  • In addition to volunteering at registration, I attended two panels and a screening of the Silent Choices film about African-American women and abortion. Incidentally, the two panels I attended were live-blogged about at feministing.com, one on reproductive justice and one on battling anti-feminist backlash, if you’re interested in a quick synopsis of the discussions.
  • Amanda Marcotte, over at the blog Pandagon, who was one of the speakers at the panel I attended on reproductive justice, wrote about her perspective on the session, and includes a great picture of the Stata Center (designed by Frank Gehry) where the conference was held.
  • In addition to being a blogger, Amanda has just written her first book, It’s a Jungle Out There, which is a hilarious, light-hearted blend of “feminism 101” and humor for those of us who can feel burnt-out by anti-feminist crap. “Why are people so mean to feminists?” she asks in the introduction, “Because so much of feminism is the fine art of calling bullshit, and calling bullshit makes people uncomfortable. The first rule about understanding bullshit is that people really love their bullshit . . . Many people love their bullshit more than they love their spouses, or at least they’ll defend their bullshit more fiercely.” I picked up a copy at the conference bookstore before they were sold out, and read it all the way home on the T, giggling to myself.

All in all, the conference was an energizing break from my regular routine, and gave me an opportunity to reflect, once again, on how I envision bringing together the sort of research, writing, and practical skills I am developing as a librarian-in-training and student of history with the politically relevant, people-oriented activist work that I find incredibly nourishing to be involved in, even though I have never been comfortable out on the front lines. I realized, sitting in the conference rooms listening to all these articulate, politically engaged women (and yes, a handful of men), that even though I get burnt out sometimes by the amount of work that needs to be done, I virtually never get tired of engaging with feminist ideas and the people who care about discussing them. Now if only I can figure out a way to get paid for doing it!

UPDATE: You can also check out conference coverage at Feministe, where Jill talks about both of the panels I attended, and other stuff as well, and Racialicious, whose regular blogger Carmen was at the (seemingly universally attended) backlash panel.