As seen in QMessenger 85.
New Turn’s Women in the 21st Century Conference was certainly a thought-provoking event, packed with talks and speakers that raised a whole barrage of issues, whilst also celebrating certain liberties and gains that have already been achieved. With talks ranging from work, sex, race, fashion and religion, the conference provided a forum for us millennials to reflect on what we think about ourselves as women, our society, and feminism in a broader, more general sense.
Yet whilst the conference certainly proved we have a lot to talk about in terms of 21st century women, it is easy to see that there is still so much more to talk about. The issue of sexual consent and lad culture was highlighted in ‘Feminism and Sex,’ but how effective is that talk, when given to a room with maybe 3 men in?
In the opening session, a speaker touched on the arguments around whether or not men should be able to come to women’s conferences, but little else was said on the matter; when surely the subject could’ve easily filled one of the sessions. Should these be safe, self-identifying women-only spaces? Or should we consider the role of men in women’s movements almost as pivotal as the role of women in women’s movements? In terms of gender, our society is not as unbalanced or disparate as it once was, so are conferences like these, addressed specifically to gender, helping or hindering the women’s rights movement in general?
Beyond general “women and [social structures]” talks, there were also a range of sessions focusing on positive discrimination and breaking the glass ceiling, which tackled issues women face in certain workplaces. But why do we always focus on trying to get women into senior business/law/politics roles all the time? Why don’t we look at the reasons why women are drawn towards other industries? Or why only 25% of IT positions are held by women? Women make up a considerable proportion of the workplace, and as time goes on working conditions are improving, but why aren’t the conversations around it changing?
And with all this focus on the workplace and the political, there was little reflection on being a woman in a personal sense. Why was there no discussion on romance and relationships in relation to feminism? All the talks touched on topics such as women’s rights to be stay-at-home mums, to receive equal pay and to generally do whatever we want, but the limits of a 45-minute session was made evident, with similar points being remade and repackaged frequently, and standardised responses trotted out. It is important we recognise the changes that have happened, and are still happening to women in the 21st Century, but it is more important that we start to change the conversations around it.