A Recap of the 2019 Women’s Leadership Conference

A Recap of the 2019 Women’s Leadership Conference

 

A few weekends ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Women’s Leadership Conference here at Clemson University. In hindsight, having to wake up at 7 AM was definitely worth it, but laying in my bed on that day, I was honestly just wondering why I would get up so early on the weekend. However, I got up because I had the feeling that the conference would be a fantastic experience – and also because I was being sponsored to go.

 

This conference was definitely one to remember, and it was enriching to see so many people from different backgrounds and with stories. Here’s what happened and what resonated with me after attending the conference:

 

It was hard deciding what programs to attend.

While waiting for the sessions to begin, I decided to look at the pamphlets that were handed out with the programs on them. Let me tell you, I was so stuck! There were two sessions to attend before and after lunch. BUT, there were 3-4 sessions per hour, and you had to choose which ones to attend. Each one sounded so interesting, and I was literally having the hardest time deciding on which one to attend. Each session only happened once that day, so they weren’t repeated for you to attend.  Topics ranged from Intersectional Feminism to Male Femininity to what constitutes being unladylike. So yes, it was tough.

 

Vulnerability is OKAY

One of the sessions I attended focused primarily on how you should properly channel your anger and use it as a catalyst for change. One of the main focuses in this session was to provide not only a ‘safe’ place for us to talk but also a ‘brave’ place as well. We discussed what makes us angry as women in today’s society. There were so many different perspectives, not just from women themselves but from male individuals who also attended the conference. It was heartwarming to see us all from different walks of life coming together and forming a consensus: that it’s OKAY to be angry and that your feelings are valid. There were tears, hugs, and individuals who finally felt comfortable about opening up for the first time. So, what makes you angry? How do you properly deal with anger? By giving it attention then and there and not dwelling on it. Now is the new later.

 

Transgender Women are often left out of the Women’s Rights movement

Intersectional Feminism is becoming more prominent and has even helped point out some flaws within the Women’s Rights Movement. While those who identify as feminists have recognized and combated white feminism, there are still problems that arise as far as privileged feminism. This means that feminism does not always include ALL women in their advocacy, allyship, activism or education. When I was in a session about Intersectional Feminism, this picture was put up on the screen with the title, “what’s wrong with this picture?” At first glance...I honestly had no idea. Then, as time passed, I realized that this image was not inclusive to ALL women as it left out certain groups of women. Although we’ve pushed past certain obstacles within the women’s empowerment movement, this example presents another issue as it does not include trans women. One of the pads even says, “Feminism without Intersectionality is White Supremacy.” But, Intersectionality is a framework designed to explore the dynamic between co-existing identities, so this image is essentially a poor representation of Intersectional Feminism and the inclusivity that this movement should bring.

 

 

Male Femininity/Male Feminists deserve to be uplifted

There was a session that focused on this topic and all who attended participated in an open discussion. The individual who led this session spoke about some of the misconceptions of Male Feminists/Feminine Men – that “they are gay” or “they are too soft.” There’s nothing wrong with these two statements if that’s what you self-identify as, but it’s problematic if these statements are being used against you in a demeaning way. This also puts a negative connotation on being gay. A male-identifying individual is not automatically “gay” or “soft” because of how they act or what they support. While having this conversation, we realized it wasn’t just toxic masculinity that played a role in this but that some self-identifying females contribute to these misconceptions as well. The fault here is automatically assuming without asking and also failing to uplift self-identifying male individuals who want to partake in/support the movement. To combat these issues, one should start by having open conversations and do what so many do not do well...LISTEN.

 

During this session, we watched a TedTalk by Justin Baldoni where he speaks against toxic masculinity, embracing your feminine qualities, and how he supports women in different aspects.

https://youtu.be/Cetg4gu0oQQ

 

Hopefully, this gives you insight as for what to expect when attending a conference like this. Anyone at Clemson can go for a small fee, but trust me, it is not difficult finding someone to sponsor you! Some colleges/organizations were willing to sponsor those who wanted to attend, so if you want to attend next year, please sign up!