One of my favourite conferences of the year is the Psychology of Women’s Section (POWS) Conference which was held on 8-10 July 2015 at the Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Park. It is a unique space for people interested in gender and equality to share ideas in a safe and supportive environment amongst reputable researchers, practitioners and activists. This year’s themes included: Gender and politics; Feminist Activism; Violence against women; and Women and Science. So this was an ideal place for me to present research on sexual abuse and the grooming process in sport where I received valuable and inspiring feedback.
There were many other fascinating research papers on other topics that included sexualities, parenthood, pregnancy, gender, justice and politics, domestic and sexual violence, embodiment and womanhood, and identity. In particular, we had Polly Neate from the Chief Executive of Women’s Aid UK give a keynote talk on change and a new approach to ending violence. Professor Ingrid Palmary travelled all the way from Johannesburg to start the conference with her fascinating keynote discussing gender, sexuality and asylum in South Africa. Professor Rebecca Lawthom finished the conference with her keynote: Women in, through, within science: walls, ceilings, communities and colonies which was a brilliant and inspiring talk on how we can change the value system in academia drawing on the work of ‘slow academies’ and a feminist consciousness.
Also, delegates had the opportunity to engage in various workshops. Glen Jankowski and Maxine Woolhouse held a vital workshop on activism and the fight against sweatshop abuses in universities. Lara A. King staged a humourology workshop and got us involved and laughing in simple exercises with powerful messages to emphasise the effect of humour. Meg John Barker (known for her work on ‘rewriting the rules’) and colleagues from The Open University held a workshop on ‘Cultivating Caring Practices in Feminist/Queer Academia/Activism’ to encourage us to engage in self-care strategies such as reflective writing. It’s these sorts of workshops that remind us how important it is to ‘live in the moment’ as well as take valuable time to reflect.
The conference was spread over three days so there was plenty of time to mingle with like-minded colleagues, researchers, feminists, and activists, but it wouldn’t have been a conference without some social events in the evenings. In particular, we had the pleasure of enjoying some exceptional entertainment and live comedy from Lara A. King where she had the crowd creasing up with laughter. As Lara said, when we laugh we are more receptive to things so this conference was a real opportunity to interact with others in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
This conference is one of the most idyllic environments to listen to and present up-to-date research amongst like-minded activists, researchers and practitioners who are interested in gender, equality and making a difference. I suspect that next year’s POWS conference will be even better (July 2016 #savethedate)!