1992 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman” in newspaper headlines across the United States. A then-record number of women (four) served in the Senate, only a year after Anita Hill’s allegations forced the realities of sexual harassment into the national media spotlight. 25 years later, what has changed in the realm of gender and power? In 2017, what is the state of women’s leadership in our workplaces, our communities, our personal relationships, our activism, and our politics? Which women have gained ground, and who is being left behind? What new questions about gender, sexuality, and power do we face today that were not even imagined a quarter century ago?
The Women's and Gender Studies Program and the Women's Studies Student Association hosted the first Symposium at Augusta State University in the spring of 2009 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Women's Studies minor at ASU. In March 2015, the program hosted the fourth biennial Symposium, the second at Augusta University. The Symposium offered a wonderful opportunity for academics, undergraduate and graduate students, advocates, activists, and community members to participate in the academic, creative, and social action activities centered on a given theme.
From Tumblr, to Twitter, to independent online journalism, the use of digital media has become an important facet of feminist discourse and may well be changing activists’ approaches to social justice work. This symposium will explore how individuals are engaging with digital media as they press for social change. How are digital media forums being used to promote inclusivity and make social justice dialogue more accessible? To what extent are the development of online communities and discussion spaces prompting new forms of activism? What are the limits of employing digital media as sites for mobilization? In addition to proposals that consider digital media, this symposium also welcomes examinations of non-digital visual and print media associated with social justice efforts.
The title of the 2013 Women's Studies Symposium, "Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Voices: Health and Human Rights in the Twenty-First Century," references a ground breaking book on comprehensive women's health, Our Bodies, Ourselves, first published in 1970. The book, along with its associated women's health foundation, empowers women to become agents of health and wellness in their communities by providing access to accurate healthcare information. The symposium, in the spirit of the book's mission, supports the notion that accessing information via multiple platforms, inclusive of art, music, literature, and theater, can strengthen our understanding of the diverse health and wellness issues our community faces.
It is often understood that feminism is not simply a theoretical discourse but an activist path. A mere glance at the early feminist mantra, "The personal is political," can attest to this. Over the past decades, however, as Women's Studies and Gender Studies programs have become institutionalized in colleges and universities across the world, has feminism lost sight of its activist origins? In order to gain academic legitimacy, has feminism sacrificed activism for theory? Are Women's Studies programs doing enough to place theoretical approaches within activist frameworks?
The 2011 Symposium, "Finding Our(Grass)Roots: Activism, Theory, and the Future of Feminism," invited students, faculty, and community organizers to submit proposals that addressed the growing divide between feminist activism and theory and what this divide translated into where feminism's future is concerned.
Providing the keynote at the 2011 Symposium was Dr. Ruth McClelland-Nugent, Associate Professor of History at Augusta University, in a talk entitled, "Theory Meets Practice: Wonder Woman, Popular Culture, and the Feminist Critique."
The inaugural Women's Studies Symposium was held March 28, 2009, and invited presentations that intersected with the theme "Emerging Narratives." In addition to presentations that illustrated the multiple women's narratives communicated through television, literature, and oral history, the Symposium also welcomed the participation of local Girl Scouts and invited the performance of Alchemy, a belly dance troupe from Augusta (pictured above).
The 2009 key note presentation was given by Dr. Irene Salami-Agunloye, Associate Professor of African Expressive Literature, Women, and Cultural Studies at the University of Jos, Nigeria, who is also an accomplished playwright who lectures extensively on women's and children's issues.