Event: Do we still need a feminist theory? April 4th, University of East London


Friday 4th April, 2-4pm, WB 3.02, University of East London, Docklands Campus, West Building

Olivia Guaraldo, University of Verona, Italy

Is feminism still transformative or has it lost its ability to connect theory and practice and influence society as a whole? What are the needs that emerge from grassroots movements today? What happens to still unsolved issues such as inequality or the misogynistic imaginary at work in mainstream popular culture? How does ‘professional’ or ‘academic’ feminist theory respond? Are we still able to address political and cultural demands that come from ‘outside’ the academia? In this lecture I address these issues drawing on the Italian experience between 2009 and 2011, a time during which the country witnessed an escalation of sexual scandals under Berlusconi. On February 13th, 2011, a nation-wide demonstration with over a million participants took place in many Italian cities. A new popular and moderate women’s movement was being formed, the SNOQ, (acronym for Se Non Ora Quando? – which means If not now, when? ). The demonstration voiced a need “to strongly affirm women’s dignity” and to draw attention to the fact that, despite decades of feminist activity, Italy remained a patriarchal country. The large popular demonstration was preceded by a debate among feminist intellectuals on the opportunities the event might present. Some were against it, denouncing the ‘moralism’ inherent in the use of the term ‘dignity’, while others recognized the necessity of a public expression of women’s indignation. In my view this debate expressed some major tensions in Italian feminism and its relationship with society at large, and to some extent shows why Italy, in spite of its feminist tradition, still remains a patriarchal country.

Olivia Guaraldo
After receiving a doctoral degree in Political Science from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, Olivia Guaraldo began researching and teaching at the University of Verona, Italy, where she is currently Adjunct Professor in Political Philosophy. Her main topics of research are 20th century political thought, feminist political theory, literary theory. Guaraldo attempts to combine a politically situated approach to philosophy with a ‘gender sensitive’ approach and a literary oriented analysis of culture, thought and society. Her publications include Storylines. Narrative, History and Politics from an Arendtian Perspective, SoPhi, Jyväskylä: 2001; Politica e racconto. Trame arendtiane della modernità, Roma: Meltemi, 2003. Guaraldo has edited and introduced the Italian translations of Judith Butler’s Precarious Life (Rome 2004) and Undoing Gender (Rome 2006). She has also edited and introduced the Italian translation of Hannah Arendt’s essay Lying in Politics (Milan 2006). Her latest book, forthcoming, is a critical genealogy of violence in Western political thought, carried out from the viewpoint of vulnerability, loss, mourning. Continue reading


New book series welcoming proposals – Gender and Education

Palgrave have launched a new book series – Gender & Education – edited by Yvette Taylor (Weeks Centre, London South Bank University)

The series provides a comprehensive space for an increasingly diverse and complex area of interdisciplinary social science research. As the field of women and gender studies is rapidly developing and becoming ‘internationalised’ – as with traditional social science disciplines of e.g. sociology, educational studies, social geography etc. – there is greater need for a dynamic, global Series that plots emerging definitions and debates, and monitors critical complexities of gender and education. These debates are captured within this Series, representing new feminist activisms and voices, emergent in contested educational contexts.

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Join the Revolution! A simple and helpful guide to supporting #womantheory


You don’t have to be a woman, or a feminist, to ‘do’ or to ‘support’ WomanTheory.

Supporting WomanTheory is about a commitment to recognising the contribution of women to the academy and to intellectual and public life. And acting on this.

Here are a few things you can do to show your support for WomanTheory:

1. Refuse to be part of a panel at an academic event where there are no women speakers.

2. When organising events, consider the gender composition of your keynotes and panelists. And facilitate the inclusion of younger/ early career academics.

3. Discard reading lists and teaching material that include only books and articles by men.

4. Change your citation practice: don’t just cite more ‘boy theory’

5. Refuse to be a member of editorial boards that don’t include or are seriously low on women

6. Complain to your institution – or conference organiser – if they…

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Tulay Atay-Avsar on Mary Mead

“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.


This quotation which I believe to describe myself. I met MM during my master thesis writing process on anthropology. She seemed to me a very strong women and a hard working one. There are in fact many women thinkers in my life… Both Turkish and other nationalities… Both famous and not famous… The mother (Sebahat) of a good college friend of mine, she is a star… She has no education however she is a great philosopher… Whenever I got fight with my parents I remember myself crying on her shoulder… My daughter (12yrs), Daphne is also a great thinker… I feel that she will be one of those strong women in the Turkish society… She wants to be the first female Turkish astronaut in the world…

Deborah Jump on Mary Oliver

ImageI stumbled upon Mary Oliver when I was looking for an answer; an answer to pain and suffering. Let me clarify, I was at that time in the throes of writing a PhD, and also, in the midst of a break-up. Needless to say, I had ‘a lot on’. I never was one for poetry as a rule; I think I truanted that class at school, but on that day in the summer of 2012 I googled ‘good poetry’. Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese popped up and I thought I would read it as it was an excuse to take my mind of the ardour of a PhD, and also a break from feeling guilty about the mistakes that I had made in the course of my failed relationship. For those of you that haven’t read it, it goes like this:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The first line was the most important and the most gripping for me, it was a message that gave me permission to forgive myself… whether that was for not working 12 hours straight or not being the best partner I could have been. Indeed, this poem allowed me to forget the trivialities of life and love for a brief moment, as I am imagined the ‘wild geese harsh and exciting’ telling me that life shouldn’t be that stressful, and that you have but one. While Mary Oliver may not be an important political thinker like Adrienne Rich, her poem touched me on a profound level that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thus, my students, and also my friends, know that when life gets hard I can always be relied upon to tell them the story of the Wild Geese high up in the air ‘announcing THEIR place in the family of things’.

Susan van Ling on the poets: Sharon Olds and Elizabeth Bishop

ImageSharon Olds.

I was introduced to the work of Sharon Olds when I was sixty. Late in life and eager to have my mind opened as I worked towards a creative wiring degree, but hindered by years of conditioning. Slowly within the two modules of poetry in this six year course (too, too short) I realised how she was using the forbidden thoughts within my mind. And gradually I looked at issues surrounding death, sex, child birth and sickness and was released from my confinement and began to use words which I loved using. They are just words and she by her wonderful poetry allowed me, in a way, to look at the beauty of them ‘Good Will’ is my very favourite but ‘The Elder Sister’ and ‘Monarchs’ too. Elizabeth Bishop I absolutely love ‘One Art’ by Elizabeth Bishop and this poem about loss and loosing things makes me feel as if this loss of memory in later life is just ok. No bit deal. “The art of loosing isn’t hard to master.”

Good Will by Sharon Olds

Sorting clothes, I find our son’s old
jeans, the dirt worn so deeply in
they are almost tan, worked as a palimpsest,
the nub down to a flat gloss,
the metal of the rivets soured to ochre,
the back pockets curved like shields,
their stitching is like water far from land,
a long continuous swell. Lee,
the pants say in auric print,
LEE, they say in letters branded
in leather on the waistband, like the voice of a boy’s
pants, the snap’s rattle, the rough
descending and ascending scale of the zipper,
the coin-slot pocket inside the front pocket.
He had waited inside me so many years, his
egg in my side before I was born,
and he sprang fresh in his father that morning,
I had seen it long ago in science,
I shake out the jeans, and there are the knees
exploded, the white threads hanging
outside the body, the frail, torn,
blue knee open, singing of the boy.

Sharon Olds