Thursday, January 5, 2012

Feminist Working Group history

About us

In 2007, the Experience Music Project Pop Conference held a tribute to the feminist music critic Ellen Willis. The next year, a group of writers, scholars, musicians and fans gathered to continue her legacy through the creation of the EMP Pop Conference feminist working group. The first working group drew over 50 participants from multiple generations and who had a variety of definitions and opinions about what feminism is/does. Some were surprised that such a space as this could operate in the supposedly "post-feminist" era. The next year, even more people came to the group, so we broke into four sub-sections (activism, teaching, writing, performance - although most people could participate in two or more of the discussion) for discussion and skill sharing. In 2010, the group put together a panel that was specially focused on the relationship between gender/sexuality and technology, featuring musicians Tara Rodgers (also author of Pink Noises, 2010), Emily Wells, and Wynne Greenwood.

In 2011 we expanded to a full day of panels, discussion, working groups, and guest talks under the title, "Work It," a play on a classic Missy tune that fit well with the 2011 EMP conference theme of music and money. The conference was held at USC with sponsorship from the USC Gender Studies Program, Center for Feminist Research, Department of Music and the Journal of Popular Music Studies. Find full details about the conference here.

In 2012 we move with EMP as it combines with IASPM-US March 22-25 at New York University, where we have sponsored several panels on feminist/queer theory topics under the title "Turn It Up!" We are organizing even more for this, the largest ever EMP gathering.

Our History

2007 Lunch Session - Ellen Willis Tribute
Activist, journalist, and educator Ellen Willis was one of the first writers in the 1960s to publish critical essays on rock music and was the first pop critic for the New Yorker. Her writing always addressed her three R's, "radicalism, religion and rock," and her language reflected the spirit of rock's vernacular, while maintaining a fierce intellectual edge. In the 1970s, Willis turned her attention towards contemporary politics and gender, but she never lost her interest in popular culture. She founded the feminist activist group Redstockings and becoming a major critical opponent to anti-pornography feminism in the 1980s. In 1995 she founded the Center for Cultural Reporting and Criticism at New York University, where she taught a generation of cultural critics and continued writing about politics and culture until her death in the fall of 2006, at the age of 64. The New York Observer called her "a rock n' roll feminist superhero" and each elegy for Willis asked for her work to be read, remembered and discussed and for her spirit to continue. In this lunchtime tribute, her friends, peers and followers, including Sasha Frere-Jones, Robert Christgau, and Ann Powers, read brief excerpts of Willis's writing, rock and otherwise, and reflect on the impact of her work in their own writing and activist lives. Moderated by: Daphne Carr
2008 Lunch Session - Feminist Working Group  This roundtable discussion features women working in various fields sharing their experiences of trying to integrate feminist politics into their work. All conference participants are welcome, but outreach to women attendees will, we hope, create a "safe space" for discussing these issues within the Pop Conference.
2009 Dance This Mess Around: A Feminist Working Group Discussion In a pop scene with room for both transgendered divo Antony Hegarty and inexhaustible man-izer Britney Spears, nontraditional displays of sexuality are almost normative. If "deviance" or "symbolic rebellion" are devalued as political acts as they enter mainstream culture, what role should feminism play in reanimating conversation on the subject? How do you continue to make these subjects meaningful within the context of your teaching, writing, artistic production and performance, or other work? This discussion is open to all, but also serves as a way for feminist conference participants to meet and create connections. Moderated by: Daphne Carr, Ann Powers, Sarah Dougher Moderated by: Daphne Carr, Ann Powers
2010 Feminist Working Group  This round-table features several artists known for deploying new technologies, in conversation with the Feminist Working Group communities about issues of gender, sexuality, music and technology. We hope to discuss the relationship between technology and empowerment, the gendered and racial nature of machines, the master's tools, and the transformative possibilities of technologies in the hands of women. Moderated by: Sarah Dougher, Ann Powers Featuring: Emily Wells, "Feminist Working Group Session" Wynne Greenwood, "Feminist Working Group Session" Tara Rodgers, "Feminist Working Group Session"
2011 Work It: gender, race, and sexuality in pop professions A conference at USC that was held February 24, 2011 in association with the 2011 EMP Pop Music Conference The biggest stars of the day from Katy Perry, Nikki Minaj, Lady Gaga, to Adam Lambert, play in the brightest lights with conventions of gender and sexuality, echoing and building upon traditions of pop performance as old as the stage itself. In basements, barrooms, concert halls and cafes across the country, artists of all types do the same—and more—while rooted in various political, performative, and social contexts they might hesitate to call “feminist” but will surely call “doing their thing.” And at the same time, an industry shifts dynamically in the wake of dramatic technological changes, rendering concepts of “professionalism” in new light while the academy shifts to deal with popular culture in ways more inclusive than ever before (or not). At this day-long conference, a group of music journalists, scholars, musicians, and music industry professionals came together to talk about the changing role of gender, race, and sexuality in the pop music world. This conference was organized by Karen Tongson, Ann Powers, Daphne Carr, and Sarah Dougher.
2012 Turn It Up! Listening to Difference A series of panels sponsored by the Feminist Working Group NYU, March 22-25, 2012