Feminist Media Studies: Previewing Console-ing Passions 2012
Some years ago when we were both graduate students, we, like many other junior scholars, discovered Console-ing Passions, an encounter that felt a bit like finding an oasis. Here was an organization with a history of supporting feminist media research, founded by a number of feminist scholars we studied and admired, which convened small conferences every other year. The chance some years later to continue this legacy by hosting Console-ing Passions in Boston with our local colleagues Miranda Banks and Deborah Jaramillo is a responsibility we were honored to accept.
The Boston conference, which will take place next week at Suffolk University, holds additional promise and potential: the first ever Console-ing Passions conference occurred at the University of Iowa in 1992, meaning that twenty years had passed since this watershed event. This milestone had the effect of putting our local host group in a mood of reflection. We wondered, what would be the most appropriate way to celebrate CP’s legacy of feminist media research, and to acknowledge how new technologies, delivery systems, and consumption practices have altered what it means to work in this discipline? How to best honor an organization that began focused mainly on television studies, but has expanded to include digital and new media, aural media, and gaming? Finally, we asked, what sort of events would allow us to reflect on where CP has been, and where it is going?
Our opening plenary, “Feminist Media Studies: Pasts, Presents, and Futures” is meant to kickstart such conversations, and features scholars at various points in their careers who will share their impressions of the field’s transformative moments. This group, moderated by two-time CP conference host and Fembot editor Carol Stabile, brings to the conversation expertise in the fields of Latino/Latina media studies, industry studies, feminist theory, digital and children’s media, ethnicity and cultural studies, girl culture, and postfeminism. A glance at the conference program likewise reveals that conversations about media histories are imbued throughout; participants will speak on panels titled “The Future of Feminist Historiography,” “Nostalgia TV,” “Toward a Historical Poetics of TV: Revisiting Seeing Through the Eighties” and “Neoliberalism, Difference and the Posthuman.”
Many of the longstanding interests of CP, known for its focus on gender, sexuality, and identity, feature in the 2012 line up. Speakers will present on online and televisual sexualities, soap operas, lifestyle media, female media makers, fandom, branding, gaming, and stardom. Take a look at the conference in total, however, and it becomes clear that the field of feminist media studies grows increasingly capacious. This year’s CP’s participants, and their proposed presentations, illustrate how feminism lives and thrives in myriad media forms—they are writers, watchers, and listeners, as well as players, designers, bloggers, fans, remixers, and modders.
This belief in media as a vehicle for feminist praxis—and our recognition that such actions are as vital now as ever—also provided the impetus for a keynote plenary, “Female Sexuality, Media Politics, and the War on Women”, a public conversation that will serve as the conference’s culminating event. In response to recent media controversies over women’s health care, and amidst reminders of how troubling conceptualizations of female sexuality and body politics continue to shape national discourse, feminist blogger Jessica Valenti will screen her film The Purity Myth, and well-known feminist media advocate Jean Kilbourne will moderate a panel discussion on social media activism, reproductive justice, and global health politics. They are joined by Daily Beast journalist Michelle Goldberg; technology consultant Deanna Zandt; reproductive justice activist La’Tasha Mayes; and broadcasting and social movement historian Allison Perlman.
As befits this twentieth anniversary year, we are looking forward to using next week’s gathering to take a pulse on the field of feminist studies. Antenna’s new series on Feminist Media Studies is surely an apt locale for such reflections; we look forward to reading your posts, tweets, and updates!