Gender in Research Conference University of Liverpool (09/04/13)

A few days ago I attended a conference at the University of Liverpool which focused on ‘Gender in Research’. I was really pleased when I come across the event online because the majority of conferences I have attended have been a train journey away but this time it was on home ground.

ChathamHouse-1WEBThe aim of the conference was to provide a ‘safe’ and welcoming place for PGR students to share their research, whatever stage it is at. The day was organised by Charlotte Barlow and Dorota Opyd who are both PGR students at the university and there were around 30-40 delegates in attendance with some great sessions planned.

Below are brief summaries of some of the presentations I attended.

Lucy Bradshaw, who has a background in career development, discussed some interesting findings that came up while doing her PhD research on the career paths of young men in Hull. Lucy found that in the construction industry in particular, ‘banter’ is used as a means of policing masculinities and is a big part of the job. Young men are encouraged in training centres and colleges to partake in banter in preparation for the ‘real world’ and those who can’t take it are weeded out. This was described as ‘for the best’ by some members of the training staff. When exploring the impact the banter had on women in the training centres, Lucy found that the few women who worked or studied there would generally exclude themselves from banter which is characteristically misogynous and often homophobic, however this did not stop them from being on the receiving end of it at times.

Ramona Garland & Mark Carney presented a paper entitled ‘Porn as Simulacra; Porn as Social Malefactor’. This presentation was fuelled by passion as Ramona argued that porn is extremely harmful, not only to intimate relationships and those who work within the industry, but to all women. Claiming that pornography is worthless in society, Ramona and Mark aim to develop a theoretical framework utilising Baudrillard’s concept of simulacra. I think this is really interesting way of looking at porn and hope to see more people engaging with Baudrillard in this way (mainly because I love Baudrillard). However, I think it would have been beneficial if the paper had been more objective, perhaps touching on the other discourses which surround pornography.

Samantha Colling presented a really interesting paper on the music video aesthetics used in girl teen films. As I am currently researching representations of femininity in music videos, it was interesting to think about how the film industry adopts common music video aesthetics as a method of making the ordinary extraordinary in girl teen films. Samantha played a clip of a film to us which perfectly demonstrated the points made within her paper.

I spoke with Kirsten Smith throughout the day and I thought her research was really original as it focuses on espionage in popular culture and representations of gender. With some references to Bond, Kirsten presented a really interesting talk on the differences in how men and women spies are constructed. I learnt that espionage is a genre of equal readership by both men and women, although the majority of authors are male and representations of spies remain gendered.

Finally, and probably the highlight of the day, was Emily Nicholls’ talk on the nighttime economy in Newcastle and how females aged 18-25 (I think I have the sample right) conceptualise appropriate/inappropriate femininity within this context. Emily’s preliminary findings show that young women are concerned about fitting in with ‘others’ on a night out and that their dress and appearance is a way for them to communicate their femininity. Appropriate femininity is making an effort but not too much effort, drinking but not to excess and managing risk effectively, such as any unwanted attention. The young women interviewed spoke about ‘other’ women displaying inappropriate forms of femininity and differentiated themselves from this ‘other’. The concept of a ‘female gaze’ was discussed and Emily made reference to a number of theorists in her presentation. This was particularly helpful to me as her research overlaps with what I am looking at.

SchoolOfficesOverall the conference was very successful, set up by PGRs for PGRs, there was a welcoming atmosphere at the university and everyone was really friendly. I learned a lot about other people’s research interests throughout the day and because the conference was in Liverpool where I live, I was able to connect with other PGRs in the city. All in all, it was an extremely beneficial experience.

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