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Women's Studies professors to discuss the use of media and technology by feminist scholars

By Kathleen Davis, Daily Arts Writer
Published December 4, 2013

As is often the case with progressive topics, feminism has sometimes had a difficult transition from the academic world to the general public. There has been, however, an active effort to make the topic friendlier to a non-scholarly audience. Friday, the University will host a panel discussion featuring four acclaimed professors who will discuss how to bring the topic of feminism to an audience outside of academia.

Feminist Scholars Engaging the Public: A Panel Discussion Michigan Room, Michigan League December 6, 10:00 a.m. Kathleen Davis

Feminist Scholars Engaging the Public: A Panel Discussion

Dec 6 at 10:00 a.m.
Michigan Room, League

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Lilia Cortina, a professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the University, will act as panel chair for the event, facilitating discussion and questions between the professors and audience.

“(The panelists) are academics used to publishing scholarship in places like peer-reviewed journals and scholarly books,” Cortina said. “But we also value opportunities to share what we’ve learned through our scholarships and our research with non-academics.”

Four of the panelists — Anna Kirkland, Sari van Anders, Maria Cotera and Cortina — are professors in the University’s Women’s Studies department, while the fifth panelist, Jennifer Berdahl, is a professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of Toronto.

Prof. Kirkland has recently published several articles about the lack of correlation between vaccines and autism, while also studying gender and weight discrimination in the United States. Prof. van Anders has been researching the link between sex, intimacy and biophysiology, and Prof. Cotera has worked substantially with Latina/o studies, U.S./third-world feminism and American Culture. Each of these professors will discuss their research within women’s studies and how to bring these issues to the forefront of public discourse.

The event will be used as an opportunity to discuss how feminist scholars use various forms of media and technology to engage their work with members of the public, and the pros and cons of doing so.

Cortina is aware of the unfavorable stigma the general public has against feminism and said she hopes the panel discussion will help encourage those unfamiliar with the subject to expand their views.

“All of us are keenly aware that the public at large usually has views of feminism and feminists,” Cortina said. “These are very narrow, based on myths and very negative.”

Along with the other professors in the panel, Cortina hopes to bring a change to the concept that feminism is an idea only beneficial to women, and encourages anyone interested in the topic to attend.

“We think of feminism more as a broader social justice movement that’s working to correct various kinds of gender-related inequalities,” Cortina said. “These are also linked with race-related inequalities and class-based equalities.”