Why Sex? Why Gender?: Activist Research for Social Justice

A Symposium in Honor of Janet Jakobsen
May 1, 2015 | 10:00am
James Room
4th Floor Barnard Hall

Janet Jakobsen



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At BCRW’s “Activism and the Academy” conference in 2011, Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, pointed out that if those who are dedicated to human rights and social justice continue to organize their efforts in silos “we will never have the power… to achieve even the demands that exist inside of those silos.”

One of the greatest legacies of recent feminist movements has been the recognition that seemingly disparate issues must be addressed in conjunction. Reproductive justice has emerged as a primary framework for understanding how gender, race, class, and other vectors of social identity are constituted and managed not just through changing laws, but also through entire systems and networks of power. Many of the initiatives Janet Jakobsen has spearheaded during her 15 years as Director of BCRW involve integrating the lessons of reproductive justice throughout the feminist landscape: from responding to violence and enhancing human security to domestic workers’ rights; from exploring work-family balance and advocating for racial and gender equity in the workplace to seeking environmental justice and investigating the social effects of new technologies and media.

Janet has guided BCRW’s work in inspiring directions, fueling integrated analyses that address the complex realities of social change in today’s world. In this vein, “Why Sex? Why Gender?: Activist Research for Social Justice” will feature longtime BCRW partners—individuals and organizations working within academia, the arts, and community organizations—such as the Hampshire College Civil Liberties and Public Policy program, SAKHI for South Asian Women, Queer Survival Economies, the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, and the New York Women’s Foundation. The crucial integration of gender and sexuality into multiple issues remains a relatively new endeavor and uphill struggle. Our discussions will explore what it means to enact Linda Burnham’s brilliant call for “social justice feminism,” pointing to new possibilities for feminist research and action in the decades to come.

Speakers include Rebecca Alpert, Linda Burnham, Elizabeth Castelli, Lisa Duggan, Kim Hall, Ann Pellegrini, Katherine Franke, Rebecca Jordan-Young, Sydnie Mosley, Afsanah Najmabadi, Ali Rosa-Salas, Ebonie Smith, Josef Sorrett, Lucy Trainor, and Nicci Yin.


All events take place in the James Room.

Friday, May 1

9:30 AM

10:00 AM
Welcome by Tina Campt

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Reproductive Justice/Gender Justice

Rebecca Jordan-Young (moderator), Katherine Acey, Tiloma Jayasinghe, Ana Olivera, Catherine Sameh, Lucy Trainor
Why Sex? Why Gender? kicks off with a look at the elegant and diverse approaches to Reproductive Justice that have come to serve as an exemplary model for Gender Justice. How do visions of justice allow/demand a different conception of ‘reproduction’? How does a pairing with ‘reproduction’ reshape the meaning of justice? Panelists reflect on their work around resisting and transforming existing systems that create unjust distribution of life chances, as they work to build movements that support diverse forms of connection, community, gender, and sexuality.

12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
Lunch pick up

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Lunch & Performing Justice

Sydnie Mosley, Ali Rosa-Salas, Nicci Yin
This conversation-workshop explores how BCRW fellows Ali Rosa-Salas, Nicci Yin, and Sydnie Mosley use their various artistic practices as feminist and social justice-oriented work. Participants will form a learning community using and expanding upon creative tools offered by the facilitators to envision and imagine new forms of social justice feminisms.

2:00 PM – 2:30 PM

2:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Transforming Justice: Race, Sex, and Economics

Kim Hall (moderator), Elizabeth Bernstein, Linda Burnham, Lisa Duggan, Reina Gossett, Amber Hollibaugh, Connie Razza, Neferti Tadiar
This panel develops research and organizing frameworks that make visible the relationship between sex, gender, race, and other forms of social identity in the pursuit of economic justice. Each panelist will offer a short response rooted in their extensive work in these areas, followed by dialogue with the audience. Questions will be shared in advance on Twitter using the hashtag #JJsymposium.

4:00 PM – 4:30 PM

4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Sexual Freedom/Religious Freedom

Elizabeth Castelli (moderator), Rebecca Alpert, Katherine Franke, Laura Levitt, Afsaneh Najambadi, Ann Pellegrini, Josef Sorett
The panel will explore the tensions and intersections of religious freedom and sexual freedom as they manifest themselves in different ways in the scholarly, pedagogical, and activist contexts in which we work.

6:00 PM – 6:30 PM

Introduction by Pamela Phillips, Remarks by Janet Jakobsen

The Barnard Center for Research on Women engages our communities through programming, projects, and publications that advance intersectional social justice feminist analyses and generate concrete steps toward social transformation.

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