Friday, March 27, 2009

Women! Action! Media!

Spring is sprung. The grass is riz. Do you wonder where the media-savvy feminists is?

Wonder no more--they're descending on MIT's Stata Center today, for the Center for New Words' annual Women, Action and the Media conference, otherwise known as WAM! (Exclamation point included.) Women are pouring into Cambridge in droves even as I type. With the keynote address just a few hours away, they're Twittering up a storm, and you can follow them here.

I have had mixed feelings about WAM! since I arrived in Boston a number of years ago, a very green freelance writer, and spent an afternoon volunteering there in between exhausting catering shifts, in the hope that I might get a chance to do some good-old-girls networking. My job was passing out name tags to attending journos. I was desperate to get some non-food-service-related work and trying not to let it show, so of course it was humiliating, as was pretty much every interaction I had with professional writers at the time. (I remember a particularly galling MediaBistro event in which somebody asked me why the hell I didn't just move to some shitty town in Texas if I wanted to be a reporter. I think I had Crisco on my sleeve from making whoopie pies all afternoon.)

Naturally, none of this was WAM!'s fault. But I must say, it didn't strike me as being all that useful to a woman on fire to get some hot media action. In fact, from my outsider's seat by the check-in table, it struck me as having rather a high wankery-to-usefulness ratio. I haven't been back.

Incidentally, the theme of WAM! this year is Inside/Outside. I remain conflicted as to whether WAM! is friend or foe to the likes of me--a woman, mirable dictu, in the media, generally perplexed and disgusted with the way news outlets are always brimming with amazement that women are considered people, but with little interest in joining feminist-theory circle-jerks. (Full disclosure: I went to Smith College, where even the campus squirrels have feminist-theory circle-jerks. The allure of that kind of thing wore off after a year or two.)

Recently, Women Do reader Jezzica threw down a gauntlet. Was I going to WAM!, she wanted to know. And if not, why not?

Alas, I am not. I shudder to give you my excuses. They are stereotypically female in the extreme. But I told Jezzica I would, and so I must.

1. Women Are At Economic Risk. The conference costs almost $200. I am embarrassed to say how much of my average monthly take-home pay that is. I thought of putting up a PayPal link, a la Ana Marie Cox, but I am betting that me liveblogging WAM! is a matter of far less interest to the general populace than getting Wonkette onto the McCain campaign plane.

2. Women Spend An Inordinate Amount Of Time Sewing and Cooking and Washing Things. I signed up months ago for a sewing class that meets tomorrow. I am making a dress for the baby. Even thus do women take the fetters that hold them fast and bind them upon the tender limbs of their daughters.

3. Women Are Altruistic. On Sunday, I am going to Canton to get volunteer training from the Neponset Watershed Association in how to raise purple-loosestrife-eating beetles in my backyard. For the good of all.

4. Women Sacrifice Their Careers For Their Children. There is the matter of my full-time job, which mostly consists of shoveling various substances into and out of a small helpless person. It's not gonna do itself.

So sorry to disappoint, Jezzica. But we are hosting a WAM!-er over the weekend, a friend of my S.O.'s from out of town. I promise to pick her brains and report back.


  1. It's OK. Your community must be grateful for your beetle-breeding! Of course it's unfortunate you didn't get to be one of my Blog Celebrity Sightings ("OMG, guys, look over there, it's the Women Do lady!") to tick off like so many squares of Bingo but I had Sarah Haskins and Julia Serano so I was good.
    Also, the first time I heard that perfect "wankery-to-usefulness ratio" phrase was in a Weekly Dig review of my friend's band. It is so often le mot juste.
    Smith College sent a small tribe of glowing, empowered young women to the conference and I could not doubt for a moment that they are the Leaders of Tomorrow.

  2. You are way too kind.

    It's possible I've begun repeating myself. Or that I unconsciously stole that phrase from somebody at the Dig. It's been years since I sat next to Michael Brodeur all day, but I am still talking about "magical wizard poop."