Wilkes University


Wilkes University Holds 2018 Women’s and Gender Studies Conference Program on April 9-10

Wilkes University, in collaboration with King’s College, presents the annual 2018 Women’s and Gender Studies Conference Program on April 9-10 on the Wilkes campus. This year’s keynote speaker is Aphra Behn of the Guerrilla Girls on Tour.

Behn will present PUSH/PUSHBACK – 9 Steps to make a difference with art and activism at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 9 in the ballroom of the Henry Student Center. Her talk will challenge participants to use the tactics of the Guerrilla Girls in their own lives to address social issues and to identify as activist, artists and feminist. The Guerrilla Girls are a group of feminist activists who expose sexism in the art world.

The theme of this year’s two-day conference is The Art of Activism. It was inspired by the ways people use art to draw attention to unjust social conditions and to affect change. This past year has been filled with people using their talents to create poems, songs and even clothing to draw attention to sexism, racism, rape culture and political policies that threaten human rights.

The conference is free and open to the public with registration beginning at 9 a.m. on April 9 on the second floor of the Henry Students Center, 84 W. South St. For more information about the conference, visit https://www.wilkes.edu.

Behn will share her experiences as a feminist activist over the past 20 years and read from her memoir, UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl on Tour. Behn joined the Guerrilla Girls in 1997 and led their foray into attacking discrimination in the theatre world. The Guerrilla Girls were established in the 80s and are a group of anonymous women who take the names of historical female artists as their avatar.  They wear gorilla masks in public to maintain their anonymity. Behn travels the world with the group to address issues like reproductive rights and an end to violence against women.

Behn is also holding a poster-making workshop for conference attendees from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 9 in the Miller Room, Henry Student Center. This workshop uses the methods and mentality of the Guerrilla Girls style of activism. The Guerrilla Girls are known for using wit to point out the inequities in the art world and beyond, and the workshop is for students and campus members to learn about this unique form of activism during a year where activism has been embraced on a grassroots level across the country. Since the Women's March in 2017, protest posters are now included in museum exhibitions and collections across the country.  This ground was laid by the Guerrilla Girls whose bumper stickers, posters and apparel have been featured in museums for years.

The conference features presenters from Luzerne County Community College, Marywood University, and University of Pennsylvania joining presenters from Wilkes and King’s. Presentations are from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday explore issues such as women in education, maternity and paternity leave, domestic abuse, women’s healthcare, body positivity and human trafficking.

Conference highlights include:

  • Monday, April 9
    • Abigail Glynn, Erika Luton and Kendra Kenney of King’s College will present Benefits of Maternity and Paternity Leave. These students will lead a panel discussion from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. in the ballroom. They will present why maternity and paternity leave are necessities for parenthood and how as a nation we are behind other countries.
  • Nancy Ramirez and Samantha Hilenski, students of Wilkes University, will present Human Trafficking from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. in the Miller Room. They will discuss the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one county or area to another for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. There are at least 12.3 million people worldwide who are victims of forced labor with California, Texas and Florida being the top three states with the most reported cases of human trafficking in 2017.
  • Tuesday, April 9
    • A session from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. in the Miller Room titled Understanding the Exploitation of Women: Violence Child Marriage, and Media by students from Wilkes University including Jerome Hannon, Victoria Soares, Elyssa McManus, Zawadi Nshimirimana, Adrianna Fiore and Alyson Tacury will discuss intimate partner violence, child marriage and how women are portrayed in media.
  • Evolutionor Revolution? Michael R. Berry of King’s College will present Feminism in the Superhero Genre from Wonder Woman to Ms. Marvel. He will read his paper that examines how portrayals of characters in the superhero genre have either aligned or diverged from the feminist movement. This discussion is from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. in the ballroom.

This year marks the seventh collaboration between Wilkes University and King’s College in organizing the Women’s and Gender Studies conference. The conference is organized by Nicole Mares, director of women’s studies at King’s College, and Jennifer Thomas, director of women’s and gender studies at Wilkes University.