Imagine a space where feminism and family intersect. Where people from all walks of life get together to discuss—productively—the changing face of what constitutes a family, how they’re “made,” what they need to thrive and succeed and the various obstacles in their way. Where the topics tackled move beyond the work/life balance trope that, while certainly important, is trotted out way too frequently, and delve into more nuanced ones such as stigma, teen pregnancy/parenthood, birth equity, incarcerated motherhood, infertility, mental illness, loss and so much more. Imagine hearing from voices not normally given space and platforms in mainstream outlets. And imagine free childcare, delicious food and connecting with a bunch of fabulous people.
I’ve been imagining something like this for a long time. And now, it’s a reality. Along with a handful of other fabulous feminists, I’m proud and excited to present the (un)Conference on Feminist Families, Equity and Experiences aka COFFEE, April 9-10 at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. From policies to grassroots activism, from pregnancy/birth to birth control and abortion, from the changing face of what it means to make a family to bringing more diverse voices to the forefront, COFFEE will be the space and place where all things family, feminism, experience and activism intersect.
As someone who speaks occasionally at feminist conferences, I’ve found that while there’s always some space to discuss issues impacting families, it’s never really the focus. Feminism in general has also always struggled with how best to address issues related to families, especially in the shadow of fighting for a woman’s right to separate herself from identifying solely as a mother or wife. But with so many parents fighting for feminism and claiming the identity, it’s clear that for many, feminism and family are inextricably interlinked and that there can be so much progress if we devote some time, energy and attention to working together to support families.
I’ve been a longtime attendee and speaker at Hampshire College’s Civil Liberties and Public Policy’s (CLPP) annual conference, “From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom.” The last few years, my panels and workshops have centered around—what else?—issues related to the family. From the representation of teen mothers in mainstream media to how to bring social justice to the dinner table, I always wondered how my topics would be received. And yet, year after year, we packed in classrooms and lecture halls, sometimes with folks squished up against windows, standing in the back and possibly breaking a fire code or two. There were always a few people who stayed behind, wanting to keep the conversation going well beyond when our time was up. And so, with COFFEE, we’ve decided to keep the conversation going.
We have looked toward CLPP as our mentor and have accepted their support in helping us host our inaugural event. Registration is now open, but attendance is limited. And yes, we’ll have free childcare, delicious food, and provide the opportunity for folks passionate about families to come together to brainstorm ways to make things more equitable and accessible for all.