How to Plan a Feminist Conference (Without Really Trying), or, BlogJam 2016 Notes from a Feminist Killjoy

BlogJam Recap Time!

BlogJam 2016 was almost three weeks ago and I’m still getting my bearings again after the whirlwind of planning and hosting such an incredible event. Overall, I think it was a resounding success and I know my teammates and I are already looking forward to ways we can build and improve on the event for 2017.

Rather than gush too much about what a great event it ended up being – and it was largely thanks to our amazing volunteers, speakers, sponsors and participants –  I wanted, instead, to shed some light on something that is, personally, a very important part of BlogJam Atlantic but that wasn’t, and isn’t, necessarily highlighted as an aspect of the event. Specifically, I’m talkin’ feminism.

My personal brand of feminism is intersectional and inclusive. (I believe feminism isn’t for everyone – it’s for women – but it does benefit everyone…Eventually. The ultimate goal is a society of equals regardless of gender, culture, race, socio-economic background, etc. BUT, that’s a post for another day!)

So, for me, BlogJam 2016 needed to be both woman-powered and inclusive in as many ways as possible.

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Female Keynote

Erica Ehm was an amazing choice for a Keynote speaker. Not only is she a badass blogging wizard, but she demonstrates how women can be successful in this industry while balancing career, family, events, partnerships, and all the other amazing endeavours she pursues.

Diversity of Speakers

BlogJam had a strong female representation, don’t get be wrong, but what enhanced the speaker’s line up was that it also included men. Sounds contradictory? It shouldn’t! We all have stories to tell and this event welcomed the voices of all, regardless of gender, culture, race, or any of the other factors with which we are generally divided. And don’t worry, the voices of our female presenters will continue to be amplified at future BlogJams to come.

Diversity of Participants

Ditto for participants. I was beyond thrilled to see such a range of genders, ages, abilities, and experiences.

Accessibility

We wanted to ensure that the space was accessible to varying mobility needs. While Pier 21 itself is accessible, I will admit to wanting to do more to be accommodating and inclusive in this regard. BlogJam is going to continue to grow and that means making sure that all participants can experience every element of the event comfortably.

We were also able to accommodate babes in arms and breastfeeding, which is a really important way our event empowers women and participants in general.

Accessibility also means affordability of the event. We worked hard to get sponsorship and create partnerships that would allow us to keep the price of the event low for participants while still delivering awesome content. Anyone for whom the cost was still out of reach was welcome to join us as a volunteer – an offer we’ll continue to extend to future participants.

The BlogJam Unofficial Code of Conduct

While we have yet to ratify anything as the BlogJam Atlantic Management Team, we do operate by a Code of Conduct that aligns and supports my scheming, bra-burning feminist agenda. Some of my favourite highlights are:

Commitment to a Safe Community

  • BlogJam Atlantic will not tolerate any harassment or inappropriate physical conduct, sexual attention, objectification, or threatening of any participant at any time
  • While dialogue is encouraged, sustained disruption or deliberate interruption of speakers/conversations is not permitted
  • Like the blogging community, BlogJam seeks to showcase and welcome the diverse community of its audience regardless of gender, age, (dis)ability, physical appearance, intellectual ability, ethnicity, or religion

Commitment to Inclusion

  • Whenever possible, the costs associated with attending this event will not be prohibitive to participants of any economic status with provisions being made for anyone who wishes to attend
  • The event is hosted in a mobility-friendly, accessible space
  • Participants requiring additional support to attend the event will be accommodated as much as possible (support personnel, interpreters, printed material, etc.)
  • The event welcomes all individuals and respects all forms of gender identity or expressions of gender or orientation and is LGBTQ2+ safe

(Don’t worry, we’ve got some other clauses thrown in there to protect the environment and some other stuff too.)

The Team

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What’s a feminist conference without a team of strong, smart, creative women at the helm?

For many of us, so much of this is common sense. Unfortunately, it’s for that very reason that it’s so easy to let these pieces fall by the wayside when planning events. We need to be conscientious of all of these (feminist) factors to make sure that all voices are included and heard.

I believe doing so will improve the experiences of all our events.

I’m so proud of our team, the volunteers and speakers, and everyone who helped contribute to the positive outcomes of BlogJam 2016. Did you attend? I’d love to hear what you thought!

So, who’s ready for next year?

Krista

A Love Letter to the Creative Souls

Dear Creative Souls,

Thank you for hosting and organizing and contributing to an amazing event. Being able to travel to Port Hood Cape Breton last month to attend my first Creative Soul Weekend was a definite highlight for me.

I loved being greeted with hugs, wine, food, flowers and even a delightful welcome gift – personalized just for me!

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You couldn’t have chosen a more perfect location. The sea breeze and hot sun complemented both the outdoor and indoor activities, and brought a lovely sense of closure to the end of the summer.

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The views and vistas inspired conversation and creation. I loved being silly by the seashore.

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Accommodating our different personalities and talents fostered an environment in which we were free to stray from the instructions. You know I hate being told what to do – even if that means accidentally painting something that looks like a big…you know…

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We got to play scientist and play artist and play fashion designer. And then we learned that we actually are all those things. (Some of us more than others. Okay, okay. Everyone more than me. lol)

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Contributing to a group endeavour – even one as inconsequential as a drawing – opened a window into the minds of other creatives. Solo projects are fun but magic happens when many minds come together to create.

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Sometimes it’s easy to forget what is sparked when we experience something different and new. I appreciated the reminder and the gift of the art that lasted beyond the weekend.

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You are the artists, the story tellers, the music makers, the pun slingers, the photo takers, and the joy bringers.

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I can’t wait to see what we create together next year.

(Creative Soul Weekend is the brainchild of Leah Noble and Emily Rankin. If you ever have the opportunity to attend such an inspiring and wonderful event, I can’t encourage you more.)

Krista

 

Getting Hands-On with Hands-On Halifax

You probably don’t know this, but I’m a pretty handy gal. I’ve moved around a fair amount and thus refined my skills with an Allen key. (Really though, as long as you have a rubber mallet, an Allen key, and live near an Ikea, you can be a furniture assembly expert.)

I do know the basics about hanging curtains, installing shelves, and painting, but I have virtually no experience with more complicated power tools.

Enter Hands-On Halifax. Among some other, more advanced, workshops, they offer a standard Power Tools 101 class. They provide an opportunity to get hands-on with some equipment that, while useful, is generally expensive and intimidating — they aren’t the kind of tools that you pick up at the hardware store on a whim. When my friend Heather shared the workshop opportunity, I jumped at the chance. For only $50 for the afternoon, I left feeling like I was on my way to being the next Bob Vila!

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I arrived early, just bouncing with excitement to start learning some skillz with the array of tools. Our instructor, Russell, started the class with a brief outline of the tools we planned to cover.

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Russell was so patient and knowledgeable. He did a great job of reviewing all the basics of each tool before giving each student a turn to use it. Fortunately, our class was small with only 5 of us so my impatient side was appeased and there was plenty of time to get my hands dirty.

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Look at me go! It was intimidating at first. I’m generally accident-prone so having something so dangerous and powerful was a bit scary. Fortunately, Russell provided very clear guidance as to how to hold the tool, how to move with it, where to stand to see clearly, etc. It was great.

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Not to toot my own horn, but I basically made a perfect cut with the circular saw. NBD. (Just kidding. I was so excited that I kept this piece for a souvenir!)

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The table saw is terrifying – even with all the safety measures in place. I’m thankful for the opportunity to try it but I’m not sure it’s going to be my go-to piece of equipment anytime soon.

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I was most excited to try a scroll saw and so happy that Russell was open to accommodating the addition to the lesson plan. It ended up being my favourite tool and I am keen to learn more and practice with it again soon.

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My first scroll saw heart! I’m super proud of it.

Overall, I left the class feeling super empowered to be able to take on some (small, for now) wood working endeavours. I’m itching to return to Hands-On soon to take advantage of their community times.  Plus, you know how I feel about community building.

On a feminist note, power tools and workshops are not traditionally associated with women but Hands-On does a great job of creating a space where all participants feel welcome, regardless of gender. So, be brave, gals! There’s space for you in the world of power tools!

Krista