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Conference to address gender and childhood

| Thursday, December 4, 2014

schedule_12-4-2014Sam Coughlin
“Fun with Dick and Jane: Gender and Childhood,” an international conference sponsored primarily by the Gender Studies Program, will bring together undergraduate students, graduate students and professors Thursday through Saturday to address society’s interest in gender and childhood using interdisciplinary approaches.

“This conference in particular is important because it is a conference about childhood and gender experience,” senior Marcilena Shaeffer, a presenter in one of two undergraduate panels, said. “I think it is important to stop and reflect on what forces were at play during those key years in our development and how other people’s assumptions on how we should be ended up having an effect on us.”

Professor Pamela Wojcik, director of the Gender Studies Program at Notre Dame, played a crucial role in planning this conference and brought together speakers from the Notre Dame community as well as speakers from all over and outside the country.

“It takes a long time to plan a conference. It’s been in progress since last winter,” Wojcik said.

Wojcik said this conference is relevant in every student’s life and stressed that one does not have to be affiliated with or study gender studies to attend.

“I think this conference works both on an academic and real world level,” Wojcik said. “I think it’s also the moment when the issues that will be talked about in terms of gender and childhood are very real in culture.”

The three-day conference will consist of panels covering topics including transgender identity, fairytales, toys and Disney princesses, as well as two undergraduate panels with students from Notre Dame and other universities.

“I’ve never presented at a conference, and this is my first really intense academic engagement with gender studies issues,” Shaeffer said. “I’m an outsider to all of this, but gender studies, I think, is inherently interdisciplinary.”

Junior Colton Williamson, who will present a paper on sexuality in the film “The 400 Blows,” said he has a particular interest in gender studies because it ties in with his other interest, film.

“Beyond giving a few presentations in my classes, I’ve never actually spoken at a conference,” Williamson said. “I don’t have much of a concrete background in gender studies, but I have always been interested in cinema, and a big part of film analysis now involves looking at films through a gendered lens.”

Senior Rae Moors, who will discuss illustrations in children’s books, said the conference will provide an opportunity for her to connect two disciplines.

“I’ve always been interested in gender studies and in visual art,” Moors said. “This conference just happened to be an excellent intersection of the two disciplines, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to participate as well as attend.”

Shaeffer said the conference will benefit anyone who attends regardless of their field of study.

“It is important for students to attend this conference not only in an attempt to supplement or improve their academic pursuits, but also [to pursue] that intense self-awareness and self-consciousness we should all strive for,” she said.






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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

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