There were some amazing names present at the conference — women whose writings I've read and been moved by; women I've read about as ground-breaking in the field. It was really nice to be able to meet them, even if some of it was just a handshake and a sincere, "Thank you so much for your books — they really inspired me!" I know how thrilled I am when people say they like something I wrote, so I figure acknowledging our gratitude to our foremothers for their efforts on our behalf is the least we can do to say thanks! ;) I think I surprised one of them, in fact, by telling her it was thanks to her that my mind had changed on what I consider some fairly critical subjects. I got the impression she thought I'd come into the ITP program already a strong feminist — which I fear I emphatically was not.

There were some excellent presentations offered, although unfortunately I could only see a few, and hear about a few more. I'll have to go to the schedule to remember them all. Of particular note to me, however, was the art track I attended on Friday, after my presentation. I was impressed once again with how powerfully art speaks to people on a different level than voice or reading. I also saw PowerPoint presentations used well — both to punctuate presentations before large crowds, and to demonstrate art. Indeed, one artist's work was extremely powerfully shown in that way — she had such personal, raw, vulnerable art that it was impossible for her audience not to connect with it on one level or another, I think. I know I found it quite moving — the only thing that moved me more was Jennifer Berezan's singing on the last evening. We all ended up singing the last chorus along with her, hand in hand in a long and intertwining snake-like chain of women weaving around Jennifer and the tables and each other as we sang. I don't know what it is about her music, but seeing her singing the beautiful "Praises to the World" always gets me choked up from an odd mix of happiness and longing.

There were all kinds of tracks! There were tracks on archaeomythology, matriarchal studies, artistic research paradigms, methodologies old and new… it was incredibly fascinating, and I really wish I could have seen them all, instead of just a tiny handful of presenters. I'm definitely going to have to get the book of the proceedings, especially since the videographers — while quite good — were only able to attend one track at a time as well.

Oh! I had one truly wonderful thing happen while at the conference! I'm in my second year of doctoral work, and only recently was I told that my dissertation has to be at least 90% different from my thesis — arrrgh! I wish I'd been told that the day I first started advisement, rather than just before my last semester of classwork! I found this out in the week or so before the conference, and been rather shocked and stymied on what the hell my dissertation would be about — especially since I'd been collecting data on what I'd thought would be my dissertation subject, all of which was now horribly obsolete! So I decided not to fret about it but rather to simply be in the moment this weekend so I could fully enjoy the conference.

I had a wonderful revelation during the conference, though, on what my dissertation could be about! It was while I was listening to a fascinating talk by a feminist sociologist from Austria, who was relating information on how damaging the nuclear family is for women and children — I had not realized that statistically the most dangerous place for children is their own homes! She was noting that it would be much safer for both women and children if we lived according to more matriarchal principles — and it suddenly hit me — here, for the first time: I had actual, qualitative, empirical data on this subject!

Just to be clear: when I use the term "matriarchy," I really really do NOT want or mean some sick mirror-opposite of patriarchy with women on top instead of men — no! Horrible idea. Instead I mean matriarchy in the sense used by both modern matriarchal societies (and there are lots more still in existence than you may have realized!), and by their preeminent Western scholar, Heide Göttner-Abendroth: a society based in principles of gender egalitarianism, economic reciprocity, social kinship (even if fictive), and political consensus. I really strongly urge you, if you're not familiar with such societies, to read up on them — they're fascinating and encouraging and eye-opening! If you're interested, check out Göttner-Abendroth's Societies of Peace: Matriarchies Past Present & Future, which is a collection of essays based on the presentations offered at the most recent Matriarchal Congress in, um… drat, blanking on the year. It was less than five years ago, though, so it's still extremely up to date! ;)

I've often idly wished we could shift over to perhaps a more Mosuo-style living arrangement (see, frex, Yang Erche Namu & Christine Mathieu's fascinating book Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World), but understood that as a technological society we had no pressing need to do so — therefore most likely we wouldn't change. Now, though, there are scientific studies that clearly show not only that the way we're living now is both physically and psychologically damaging to ourselves and to our environment — but also that there's a way to live which has been scientifically proven to work better for us — all of us! What I think we now really need is strong, hard data on how to start this ground-breaking cultural change — I can do that! I believe I could write it out well: an empirically-supported explanation of how damaging the way we live now is, several examples of modern matriarchal societies and enclaves and how much healthier they are, maybe interviews with some of the amazing women and men associated with these studies and societies — and then the actual steps people can take to start the shift over into more culturally matrifocused lives! I'm so excited about this possible dissertation topic! Sure hope my prof likes it too!

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