Girlhood Gang 2018: Young women and girls in Contemporary Scotland and Beyond conference.

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The Girlhood Gang are a group of feminist social scientists who are here to shake up the Scottish feminist scene and yesterday they hosted their first conference in the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library! Made up of Hannah Walters, Amanda Ptolomey and Donna MacLellan, the Girlhood Gang are a feminist collective interested in exploring the experiences, identities and perspectives of young women and girls. Their overall aim is to understand and ultimately celebrate girlhood through inclusive events, research and projects. All three are working on their own unique areas of research and what brings them together is their hunger for creating inclusive spaces to explore, learn and grow.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? This imposter thing we, as humans, struggle with sometimes. Prior to attending yesterday’s annual conference with the Girlhood Gang, I would’ve felt like I wasn’t ‘qualified enough’ to exist in that space or to have a valid voice in that space or that others would maybe think I was a fraud for attending.

Truth is, it was all in my head and this ‘imposter syndrome’ and the feeling that we are underqualified to have a valid voice in certain spaces is something which lives within all of us at some point along the way. A good example of this from yesterday’s event is when opening keynote speaker Dr Susan Batchelor who is a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow and has been involved in some insanely impressive projects and work (general super fancy pants in the eyes of someone like me!) said she wasn’t super confident about public speaking. It just goes to show that irrespective of where we come from or what experience we have, we all have uncertainties about our ability to share these experiences with others in a public space.

I felt it important though to share my experience from the day. I really learnt a lot and I’m glad I decided to put my sassy pants on and go along! I left feeling full of ideas, in awe of the people I’d met and full of fresh ambition to do more and be more. My voice IS important and valid in ALL spaces.

The day started with an opening keynote speech from the lovely Dr Susan Batchelor who I mentioned before. Susan explained that she had introduced the Girlhood Gang members to each other. Her experience is broad but something which I noted down as she spoke was this: “Policies and practices aren’t being informed by contemporary women in Scotland but by old research data.” She thinks a more holistic approach to gather information is required. It was refreshing to hear from Susan that she has been into prisons and spoken with women directly about their experiences growing up and noticing the direct correlation between the destructive path they end up on and the violence they experienced or witnessed in the family home when growing up.

After this, we heard from a panel who were asked to consider what successful integration of theory and practice look like. The panel’s experience, knowledge and backgrounds were very different. The panel featured Dr Victoria Cann, Dr Phillippa Wiseman, Dr Dawn Murray and Julia Zauner. Chaired by the lovely Girhood Gang member Amanda, the panel questioned whether we should be engaging with individuals in more emotional ways. For me, I feel like we should be taking the dialogues about policy making into more accessible spaces. I think that lack of accessibility to these conversations is a major barrier. By accessible, I don’t mean a library or educational spaces but literally on the streets or into the communities who are most affected by the changes required.

I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this!

After this interesting chat, we then heard from Julia individually who set up The Empower Project. The EP seeks to explore sexual identity in a safe space. They look at image-based abuse, gender hate speech via technology and tech abuse in general. They hold workshops to talk about these issues and also ask questions about what’s in a healthy body image which I found super interesting. There’s just so much in it.

After Julia’s talk, we headed to the nearby Olympia building where we heard from someone I majorly fangirled all day… the lovely Jenn Glinski. Jenn has a very unique heritage. Part German and part American, she now calls Glasgow home. For now. Jenn is also a PHD academic and her research is around economic abuse and the cost of leaving. She revealed some pretty shocking statistics. As someone who has ran events which address financial abuse in relationships and domestic abuse in general, I couldn’t believe the societal inequalities which still exist between men and women with regards to the gender pay gap but also the language we are exposed to when describing how men and women handle money.

Firstly, to touch on some of Jenn’s stats, it is reported that 90% of domestic abuse survivors say they’ve experienced economic abuse.

This can include:

  • Refusing access to bank accounts
  • Preventing her from employment / education
  • Controlling all finances

With regards to our societal issue which still exists in the form of the gender pay gap, I can’t believe there’s still so much work to do. In 2018, women in Scotland earn, on average, £182.90 less per week than men. The age group of 16-24 experience the largest pay gap and returning back to work after maternity leave can be tricky for new mum’s as more often than not, they are put in a more junior role than they left.

It was also new for me to consider the differing language which is used in magazines and in the media to describe men with money and women with money. Adjectives such as investment, power, spend and growth are used to describe men’s money habits and words such as vouchers, bargains, discounts and savings are used to describe women and money which sends repetitive messages to us about the difference in financial abilities based on gender. It horrified me once I considered how much I’ve been exposed to it! Had you noticed this before? Or now that it’s been pointed out, are you more aware?

I guess the last thing to mention about the day is the last discussion I made it along to and that was a panel discussion around young women, girls and the media. This opened up topics around the fact that we all ‘live in public’… do you think that’s true? So much of our lives are documented on social media that we really do play out our lives via our screens. It got me wondering how we keen ourselves safe and authentic online while also becoming our own personal brand.

Anyway, I’d like to thank the girls of the Girlhood Gang and the wider feminist community of Scotland for facilitating such a thought provoking and inspiring event. What a pleasure to be surrounded from such big plans and goals.

Until the next time!

Mandy @ TEWP x




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