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UB symposium on women and gender explores alliances that respect differences

Women activists of Khawateen Mahaz-e-Amal protest against extremism and dictatorship during a rally held in Lahore, Pakistan, several years ago on National Women's Day.

By BERT GAMBINI

Published April 6, 2016

“It’s a Utopian effort and at the same time a pragmatic effort to encourage, illuminate and celebrate diversity while also building alliances among people who are different.”
Kari Winter, professor of transnational studies and director
UB Gender Institute

Since 2004, Gender Across Borders (GAB), one of the UB Gender Institute’s signature symposia, has addressed a different border-crossing theme related to women’s studies.

In honor of UB’s proximity to Canada and its location relative to historic Native American lands, GAB has used the reality of those physical borders to inspire conversations on the kinds of borders crucial to the field of women’s studies.

This year’s symposium, “Forging Alliances/Vive les differences,” will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. April 8 at the South Lake Community Center on the university’s North Campus.

“What we’re doing this year is exploring the fundamental question of how alliances are forged — without ignoring or erasing differences,” says Kari Winter, professor of transnational studies and director of the Gender Institute.

Winter says balancing the points of solidary with the many divisions has been a perennial issue of women’s rights.

“Finding that balance is important for many different kinds of movements,” she says. “It’s a Utopian effort and at the same time a pragmatic effort to encourage, illuminate and celebrate diversity while also building alliances among people who are different.”

Since the emergence of post-World War II feminist movements, some of the most bitter controversies have been over sexuality, according to Winter. Going back to the 19th century, she says, there was a strong divide on issues related to racial politics.

“How can you build a women’s movement to fight for women’s rights across those lines of difference — not just sexuality and politics, but race, class, nationality and religion?”

For more than a decade, GAB has offered a response to that question.

This year’s symposium will feature a panel of younger women, graduate students and an assistant professor, talking about the most urgent issues facing feminism today.

Martha McCluskey, professor of law and William J. Magavern Fellow, will present this year’s Distinguished Lecture on Women and Labor.

“We’re also presenting our first mentoring award for excellence in mentoring to Susan Cahn, UB professor of history,” says Winter. “We worked for over a year with an interdisciplinary committee to build this mentoring award as a way of not only honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals but also promoting a university culture that recognizes mentoring as a crucial component of our collective work.”

Winter also will moderate a panel of three Muslim women activists, led by Nadia Shahram, a local attorney. Also as part of that panel, Jennifer Gaynor, UB assistant professor of history, will discuss Muslim women activists in the United Kingdom and Filomena Critelli, UB associate professor of social work, will talk about Muslim women activists in Pakistan.

“I’m excited about each of the four components of the program, but my heart is particularly invested right now in the importance of solidarity of all women with Muslim women activists,” says Winter. “This is a group that’s embattled from the outside because they’re Muslims and from the inside because they’re women activists.”

Gender Across Borders 2016 is free and open to the public, and includes a complimentary lunch.

A complete event schedule with participant biographies is available on line.