WAM! Wrapup

by Sarah J.

I survived WAM! 2009. More importantly, I had a wonderful time. Meeting and connecting with women I’ve looked up to for years (Abby Scher , Sarah Posner , Julia Serano ) and bloggers I love (Jill, Cara and Jack from Feministe, Sally from Jump Off the Bridge, Tammy from Bitch) in a space where everyone talks to everyone and new friendships form as quickly on Twitter as they did in the halls was inspiring.

Speaking of Twitter, the WAM Twitter stream can be viewed here. Watching the organic growth of the Twitter feed was especially amazing to me–I was live-tweeting the panels I was at and reading the feeds from panels I was missing, watching women re-tweeting blurbs from each other across panels, adding new followers, messaging each other, googling supplementary info and adding it to the feed in real time…Twitter as a tool for activists has never been so real to me.

The panels I caught were truly amazing–and I’m not just saying that. I know a few people were less than thrilled with some of the panels they attended, but I think I chose well.

My first panel was the Gender, Non-Conformity and the Media panel with Julia Serano, Jack from Feministe, Miriam from Feministing, and Kate Bovitch. I was truly impressed with the panelists and the audience at this one. So often discussions of transgender and genderqueer issues end up being 101-style, but this conversation truly moved beyond that and encompassed a wide variety of topics, from media portrayals to interpersonal relationships.

Next, I hit the Women’s Voices and New Media Policy panel, probably my wonkiest of the weekend. I’m a media policy nerd because I’m a huge believer in independent publications like BUST and think that the ownership of the media has a huge impact on what we see in the media. Also, I believe media literacy is something we all need more of. Mari Castaneda , Josh Breitbart , and Stevie Converse and Jordan Berg from Free Press explained new media policy and why it is important to bridge the digital divide and create an equitable media environment.

My third panel was mind-blowing and political in a different way–Rebecca Traister of Salon , Lisa Stone of BlogHer and Mikki Halpin talked about women in political journalism. Our discussion was firey and inspiring. Audience members argued with panelists, panelists argued with each other, and generally we disproved the lie that women cannot have robust, vigorous political debate with one another without things getting personal.

I had lunch and dinner with fabulous and inspiring women, and then passed out early to prep for another day of panel awesomeness. Sunday morning I hit the Women and Investigative Journalism panel, with Sarah Posner, Sabrina Hersi Issa , Adele Stan and Silja Talvi. These women, once again, were inspiring, discussing the perils–and advantages–for women working in investigative journalism, undercover and otherwise.

Finally and perhaps best of all, I went to the panel on women and the economic crisis. Susan Feiner, Abby Scher, Julia Hollar of FAIR and Darlene Lombos discussed how the economic crisis, tax policy, financial journalism and union organizing are women’s issues and how women need to arm themselves with better information to counteract the failing coverage in the mainstream media. Our discussion again grew spirited and passionate, with women from the U.S. and Canada discussing policy and journalistic principles and how media coverage will affect that policy.

The challenge for all of us now is to maintain the energy and conversations started at WAM for the next year until the next conference. Inspiration is, in so many ways, the easy part. 

Much more can be found on my Twitter feed and I encourage interested readers to check the #wam09 Twitter feed. Coverage of all the panels can be found there, as well as dialogue.

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