Executive Board Statement about 2017 Conference at East Carolina University

Console-ing Passions Executive Board Statement on Decision to Go Forward with 2017 Conference at Eastern Carolina University

Published October 23, 2016

 

Decision

The Console-ing Passions Executive Board stands firmly against HB2, a North Carolina law that prevents transgender people from using government-run bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.  The Board is a collective of scholars and artists focused on feminist and queer approaches to media.  As such, we value and support members of the LGBTQIA community and are committed to fostering an intellectual community that engages in critical discussions of power, privilege, and oppression.  After thoughtful debate and discussion among ourselves, as well as in consultation with the 2017 Conference Organizing Committee and LBGTQIA activists in North Carolina, the Board has decided the 2017 conference at East Carolina University should proceed under the Console-ing Passions banner with the addition of several initiatives that will ensure more involvement of and support for LGBTQIA conference attendees as well as local businesses and activists actively opposed to the HB2 law.  We believe that sponsoring a conference about gender and media in North Carolina affirms our support of the LGBTQIA community. To proceed with the conference there is to challenge HB2 precisely where it is being enforced, demonstrating our defiance of that law and our commitment to creating places where such discriminatory legislation is critically interrogated.

 

 

Rationale

The Console-ing Passions Executive Board’s approval to hold the 2017 conference at East Carolina University was made a year before the approval of North Carolina’s HB2 law.  Because of Console-ing Passions’ mission to provide supportive spaces for feminist media scholarship, art, and activism, the Board became concerned about holding a Console-ing Passions conference in North Carolina after the HB2 law was passed and a series of companies and organizations boycotted the state. Additionally, several media scholars told Board members they would not be attending the conference in support of this boycott and in defiance of the law.  The Board asked the 2017 Conference Organizing Committee how they plan to organize the conference as a welcoming and supportive space, not just for LGBTQI attendees coming from outside the state, but also for the large number of local LGBTQI faculty, staff, students, and their allies who plan to participate in the conference.  The Organizing Committee responded with great care and thoughtfulness, highlighting several strategies they have developed to ensure that the 2017 Console-ing Passions conference is a place for such support as well as a place to critically analyze HB2 (see below). The Board sought further advice from the Campaign for Southern Equality (an LGBTQIA activist group), which informed us that LGBTQI people in North Carolina have not called for a boycott of North Carolina and are encouraging organizations holding events in the state to directly engage HB2. We believe that the 2017 Console-ing Passions conference at East Carolina University will do so with great passion and intent, and we applaud the Organizing Committee to committing fully to this mission.

 

Key Strategies

The 2017 Conference Organizing Committee has developed several strategies that will ensure that attendees feel welcome and that the conference serves as a strong statement of protest: 1) postpone the deadline for proposals and encourage panels and forums specifically devoted to critically interrogating HB2 and anti-LGBTQI legislation in North Carolina and elsewhere; 2) work with ECU’s Office for Undergraduate Research to ensure that the conference supports students researchers of gender and sexuality and facilitates their networking with advanced scholars; 3) hold a fundraising event during the conference to support groups fighting HB2 legislation; 4) invite anti-HB2 activists and politicians to speak at the conference; 5) publicize the conference in local and statewide media as an example of scholarly activism and resistance to discriminatory laws and policies; and 6) and create a list of LGBTQIA-owned, queer-friendly, and anti-HB2 businesses so that conference attendees are assured the money they spend in North Carolina is not going to discriminatory businesses.

 

Conclusion

The Console-ing Passions Executive Board is concerned and understands that scholars at public institutions may not be able to receive funding to attend a conference in North Carolina.  In deciding that the East Carolina University conference should proceed under the Console-ing Passions banner, the Board recognized that some scholars would likely not attend due to their personal boycott against North Carolina and that, as a result, attendance at the 2017 conference might be lower than normal.  We also understand that that East Carolina University conference is likely to be more local in focus than other Console-ing Passions conferences.  However, we are supportive of that since it is a way to show our commitment to anti-HB2 activism in North Carolina as well as to offer a space for critical engagement with that state’s anti-LGBTQI legislation and policies.  It is our hope that the upcoming election for North Carolina governor may change the situation in that state and thus other states’ boycott of it.  In addition, Console-ing Passions will establish a travel grant fund to help offset costs for conference participants with limited financial means.  While the Board would never want to exclude anyone from participation in a Console-ing Passions conference, we feel that in this case we need to prioritize the interests of feminist and queer media scholars, artists, and students in North Carolina, as well as to support the 2017 Organizing Committee, which has been working on the conference for over a year.

The Console-ing Passion Executive Board stands in support of the 2017 conference at East Carolina University.  We also respect that the decision to apply to and attend the conference is one that each member of the larger Console-ing Passions community will have to make personally.