This past weekend, I attended the Women, Action & the Media Conference (WAM!) in Boston. It was a great weekend that offered over forty workshops and panels, a film series, two keynote talks, and a "genius bar" allowing conference-goers to sign up for time with media experts throughout the conference.
I started on Friday with the session PR: Getting Your Work Out There. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the conference -- we'd be learning new skills, sharing our own experiences, and making new connections. On Saturday, my morning began with Gender, Non-Conformity and the Media, which explored how the trans experience connects with feminist dialogues and how it's portrayed in the media. I continued my day with a guide to self-publishing, which covered tips for creating your press, using your resources, what costs to expect, and hustling to get your work out there. A panel about community and ethnic media touched on the pressures of speaking for and to a community, the importance of intersectionality, and how "selling out" by relying on advertising actually supports local small businesses. In the Global Abortion Dialogue panel, we learned statistics about access to safe abortions around the world, and watched Not Yet Rain, a touching short film about access to abortion in Ethiopia. The last session I attended was Pulling the Plug on Rape Culture, which not only defined rape culture as a way of normalizing rape in our society, but also provided strategies for ending it.
In addition to the dynamic sessions I attended, I was able to follow some of the other panels I was interested in by keeping up with the #wam09 Twitter feed. This was a great way to make the conference interactive and to follow the conversations happening elsewhere. WAM! was also able to film a number of the sessions which they'll post on their website in a few weeks.
We shifted gears a bit for the keynote talks. Friday's panel was Women Reporting from the Global Frontlines, and we were able to hear the experiences of three women who lived and reported from Iraq, Colombia and Zimbabwe. Their stories were inspiring and reminded us how important it is to cover global issues in the mainstream media. Saturday's keynote was presented by Cynthia Lopez of P.O.V., who gave us a look at some of the compelling documentaries they've presented and urged us to become more involved in public broadcasting.
In wrapping up the highlights of the event, I can't possibly forget about the funniest time at WAM!, our evening with Sarah Haskins. If you're not familiar with her work, don't waste any more time and go check it out. She was even funnier at the event than she is in her videos! She made the night interactive and we all critiqued media and advertising together.
WAM! was a great experience. It was a place to meet the experts, hone our skills, learn new ones, and make connections with like-minded people. The blood, sweat and tears poured into this event were evident, and I, for one, can't wait for next year.