Excerpt of post by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez on the Public Humanist blog on the Valley Advocate website; click here to read the full story: http://www.valleyadvocate.com/blogs/home.cfm?uid=46
One of the hallmarks of homo sapiens is that we love to tell each other stories. Our sophisticated use of language is one of the reasons we have been so successful as a species—we have been able to pass on valuable knowledge down the generations, building exponentially on the wisdom of our elders.
But it is only in the past fifty years or so that the ideas and perspectives of women—who make up more than half of humanity—have begun to be adequately represented in the written annals of our species. Even now, in many parts of the world, women’s voices are marginalized and kept out of the public sphere.
Many researchers in psychology, from Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice) to Mary Pipher (Reviving Ophelia) to Leonard Sax (Why Gender Matters), have found that girls tend to lose self-confidence around the time they hit puberty, with the result that they cede the floor to the boys around them in classrooms and other public arenas.
The result, as shown by recent documentary films like the popular MISS REPRESENTATION (2011; dir. Jennifer Siebel Newsom), is that women are still under-represented in top leadership positions worldwide, and are still frequently misrepresented in the media as being more focused on how they look than on what they think, believe and do in the world. This becomes a self-reinforcing cycle, as girls looking for role models see more women getting accolades for their beauty than their brains.
The annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers aims to counter this prevailing social ethos by opening up multiple platforms for women of all ages and from many walks of life to raise their voices and share their stories with supportive, appreciative audiences.
I founded the Festival, now in its third season, after ten years of organizing an annual International Women’s Day Conferenceat Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, MA, where I teach world literature by women, human rights and media studies.
For the one-day IWD conference, we would bring in women leaders in a variety of fields to share their expertise with local audiences. But what I noticed over the course of the decade was that the part of the conference the audience loved most was the Q&A period and the lunch—both of which were interactive and afforded the women in attendance the chance to exchange ideas and share their own knowledge with each other.
I realized that there were so many talented, experienced and enthusiastic women right here in the hills of Western Massachusetts, just waiting for more channels to be opened up to let their voices be heard loud and clear in the public sphere.
The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers does just that. Running throughout the month of March, Women’s History Month, the Festival features 56 events at venues from one end of Berkshire County to the other, offering more than 150 women the chance to share their ideas with each other and the world through readings, panel discussions, performances, screenings and workshops. . . . Read more