The Australian Historical Association conference in Melbourne was overly big and unwieldy, as always: it is always less rewarding to go to something with masses of parallel sessions like that than to a smaller affair. The best part of the conference for me in this regard was the Network for Research into Women’s History, organised by Penny Russell: a day’s session on ‘Feminism and Sexuality’. There was a sense of collegiality and even intimacy there which was absent from the rest of proceedings.
In particular, Susan Magarey gave a wonderful and even hilarious paper on the sexual experiences and attitudes of second-wave feminists in Australia, herself included. Many of the people she was talking about were in the room: people who came of age in the 1970s, so to speak, and were either laughing or blushing as she went along. That was quite special. I had the sense, though, that there were far more of Susan Magarey’s peers in the room than there were women in their thirties like me or younger. And I can’t remember any men at all in Susan’s session (there were perhaps three in the session in which I gave my paper earlier in the day).
The Network for Research into Women’s History needs younger men and women to sustain itself in future. So if you have it in mind to come to the day session at the Australian Historical Association’s conference on the Sunshine Coast in July 2009, let me know. I will be organising it, on a theme yet to be decided. Suggestions welcome.