GRID’s Spring Seminar: More Than ‘Just Words’


“Rebecca Solnit didn’t actually invent the term ‘mansplaining’—but it arose out of her essay ‘Men Explain Things to Me,’ says Susan Brison, professor and chair of the philosophy department and co-organizer of the spring seminar and lecture series “Just Words? Free Speech and Social Change,” sponsored by the Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth (GRID).

Image removed.GRID’s spring seminar and lecture series “Just Words? Free Speech and Social Change,” features feminist scholars, journalists, bloggers, activists, and a singer-songwriter.

“Mansplaining” refers to a pattern of condescension that many women immediately recognize—once they have a name for it. “It’s one of those terms, like ‘sexual harassment,’ that change the way the world works,” Brison says. “It gives people a way of articulating an experience that they’ve had that they didn’t have language for before.”

“Just Words?” will bring Solnit and seven other feminist scholars, journalists, bloggers, activists—and one singer-songwriter—to Filene Auditorium between April 17 and May 19 to talk about the power of words in the Internet age. Solnit will be speaking at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12.

Several “Just Words?” visiting speakers have long been using language to change the world. Feminist pioneer Robin Morgan (co-founder, with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, of the Women’s Media Center) “was starting consciousness-raising groups in the ’60s,” says Brison.

On May 1, Morgan will be giving a talk on “Who Pays for Free Speech?” and then moderating a panel with a newer generation of writers and social critics, including Soraya Chemaly, Zerlina Maxwell, and Hannah Giorgis ’13, who are using the Web to create new tools of activism—and combating the ways social media platforms can facilitate the use of hate speech. The discussion will take place at 3:30 p.m.

Image removed.Singer-songwriter and activist Toshi Reagon will end the series with a performance and talk about music and social justice on May 19. (Photo by Sharon Farmer)

Other events in the series:

  • Friday, April 17, legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality” in the late 1980s to help describe how categories of identity—race, gender, sexual orientation—overlap with and influence each other, will be speaking at 3:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 22, Brittney Cooper, co-founder of the Crunk Feminist Collective and an assistant professor of Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, will be speaking at 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 19, singer-songwriter and activist Toshi Reagon, the daughter of Sweet Honey in the Rock founder Bernice Johnson Reagon, will end the series with a performance and talk about music and social justice at 4 p.m.

The public lecture series is being organized in conjunction with a faculty research seminar and a parallel undergraduate course, “Women’s and Gender Studies 96.” The 25 faculty, staff, and student fellows participating in the seminar will read the work of the visiting speakers, attend the public lectures, and meet over meals for intensive discussion with the visitors. In addition, the students in “WGST 96” meet weekly with GRID Postdoctoral Fellow Brianne Gallagher, who has organized the seminar series with Brison over the past nine months. Students and faculty will collaborate to produce articles for publication on the theme of the seminar.

“This has been an incredible collaboration between the Gender Research Institute and the women’s and gender studies program,” says GRID Director Annabel Martín, an associate professor of Spanish, comparative literature, and women’s and gender studies. “GRID is very pleased to be able to offer a course that translates the rigor of the classroom into an example of what experiential learning can be when you mix our talented and engaged students with internationally distinguished scholar-activists and Dartmouth faculty and staff fellows. It’s horizontal learning at its best and a model that is unique to our campus.”

Of the model of including faculty and students in the research endeavor, Brison says, “It’s really helpful to have the intergenerational dialogue. It’s important for the faculty of my generation to know what the next generation is thinking, and it’s also important for students to know the history of discussion of these issues.”

This year’s lecture series also coincides with the new, multidisciplinary “#BlackLivesMatter” course being offered this term, co-taught by nearly 20 faculty members across a dozen departments, including Martín. Students participating in that course will be encouraged to attend as many of the “Just Words?” events as they can.

“Just Words?” is the third annual GRID spring seminar. Past years have brought prominent scholars and activists to campus, including Cornel West, Angela Davis, Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky, and many more. Visit the GRID website for an up-to-date schedule of this year’s events.

Hannah Silverstein, MALS '09