Earlier this month, the Women’s Classical Committee UK wrote to the FIEC/CA programme and national committees about their recent call for papers. This is the text of that letter.
Dear FIEC Programme Committee and National Committee,
I write on behalf of the Women’s Classical Committee UK steering committee and liaisons to express our shared concern about the guidelines recently issued for the FIEC Congress:
It is the tradition of both FIEC and the Classical Association to represent as wide a range of speakers as possible. Panels are more likely to be selected if they include speakers from more than one country, and if they include junior as well as senior speakers. Panels consisting only of men or only of women are unlikely to be selected unless a powerful case is made for an exception.
We are glad to see the issue of all-male panels being explicitly addressed. However, the final line of this paragraph draws an unfortunate equivalence between all-male and all-female panels as if these represent the same sort of problem.
All-male panels have been dominant in the discipline since the institution of conferences as an academic practice. They remain common, and often pass unremarked, yet they are a sign of wider issues about the representation of female scholars in our discipline in many areas, not only conference presentations. Equating all-male and all-female panels ignores the history of women being excluded from classics and from the academy more broadly, and overlooks the structural sexism which still results in women’s voices being silenced in scholarship.
We are also concerned about the practical consequences of this policy for colleagues whose gender expression is not adequately described by the male/female binary, and who may be put under undue personal scrutiny in order to justify that a panel does or does not consist of a single gender.
While we welcome FIEC’s move towards inclusivity and addressing the historical systemic oppression of women through the opposition to all-male panels, we urge you to reconsider your policy on all-female panels.