Benefits of Intergenerational Feminism

Updated: 6 days ago

This is a presentation given by FemSpec's Newsletter Editor, Nolan Boyd at the 5th Annual Fall Literary Festival held in Youngstown, Ohio, from 7th to 9th October 2021. It was organized by Lit Youngstown, "a community-based literary arts nonprofit with programs for writers, readers and storytellers."

Hello, my name is Nolan Boyd, and I serve as the Newsletter Editor for Femspec. In this post, I would like to reflect on intergenerational feminism, its benefits, and how I have seen it play out in my participation in the journal and in academia at large. Before that, however, I would like to say a bit about how I became involved with Femspec. I graduated from Miami University with a PhD in English Literature in August of 2020. During the 2020-2021 academic year, I was working online as an Adjunct Instructor, before I obtained the full-time position at the University of South Florida that I currently hold. During that year, I received a forwarded email from my dissertation adviser that she had received from Editor-in-Chief Dr. Batya Weinbaum soliciting volunteers to work on the journal. As someone who has always been invested in both feminism and speculative fiction, I was very eager to participate in the journal in whatever capacity I was able, so I contacted Dr. Weinbaum, and I have been a member of the journal ever since.

This brings us to the work of intergenerational feminism, which is something that is integral to the functionality of Femspec. I am 31 years old and at the beginning of my professional career in academia, which puts me somewhere in the middle of the age range of the people who work on the journal. I was surprised to see, after I joined the journal, that many of the journal’s volunteers are current college or graduate students who are several years younger than me. On the other hand, we have Dr. Weinbaum and a handful of other individuals who are in senior positions representing the higher end of the age spectrum. I can say that I am very heartened to see this kind of intergenerational cooperation on the journal, as feminism knows no age limit. In order to perform feminist cultural work, we need to come together as a collective - and that’s a phrase that Dr. Weinbaum is fond of using - to share our strengths and knowledge with one another in order to advance feminist causes to the best of our shared ability.

I’ll speak a little bit about my own experience with intergenerational work and how I have personally benefited from the wisdom and knowledge of those older than I. I was 25 years old when I entered my PhD program, and Dr. Madelyn Detloff, who would become my dissertation adviser was, at that point, twice my age (and if she ever catches wind of my saying that, I hope she forgives me). Throughout my five years at Miami University, Dr. Detloff served as an invaluable mentor, and not only in the process of writing my dissertation, as I also took multiple classes that she taught. She is EXTREMELY well-read in the fields of feminist and queer theory, and she introduced me to a wide range of scholarship with which I was completely unfamiliar coming into my PhD program. Without her investment in my intellectual and scholarly development, I would certainly not be the scholar that I am today, and I doubt that I would have been able to compose the doctoral dissertation that I did. My relationship with Dr. Detloff - between a Generation X butch lesbian scholar and theory expert and a Millennial male non-binary bisexual scholar-in-training - has served as a living illustration of queer intergenerational intellectual exchange. I will forever be grateful for her generosity and assistance in helping me to achieve what I have been able to achieve thus far and for her continued support as I advance in my academic career.

So if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my experience having an older mentor in feminism and from likewise working on Femspec as part of a collaborative intergenerational collective, it’s that the knowledge that can be produced as a result of such intergenerational exchange is always much greater than the sum of its parts. We all, old, young, and those of us somewhat in between, have to share the world with one another; for those of us who are passionate about social justice and who envision a pathway of collective action and activism to produce social change, intergenerational cooperation can only lead to a more robust effort and a more comprehensive and favorable outcome. We all have the ability to teach and to learn from others, and that is what a truly intersectional vision of a feminist culture is all about. I am honored to be able to participate in the success of Femspec however I can, as I envision that participation as contributing to the overall end goal of advancing a feminist cultural ethic. That goal requires all of us to do what we can, one step at a time, in cooperation with those around us, both similar and different, as we collectively envision a more just and equitable society.

Dr. Nolan Boyd is currently Visiting Instructor of English at the University of South Florida. He graduated with a Ph.D. in English Literature and a Graduate Certificate in Women's Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Miami University in 2020. His scholarship analyzes the cultural work performed by cinema and contemporary literature, and particularly by representations of queerness and disability. He also serves as a peer reviewer for the journal.

Photo by Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash

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