Hot Mess: Nasty Feminisms in Performance

Convenors: Thea Fitz-James and Sydney Tyber

(from the original call for papers)

On February 25, 2017 at Fashion Week in Milan, over 40 statuesque women stalked Missoni’s runway in pink pussyhats. Was this a rebellious act of women’s defiance in a world they are systematically put down or a neoliberal opportunism to capitalize on a world in which feminism is a burgeoning trend? This trend didn’t begin with the Women’s March or Lady Gaga, and it didn’t begin with Donald Trump’s “nasty” label. Women were “bad feminists” as early as the 1990s. Second wave feminists rejected third wave performers for the controversial way they used their bodies and spoke to their minds to a public who didn’t want to hear or see them (Buszek). Today we hear and see them, labeling them and ourselves as “difficult”, “nasty”, and “bad” (Gay). We ask, what are the contradictions that lie dormant in feminist rhetoric, rearing their ugly heads through unconscious competitions that turn feminist against feminist? How does contemporary performance across disciplines contend with these contradictions and tensions, or how does it not? How can the nasty women herself perform, as neoliberal feminist, or ironic activist hot mess? In other words, what does it mean to perform feminism today?

Successful participants will be expected to submit a 5-page paper by mid-April 2018. During the conference, we will discuss relevant themes across papers and offer specific feedback on each other’s work.