University sponsoring 'feminist social justice' conference

The University of Arizona will play host to an all-day conference designed to engage students in discussions on “feminist social justice” issues in March.

The inaugural Feminist Liberation and Learning Conference encourages students of “all gender identities” to apply to attend, saying the event will feature workshops on feminist issues ranging from the #MeToo movement to “bike mechanics and button making.”

Nearly 900 students have already indicated interest in attending the conference, and more than 100 students have sent RSVPs, according to the conference’s Facebook page. Local high school students and community members are also invited to attend.

While conference workshops will tackle traditional social justice issues, such as rape culture, microaggressions, and preferred pronouns, students will also be treated to a yoga session—a notable addition given ongoing concerns that yoga perpetuates white privilege.

[RELATED: Yoga is ‘cultural appropriation,’ Barnard event claims]

Taught by Leah Stauber, who is also a researcher at UA, the “Yoga for Everyday Liberation” session will teach students the Bodhisattva Warrior pose to help them cultivate “self-compassion, self-honesty, clear seeing, and truth-telling for the betterment of all.”

Despite concerns that yoga is contrary to social justice aims, Stauber told Campus Reform that not all yoga instructors agree.

“It is not the case that most activists have disavowed yoga and other engaged contemplative practices,” Stauber asserted.

“The core is that…any time we look within our being (in any sort of contemplative practice, not just yoga) we can identify how our behaviors might be contributing to the suffering of others,” she continued, adding that this is a “foundation of social justice.”

Yoga practice, Stauber elaborated, is open to “all ages, sizes, identity orientations, and lifestyles,” and can help promote “ease and joy in the muscles and other soft tissues of the body” and encourage “breathing to settle and heal the nervous system.”

The Feminist Liberation and Learning Conference is one of many programs offered by the UA Women’s Resource Center. As Campus Reform reported in January, for instance, the office annually recruits a group of “feminist” interns to fight racism, ageism, and heterosexism on campus.

[RELATED: UA recruiting ‘feminist’ interns to fight ‘heterosexism’]

Under the guidance of senior staffers at the Women’s Resource Center, student interns have also organized workshops to make crafts out of expired condoms, and numerous discussions aimed at tackling the “taboo” surrounding abortion.

Students are also encouraged to lobby in support of abortion by joining the school’s VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood club, which was formally adopted by the school’s Women’s Resource Center in 2015.

The Resource Center does not advertise any tangible resources, but does vow to serve as an “inclusive on-campus student center which strives to create change on campus in response to sexism and misogyny.”

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Arizona for comment on how the Feminist Liberation and Learning Conference will be funded, but did not receive a response.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen