As a follow-up to our WiG Leadership statement at the end of May 2020 in support of Black Lives Matter, we would like to notify the membership of some initiatives we are undertaking and also to remind you that anti-racist activities involve hard work and difficult, yet necessary, self reflection. This involves addressing the ways in which white supremacy is perpetuated at WiG, in our meetings and communications, as well as by WiG members in our everyday personal and professional lives. As an organization that desires to address its own systemic racism, we know that we can and must do better.
There is a long history of instances of racism at the WiG conference and perpetrated by WiG members. In the past, we have met to discuss these issues as a group during our conferences, but they continue to persist. With this violent and disappointing history in mind, the question becomes: what can we do to make lasting change in our organization? How can we shift the culture of WiG to open up space and provide a sense of community for diverse voices and to dismantle the structural racism that protects white privilege?
At a time when there are a number of events on race, on white fragility, on anti-racist interventions––on our campuses, in our professional lives, and in our home communities––we ask that we, and especially the white members of WiG, take time to educate ourselves, to explore ways to decolonize German Studies curricula, to confront German Studies as a field of research by interrogating the practice of knowledge creation and knowledge transfer within it, to discuss antiracist intersectional feminism in an informed way, to read and listen to experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and to support, thank, and show our appreciation of WiG members who have been doing this important work for a long time. We acknowledge that as an organization, we are collectively behind where we need to be in terms of knowledge and education on these topics and we encourage everyone in our organization to renew their commitment to the learning that needs to take place before proper and effective action can occur. Well-intentioned but ill-informed intervention can be very damaging.
Moving forward, we would like to build an anti-racist feminist agenda within WiG, one that is centered as a critical priority within our organization. As a next step of what will be an ongoing process, we will be offering a session titled “Visioning Transformative and Antiracist Futures: A Call for Principled Solidarities” as our Thursday Night coalitional feminism-in-action event during the 2020 Virtual WiG conference. We are thrilled that Dr. Xhercis Méndez, Associate Professor in Women and Gender Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Fullerton and transformative justice consultant, will be facilitating this event. Our vision is that this session, as well as a series of optional follow-up workshops, will help us reflect on how anti-Black and other forms of racism have and continue to operate within WiG and explore strategies for dismantling the white supremacy that pervades our organization. Only once we have addressed these injustices within WiG will we be prepared to build the skills needed to effectively and impactfully intervene in and dismantle systems of racism and other interlocking forms of inequity and oppression on our own campuses and in our communities. We recognize that WiG needs to change before we can serve as a model for change in our broader communities. We realize that one session and the follow-up workshop series will neither result in structural change, nor will it dramatically shift the power structures within WiG. However, we hope it will lead us on a path towards a more equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist organization. As an outcome of the session and resulting workshops, we plan to jointly develop ways in which each of us can become more engaged in this process. All WiG members are encouraged to participate in these efforts for the betterment of our organization and the communities we serve in our professional and personal lives.
This will not be easy work. These types of discussions expose vulnerabilities, anxieties, and weaknesses. Yet they are necessary and critical conversations that we believe will help us aspire to become the organization we would like to be: one that has anti-racist feminism at its very core. The time is now to work for a culture of change.
We are writing to share the wonderful news that Allie Hill (University of Portland) has agreed to renew her term as editor of Feminist German Studies for another three years. Allie’s initial term as co-editor of Feminist German Studies (2018-2020), first together with Waltraud Maierhofer and now with Hester Baer, has led to several exciting initiatives, including a name change from Women in German Yearbook to Feminist German Studies in 2018 to the journal’s newest initiative of offering two issues per year starting in 2020.
We are extremely honoured that Allie has agreed to renew her term as the journal’s co-editor for a second and final term (2021-2023) and look forward to seeing the rigorous and innovative feminist scholarship that will emerge in the years ahead.
-The WiG Leadership Team
The Coalition of Women in German Steering Committee is thrilled to announce that Dr. Maria Stehle, Associate Professor in the German Program at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, has been elected by the membership to serve as Vice President/President-Elect. Dr. Stehle has been an active WiGgie since her graduate school days and has contributed to the organization by co-editing the newsletter, organizing panels and WiG-sponsored sessions, publishing in the Women in German Yearbook, and winning the best article prize and subsequently serving on the best article committee, among countless other activities. In her candidate statement, she wrote:
Through WiG, I have experienced feminist mentorship and encouragement, I have found a community that I know has my back, and I connected with a group of scholars who work towards common goals; I am still mentored at WiG but I have also become a mentor. If WiG continues to facilitate this kind of feminist mentoring, our work is transformative.
My research is interdisciplinary, collaborative, and intersectional. The community I built through WiG has given me the courage to move forward with my projects even if, at times, I felt I had to advocate for my work to be accepted as academic and rigorous. Because we organize, exchange ideas, and share our challenges with each other, we have influenced discussions at other professional organizations, have brought issues of equity, injustice, and inequality to our home institutions—be they public research universities, small liberal art colleges, community colleges, in red or in blue states—, and have advocated for each other. As an organization, we connect and intersect with networks at the GSA, with the Decolonizing German Studies groups, and with activists and organizers at our home institutions. If WiG members do this kind of outreach and advocacy work, at our meetings and conferences, in our communications, at our institutions, nationally, and internationally, our work is transformative.
In addition to her vibrant scholarship, in which she regularly collaborates with other WiGgies, Dr. Stehle is a co-editor of the open access web publication “Digital Feminist Collective” and book review editor for the journal German Studies Review. At her home institution she serves as Graduate Coordinator for German, Chair for the Interdisciplinary Program in Cinema Studies, and Steering Committee Member for the Interdisciplinary Program in Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies.
We are overjoyed to have such a powerful advocate of intersectional and interdisciplinary feminist German Studies on our leadership team!
We are sad to announce that for health reasons, Elizabeth Bridges has had to step down as our President of WiG. We are grateful for and inspired by her committed and energetic leadership over the last years. Sad as we are to see her step down early, we support her in taking any necessary steps to focus on her health and well-being.
In accordance with our bylaws, the steering committee has appointed our VP/President Elect, Helga Thorson, to move on to her position as President early; we are grateful for her willingness to take this step. We will thus hold an early election for a new VP/President Elect, for a term to run from October 2019 – 2021 as VP, and 2021-2023 as President. Please consider nominating someone for this position or indicating your own willingness to be a candidate. Requirements for the office are listed below:
1) Current membership in WiG, with history of active participation in the organization (for example, as Steering Committee member, member of Newsletter or Yearbook staff, prize committee member, regular and involved conference participant, etc.) and attendance of the annual WiG conference within the last seven years.
2) Tenure at their institution with senior rank (at least associate professor).
3) Institutional support (for travel to conferences, secretarial support).
4) A commitment to supporting WiG’s mission as expressed in its mission statement.
• The Vice President serves for two years in preparation for assuming a two-year term as President.
• As VP they support and advise the President and shares responsibilities for organizing/conducting searches (Treasurer, Yearbook coeditors, NL editor, Web Coeditor etc.); the VP shares other responsibilities as needed, such as facilitating communication between annual conferences and reviewing applications for the Zantop Graduate Travel Award.
• The Vice President is expected to attend the virtual May WiG leadership meeting, the pre-conference WiG leadership meeting as well as the entire conference each year of tenure as VP and President.
• Once President, the candidate will guide WiG in the development of its vision and mission for the future, facilitate long-range planning and effective use of resources, develop and implement new initiatives as needed (e.g. specific fundraising or website projects), ensure communication between all organs of the organization, represent WiG, and network and collaborate with other relevant organizations (attendance at professional conferences of these organizations is strongly encouraged), maintain a calendar of events and record of WiG committees and projects, all in consultation with the Vice President and other WiG officers, particularly the steering committee.
If you wish to nominate someone, you MUST first contact that person to make sure that she/he will accept the nomination, is in a position to fulfill the requisite responsibilities, and is willing and able to attend the requisite WiG leadership meetings and conferences.
Once all candidates have been nominated to the Steering Committee, candidates will be asked to prepare a Candidate Statement which will be distributed to the Membership before on-line voting opens on August 25th..
Please send names and institutional affiliation for nominees by August 10th to the WiG steering committee at firstname.lastname@example.org .
We expect elections for VP/President Elect to begin on September 1st. In order to vote, you must be a current WiG member by the end of August. If you haven’t renewed your membership for 2019, we therefore encourage you to do so at https://womeningerman.roundtablelive.org .
The WiG Steering Committee
Congratulations to Helga Thorson (University of Victoria) for joining the WiG leadership team as WiG’s newly elected VP/P! Helga will be working alongside Elizabeth Bridges (Rhodes College), who will take over as the organization’s president in October 2018.