Last week I attended the Etruria-Anatolia conference mentioned in my previous post, held at the Museo Nazionale Etrusco Villa Giulia in Rome. And it was wonderful. In terms of conference content, networking opportunities, positive attitudes, supportive comments, and challenging, yet respectful questions, this conference wins for me. The co-organizers, Lisa Pieraccini and Elizabeth Baughan, did an outstanding job with a logistically-difficult task (made no less difficult by a transit strike in Rome the first day of the meeting!).
It was at this conference that I finally came to full realization as to how important a site Sardis is, and how internationally-revered the late director of Sardis, Crawford H. Greenewalt, Jr. is. The conference would not have taken place without him and his legacy, as the two organizers met for the first time at his memorial, and they included a wonderful dedication in the program. I shared it with the Sardis team, who was very touched, and I felt so proud to represent the excavation at this event in Rome.
We did not beat a dead horse at this conference. Papers focused on the historiography of these questions, on trade and interaction, influence moving both ways, and there were so many moments when an Anatolian scholar or an Etruscan scholar would show material in a slide, only to have someone from “the other side” say, “Wow, I didn’t know you had X over there! Can I get some more information on those objects/that museum collection?” THIS is why a conference of this type is such a wonderful opportunity.
While overwhelmingly positive as an event, there were a good number of times when I was reminded, quite bluntly, of the difficulties one encounters as a young female at an international conference. I will also state that there were zero people of color present at this event, which is a long-running, problematic issue in this subfield, and Classical archaeology in general.
I was thrilled to see more female speakers than male! This was a conference first for me. At the same time, though, only one panel discussant was female (the amazing Ingrid Edlund-Berry, who I want to be when I grow up). Questions were asked fairly evenly between male and female attendees. I was one of only two “early career” folks presenting. Everyone else there was well-established (and employed!) in their fields. However, unlike other conferences I have attended where presenters of this status, especially female presenters, were treated entirely dismissively and disrespectfully, this did not occur here. Our contributions received as much attention and inquiry as all the others.
But it makes me sad that this event has been the exception to the rule. I was loaded for bear, ready to deal with people being flat out…mean, and hoping that if it happened, I wouldn’t cry, or at least I could make it to the restroom before I did.
The only real downside of this trip, and any international conference, really, as a young(ish) female is the problem of traveling alone. I was reminded of Tara Burton’s Salon article on the Dangers of Traveling While Female. Networking opportunities are missed when a woman like me is too worried about being able to make it back to her hotel safely. One evening last week while walking down the Via Flaminia to get dinner at around 8 pm, I was catcalled three times within five minutes and followed briefly by one man. I was wearing a calf-length skirt (not form-fitting in the least), a shirt with 3/4 length sleeves, no make up. This was at the exact same time as several women, dressed to the nines in heels and short, tight skirts, were walking on the same street. Then I realized…I was the only woman walking alone. With another man present, the catcalling didn’t happen.
This crap is exhausting, and it takes away from an otherwise spectacular trip and conference opportunity. I skipped going to dinner with colleagues because I was worried about getting back to my hotel alone (I’ve been harassed by a cab driver before, too), and I wonder how many other conference attendees did the exact same thing as I did…missed out on networking time, career building time, due to this pervasive, and entirely justified fear.