Here’s my recap of our first 365 Feminist Conference. Veronica wrote one too but I am so happy with how it turned out, I wanted to document my experience!
I flew into Portland on Friday evening. The lovely Sarah picked me up from the airport, along with her girls, which was a great welcome. J I checked into the hotel; they had free cookies at the front desk. Free. Cookies. It was not the fanciest hotel but how bad could it be? It was clean, cozy, and did I mention the free cookies?
Those of us who were in town early enough met at Alberta Street Pub for dinner. It was maybe about half of our group of attendees. Food and beer were had, and so much great conversation. And hugs! Then back to the hotel for more conversation, with even more of our sisters as they came into town and checked in. We hung out in one of the lounge areas until midnight or so, chatting away. I was completely exhausted but still after I went to bed, Alison and I stayed up for at least another hour talking in the dark. Did I mention my three very closest friends attended this conference, and I roomed with one of them? Destined to be a fab weekend.
Saturday morning, I got up early enough to ensure the hotel would have our meeting room ready by 9. Ate some free breakfast, and went into the meeting room to set up. I made conference programs and also bookmarks as keepsakes, with all of the attendees photos (selfies of course!) included, so I set all of those out as the hotel staff brought in our coffee and tea service. The first hour was our meet and greet time; we said hello and exchanged lots more hugs to the ladies who had checked in super late and we hadn’t seen the night before.
At 10, we sat down with our first speaker of the day, Caitlin from In Our Words, a Portland bookstore and feminist community center. Caitlin spoke about running a feminist non-profit and the history of her organization, but for the main discussion she chose the topic of self care. True to form, we all opened up and had an amazing, intimate discussion on this topic. Given how our online group operates, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but truly everyone showed up and shared and listened and supported and encouraged. We cried and laughed and I personally deeply enjoyed experiencing the dynamic of our amazing online community in live action.
Our next speaker was group member Iaia, who studied international relations and diplomacy. Her topic was “Feminism in International Relations.” She spoke passionately about her own history and awakening to feminism, her education, and her drive toward diplomacy as her calling. She shared with us stories of specific women and communities around the world and why feminism is important to them, what rights they are fighting for and need us as more privileged feminists to help them fight for. I so appreciated the energy and visible passion she shared with us – very inspiring!
Next we went for lunch. That sounds so simple, but I admit I learned the hard way how difficult it is to get 16 people out the door and to the same restaurant within a reasonable time frame. LOL. That was my mistake in planning, but eventually we ended up at Vita on Alberta Street, which served a good variety of food including tons of vegan options. It was DELICIOUS. I enjoyed my lunch, and tasted several sisters’ lunches too. ;)
We were a bit late getting back to the hotel; fortunately our next presenter is a 365 member and was so very understanding and kind. Arwyn (LMT) led us in an amazing workshop about body love / acceptance. I was very impressed, she brought amazing materials and was so organized and prepared. Arwyn was full of energy and fun, which was nice when considering a topic that can be difficult or triggering for some people. We talked about our relationship with our bodies, with food, with other women. One thing she said that still resonates with me is that I can see a beautiful or sexy or smart or insert adjective here and I can say, “She is beautiful, and that is not a threat to me.” I also found the activity about our relationship with food to be insightful and helpful. There was much more to be taken away from this two hour workshop, if you ever have a chance to attend it with Arwyn of Holding Space Massage, I recommend it!
Our last speaker of the day was Veronica. Can I just again yell out a “THANK YOU!” to the woman who started this amazing 365 challenge? Thank you, thank you, thank you. It was surreal to spend the weekend with her and get to hear her speak about this project and her experiences with it the last year (+). I kinda felt like I was meeting a celebrity!
After that full day of education and female community, we had a bit of a break to relax and freshen up. We decided on Deschutes for dinner, a downtown brewery, partly chosen due to its nearness to Powell’s City of Books. ;) We have a lot of bookworms in this group! We were seated surprisingly fast for a large group on a busy Saturday night. The food was amazeballs, as was the beer, but of course the company was the best part. Afterward we walked to Powell’s and gave ourselves a strict 45 minute shopping time – which is laughable considering the size of Powell’s, but it was already late and we had one more stop on our agenda! But 45 min was definitely better than nothing, even if I didn’t leave the first floor. Just being surrounded by so many books made me happy. I picked out a book for each of my boys.
Afterward, it was Voodoo Donut time. We learned the hard way that there are TWO Voodoo locations within a mile of each other (wtf, Voodoo?) and half of us went to one and half to the other, oops! The line was out the door but it moved quickly. The donuts were pretty darn yummy! If you like spicy, I recommend the Mexican Hot Chocolate cake donut.
Back at the hotel we munched donuts and chatted in a lounge area until, I don’t know.. way too late again. ;)
Sunday morning, the cofounder and director of Bitch Magazine, Andi, came to speak. This lady is pretty amazing, as is the zine! We learned about the history and mission of the magazine, as well as the challenges of running a feminist media outlet. Andi brought copies of some of the first editions of the zine as well as more recent copies, and gave us so much food for thought on how most media depicts women and how Bitch goes against that main stream. Andi is truly inspirational and I loved sitting in discussion with her.
The last agenda item was a simple sit down discussion for the organizers to gather feedback. I know how I thought the weekend went but I wanted every else’s perspective as we headed into planning the conference in the Midwest this fall. We had really useful discussion and several sisters had some fantastic ideas about workshops and speakers for us to try to incorporate in the next one. I am so grateful for every single attendee – your support, your attendance, and your feedback at the end of the conference. It was a dream come true to meet many of you and to be reunited with some friends I don’t get to see often.
Hotel check out time was noon and I had one more thing to do, not conference related: go check out Sarah’s house and chickens! She, Megan, and I stopped at Foodlandia (a bunch of awesome food trucks) to grab lunch and took it to Sarah’s house. I got to see her girls again, say hi to her husband, and you guys. I GOT TO HOLD TWO OF HER CHICKENS. And Megan and I collected eggs!!! Megan got to take some home; Sarah thought I could probably sneak some onto the plane but I wasn’t feeling that adventurous. ;) Then, Sarah dropped me at the airport and I was homeward bound. Exhausted but also incredibly happy and fulfilled and inspired. <3
One more giant shout out to everyone who helped us put this together, whether you donated auction items or bid on auction items or donated money or helped to plan or all of the above! Now let's do it all over again but even better in Columbus, OH this November!