On April 9-10, 2021, the Columbia Journal of Gender & Law hosted the symposium Are You There Law? It’s Me, Menstruation, a two-day program that featured over 40 participants. The symposium included a keynote address by Congresswoman Grace Meng and a guest appearance by author Judy Blume.
There were three features of the symposium that jumped out at me as innovative. First, we were treated to an interview of Judy Blume by a 12-year old reader who asked smart questions about how Blume developed the story in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970). The symposium celebrated both the 50th anniversary of the publication of Margaret as well as the 30th anniversary of the journal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that in a symposium — and it worked! In a very special way, the *actual* 12-year old reader, with whom Judy Blume had instant rapport, stood in for so many of the people involved in the contemporary menstrual equity movement who were inspired by Blume’s books. One of the audience attendees even got to ask Judy Blume a question that the audience member said she had been dying to ask for years. And attendees got some fun insight from Blume about preparations for the film version of Margaret.
The second notable feature is the series innovative features of the symposium included a series of 14 short, 500-word essays published on the journal’s website. The mini-essays included voices and perspectives that enhance to usual conference papers that the journal will publish. The collection even includes a co-authored essay by a pair of high school students who are menstrual activists. So great! Links to all of the essays appear after the fold.
Finally, I loved the “lightning round” which took the place of the usual lunch break. Attendees could elect a shorter lunch break and then return to hear short presentations from the 500-word essay contributors. There are many ways that Zoom is a poor substitute for in-person conferences, but this “lightning round” worked well (in my opinion) with authors joining from around the globe and reaching a large audience.
Check out the essays below.