This week I went to the American Philosophical Association Eastern meeting in Montreal to give a talk and to see friends and colleagues. Sam and Sarah and I breakfasted and chatted, and I saw and talked with many other friendly feminist philosophers. The Eastern APA meetings are traditionally one of the big conferences in my field, and used to be the site for most of our academic job interviews. So you would see scads of young, anxious besuited graduate students standing around in groups or rushing to the candidates’ area to look in their folders for messages about upcoming interviews. There would also be throngs of tweed-jacketed men of various levels of prestige, all in search of the perfect conversational clutch: a combination of the famous, the fashionable, and the eager hangers-on. At least it seemed that way to me.
But not anymore. Those days are gone.
In addition to being a much smaller conference (thanks, Covid), the Eastern APA is now a scene of mostly casually-dressed people who look relatively happy to be there… Gone are the crowds of anxious job candidates and interviewers; most universities have shifted to Zoom interviews (and then campus visits for finalists). The dress code has relaxed considerably, too. I saw people wearing sensible clothing, interesting clothing, warm clothing (it was Montreal in January, after all). Most of all, I saw my outfit (jeans, shirt, pretty sweater, some jewelry and sensible winter shoes) as all part of the conference clothing mosaic. This is such a good thing.
Then I remembered this post from 2016 about Visiting the Body Positive Zone. I was at a conference of friendly feminist philosophers, and I felt this level of comfort with what I was wearing, how I was presenting that felt different and good. It also felt unusual.
Six years later, I don’t feel so much like I visit body positive zones. Rather, I contribute to body positive atmospheres in the world by bringing my own positive sense of self and get validated and supported by seeing others acting similarly. This isn’t limited to professional conferences. We can and do bring our own little positive zones to the beach, the park, the classroom, the office, you name it.
Take a look at my post from 2016, and see what you think. Has your view of body positive zones shifted in the past six years? Are you still looking for such zones in your life? I’d love to hear from you.