Significant Change is coming to the Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference
An open letter by Paige Hall Smith and Catherine Sposito Sullivan
After fifteen rewarding years of shepherding the Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference (BFIC), it is time for a change. We are stepping aside as conference directors to allow for new eyes to shape its future. This has been both a difficult and poignant process as we recognize our decision leaves BFIC’s future uncertain. We remain confident in the conference’s mission and invite those who would be interested in giving the conference a second life to step forward.We are excited about the possibility of new leaders emerging who want to nourish and enrich this forum.
As conceived in 2004, BFIC was intended to last only two years. That it continued another 13 years is a testament to the incredible scholarship and work being done around the world to improve sociocultural, economic, political, and gendered contexts within which individuals nurture, work and live. The conference’s longevity also testifies to the real need for a forum which brings together an interdisciplinary group with diverse experiences and perspectives to share and learn together. Scholarship and action at the intersection of infant feeding, gender equity and racial justice continue to grow in exciting ways, and we believe there is still the need for a forum that can celebrate this important work. BFIC has simply outpaced our ability to manage it.
Recently, concerns have been expressed that the conference space is not always safe for women of color, causing harm and trauma. The goal of BFIC since its inception has always been to support the work of a complex community of researchers, academics, and activists. As the needs of individuals and communities change, so must the mechanisms supporting these communities change. To proactively dismantle structural racism and racial inequities both internally and externally, BFIC needs structures, cultures, and practices that ensure that all people feel safe and welcome. It needs approaches that ensure the equitable participation of all and which enable the conference to connect more with communities who experience discrimination, health disparities and social vulnerabilities. The current model of a conference independent from any organizational or membership structure, housed at two dominant culture universities, and managed by a small group with a limited revenue stream,is not equipped to create the culture of inclusivity, racial equity and gender justice that we want to see in the broader breastfeeding community. This model also limits BFIC’s growth and reach. BFIC needs diverse people in leadership roles making collective decisions. To keep the conference affordable revenue streams other than registration fees are essential.
Under new leaders it is possible that BFIC could continue to be a forum for celebrating and sharing work at the intersection of infant feeding and social justice. If you would like to discuss such a possibility,please contact Paige at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also recognize that to everything there is a season,and BFIC’s season may be over. We continue to value the community and connections it has fostered over these 15 years and will maintain the website until June of 2020. We will also keep the Facebook sites, although we do seek a volunteer to manage them.
Over these years,hundreds of people have shared their research, work, and experiences at the conference. Your voices, passions and expertise provided BFIC’s energy and stimulated its significance. Your work has been disseminated in four books and through arrangements with the Journal of Human Lactation and the International Breastfeeding Journal. All of this helped give rise to a broad, social justice narrative around breastfeeding protection, promotion, and support. In closing we want to acknowledge the significant role that the late Dr. Miriam Labbok played in advancing BFIC as co-director between 2007-16. We feel grateful to have been part of the BFIC community and recognize the privilege it has been to serve as leaders.
Past Conference Happenings
Chocolate Milk @ BFIC 2017
To see more videos from the Chocolate Milk web series, click here.