This section provides some background on what 4C4E is, what it could be, and where it came from.
What is 4C4E?
4C4E (or 4C4Equality) seeks to develop strategies for engaging with local social justice issues through the Conference on College Composition and Communication (4C). We note that often times academic conferences devote particular attention to the local color of conference sites. Conference organizers provide events or entertainment that showcase local or regional customs, food, and talent. For example, during 4C10 in Louisville, Kentucky, conference organizers encouraged attendees to tour the Urban Bourbon Trail, and the River City Drum Corps, featuring students from Louisville Central High School, kicked off the opening ceremony. While we applaud efforts to connect academic conferences to their host cities, we feel that other sorts of connections can be made among the organization, the membership, and local populations. Furthermore, these connections can have meaningful and lasting effects. To that end, we seek to leverage 4C14’s social and financial power, and rhetorical savvy to address same-sex marriage rights in Indiana.
We understand that our decision to organize in support of same-sex marriage rights does not necessarily represent 4C, the organization, or the opinions of all its members. Additionally, we understand that there are myriad social justice issues in Indiana that deserve attention, but we find the particular exigence surrounding same-sex marriage in Indiana compelling because the state government will soon put LGBTQ rights to a public vote, and 4C14 takes place in Indianapolis some months before this vote occurs. Let us explain.
While same-sex marriage has been illegal in Indiana since the 1990s, Indiana lawmakers have been pushing for making it doubly illegal by adding it to the state constitution since 2004. In order to do so, both the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives need to pass the resolution in two different sessions. Then, this resolution to amend the state constitution would be put to a referendum. The resolution passed in the both the House and the Senate in the 2011 session and returned to their dockets in 2013. At present, the resolution has passed through committee in the House and will be discussed and voted on any time after Monday, January 27. The hearings are happening now, and the House vote will happen soon! [Note: Initially, the resolution was dubbed HJR- (House Joint Resolution) 6. As of January 13, 2014, it is now known as HJR-3.]
Put simply, 4C14 convenes in Indianapolis less than two months after the resolution is expected to pass through the House and some eight months before Indiana voters will likely decide whether or not to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. We have no illusions that opposing this ban means same-sex marriage will be legal, but we believe that the probability of a public vote provides ample space for rhetorical work. While there are many local, statewide, and national organizations taking up such work–and we support their many efforts, it doesn’t diminish our interest in playing a part, if even a small one, in encouraging Hoosiers to express support for LGBTQ rights and vote no on this proposed amendment.
To that end, 4C4E intends to intervene in 4C14 in Indianapolis. On one hand, we seek to develop strategies that encourage and allow conference goers to express their opposition to HJR-3 and support of marriage equality. On the other hand, we seek to develop ties to like-minded people and organizations throughout Indiana and beyond. At this point, we are in the earliest stages of organizing. We invite you to join with us and help shape what 4C4E looks like. Below we lay out some ideas for how conferences goers might engage with the issue, but we’re open to other ideas as well. Please share your thoughts through website (https://4c4equality.wordpress.com/) or through Twitter (@4C4E or #4C4E).
How do you support marriage equality in Indiana?
At 4C14, 4C4E is not interested in setting up a discussion forum for folks to debate the pros and cons of same-sex marriage. We are interested in developing strategies that bring conference goers in communication with one another and with local groups and people to demonstrate support for marriage equality in Indiana. Put simply, the question framing our work is not “do you support marriage equality,” but “how do you support marriage equality.” To that end, we are developing a number of ways for conference goers to participate. First, we would like to staff a table at the conference. This table would serve as an organizing center allowing us to distribute materials. Also, we invite participation from local LGBTQ rights organizations to help staff the tables. These folks can can discuss efforts being made to support equality in Indiana and solicit donations as they see fit. Second, we are developing materials to be used over the course of the conference. These materials include a sticker, a list of local LGBT-owned and -friendly businesses in Indianapolis with a map marking their locations, a card expressing support for marriage equality that conference goers may leave when they pay their check at said businesses, and a postcard describing the 4C4E 2014 project and encouraging other forms of participation that can be shared via our hashtag #4C4E. Ultimately, we believe that it’s up to the individual to decide where, when, and how she participates, and we see our role as facilitating participation rather than making particular forms of participation a barrier for entry. While we have some ideas what that participation would look like, we are interested in getting more people involved. We’d love to hear your ideas, and we’d love for you to help create and shape what 4C4E looks like at 4C14.
At present, we are developing a number of materials that encourage participation. Over the next week, we will post drafts of these materials on our website. We encourage you to comment on these drafts suggesting changes or additions. You might also submit drafts of documents or designs for other materials, so other folks can make suggestions and comments. After we publicize the website and start gathering these materials, we’ll set a deadline for the discussion. This deadline allows us time to produce final drafts and get these materials to ready for the conference. With your suggestions and comments, we ask you to keep in mind how you can help/become part of 4C4E, which is a strange thing to say since 4C4E is not an organization, at least not in the traditional sense. At present, it’s a handful of grad students and professors (initially in Indiana) who got together to do something about marriage equality in Indiana at 4C14, but we’d like it to grow beyond our grouping and beyond single-issue politics in one state. We’d like to get folks from future host cities to guide our interventions into the conference each year: determining which issue(s) need(s) immediate support and the ways in which conference goers can provide such support. To that end, employing digital tools to organize these interventions into 4C allows us to shift 4C4E among different people and places. In other words, it allows us to keep a focus on how national conferences connect to local spaces but allow that focus to change based on local circumstances, issues, goals, etc.
How did 4C4E start?
In part, 4C4E emerged from a discussion in fall 2013 on the WPA email list. The email prompting this discussion called for Cs’ members to boycott 4C14 in response to an Indiana law that gained a lot of press in July 2013. According to popular press accounts, the law made it a crime for same sex couples to submit the paperwork for a marriage license. In fact, the law dates back to 1997. This past summer the language of the law was simply updated to reflect changes in Indiana’s Penal Code. Nothing changed except the terminology. The law used to state that it was a Class D felony, and now it states that such actions will be prosecuted as a Level 6 felony. Still, this is rather a moot point. Indiana’s laws are extremely homophobic, and there needs to be more work to reverse these laws and demonstrate support for LGBTQ Hoosiers. How this work should proceeds remains in question. In this specific instance, we believe that an outright boycott does little to support LGBTQ folks living in Indiana, and a boycott of 4C14 channels 4C membership into a dead-end strategy: with only a little digging, no conference site would be deemed acceptable when we consider the number of state and local laws that enact racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-poor and working class policies throughout the United States. Also, we’re skeptical if boycotts imposed by outsiders have any positive effect. As noted in articles published about the “Virginia is for Haters” campaign, which was initiated by folks in Seattle in the mid 2000s, the boycott had little impact on Virginia’s laws and lawmakers. However, it did doubly shame LGBTQ folks living in Virginia. The bottom line is that not a single Indiana LGBTQ rights organization has called for a boycott, and while a boycott might bolster one’s sense of moral righteousness, it may have little impact beyond the individual.
Participants in the WPA email list pointed out some of the shortcomings of boycotts, and the larger discussion moved on to address what 4C members were prepared to do about Indiana’s homophobic laws. Some folks suggested that we have a letter writing campaign aimed at local and state politicians where conference goers could express their opinions about these laws. Other discussions, both on and off the email list, began discussing the ways that the conference and conference goers could demonstrate moral, emotional, political, and even financial support in the fight against HJR-3, which would include the letter writing campaign. We think such strategies are more meaningful and productive than an outright boycott because these strategies support local work and local people. Additionally, they demonstrate support to LGBTQ folks attending the conference and within composition programs and English Departments in general. 4C4E emerged as a way to try to organize this support.
Is 4C4E a 4C Special Interest Group (SIG)?
4C4E is not a Special Interest or Standing Group affiliated with the Conference on College Composition and Communication. In fact, it isn’t a group in any formal sense. It is an initiative, an idea put into action. The idea behind this initiative being that College Composition and Communication’s national conference should play a role in establishing or deepening connections among the organization, the discipline of composition, teachers of composition/Cs members, and non-academic populations at or around the conference site each year.
To some, we might describe this initiative as a push to consider how we, as Cs members, might we use the conference to foster the community, civic, or networked engagement work we’re already involved in or seek to develop further. To others, we might describe 4C4E as an initiative that considers how much of our lives we devote to teaching, research, and academic service, and brings this dedication into conversations about what 4Cs is and what it does: how might we make some of the issues we face locally, that come into our classrooms, campuses, homes, and communities meaningful to our national organization; conversely, how might we make our national organization meaningful in our everyday lives across these places and spaces?
As it stands, we don’t claim to have an answer for these questions. We also don’t want to downplay the amazing work that is already addressing some of these questions. Instead, the initiative represents a concerted effort to bring together local and regional work that deals with questions of engagement, social justice, and disciplinarity though one of our largest venues.