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Call for papers: Feminism, Antifeminism, and the Mobilization of Regret | Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society

Feminism is forward-looking and world-building. Feminists everywhere can call to mind the manifestos, mobilizations, solidarities, creative inspirations, legal propositions, and revolutionary paradigms that inspire us to action and move us toward more just futures. At the same time, we may also be haunted by obstacles encountered, losses experienced, and regrets felt along the way. With over fifty years of feminist history behind the journal—and, we hope, another fifty years of feminist troublemaking ahead—Signs seeks essays that delineate both how feminists may experience, theorize, and productively apply the concept of regret and how it may, alternatively,  thwart the development of feminist futures.

As Andrea Long Chu asserts, “Where there is freedom, there will always be regret. . . . Regret is freedom projected into the past.” Janet Landman, similarly, has conceptualized regret as signifying the “persistence of the possible.” On the one hand, how can feminists engage these generative qualities of regret—freedom and possibility—in our thinking and action? If there are choices that we, individually or collectively, regret, how might our regrets motivate political or personal choices? On the other, how do false narratives deployed by the Right, such as threats of regret over abortion or gender transition, act to undermine individual transformation and broader social change?

We seek essays that make theoretical, analytical, and/or activist interventions. We welcome papers that engage the complex dynamics and larger contexts of regret, from the personal, emotional, and creative realms to the social, political, and empirical; or that consider how regret converges with or departs from related affective terrains of shame, guilt, grief, or nostalgia. As always, Signs encourages transdisciplinary and transnational essays that address substantive feminist questions, debates, and forms of literary, artistic, and cultural representation and that minimize disciplinary or academic jargon.

Possible areas of focus might include:

  • How is regret, as affect and as political discourse, constructed in relation to gender, race, class, sexuality, nationality, and history? Whose harms are considered regrettable, and whose are merely collateral damage?
  • How do regressive cultural phenomena such as “gender-critical” discourse; crusades against diversity, equity, and belonging initiatives; book banning; or “incel” culture position the loss of white, heterosexual, cisgender hegemony as regrettable? How can feminist action and discourse counter such framings?
  • Some feminist and antiracist social media movements, such as #MeToo/#BalanceTonPorc/#YoTambien, #ShoutYourAbortion, or #BlackLivesMatter, resist social discourses that cast violent harm as a result of regrettable individual actions (such as what someone was wearing or where they were walking). Such movements resist regret and transform silence into speech; are they successful in dismantling power structures?
  • Regret may stem from conflict within feminist movements. For example, regret may result in or from efforts to “call in” or “call out” negative behavior in our classrooms, communities, and online spaces. Must such regret end in irresolvable conflict, or can it produce new coalitions?
  • Setbacks in progress toward political goals—for example, the overturning of Roe v. Wade—may lead to regret for past strategic choices. Such regret has the potential to cause paralysis or apathy; can it instead embolden us to develop new and more effective strategies?
  • The social, political, and economic conditions of late capitalism around the world—such as lack of childcare, eldercare, healthcare, and housing—force impossible “choices” in relation to parenting, intimate relations, and work and create the conditions for regret. Nationalist ideologies of gender and family recast such constraints as “natural” and necessary. How can feminists counter such constraints and distortions?
  • In “From a Survivor,” Adrienne Rich writes regretfully of her marriage and her husband’s suicide, “I don’t know who we thought we were / that our personalities/ could resist the failures of the race. . . . / Like everybody else, we thought of ourselves as special.” Where and how do regret and its related affects (shame, grief, loss, nostalgia) appear in or structure feminist art and literature?

The deadline for submissions is May 1, 2025. Laura Green (Northeastern University) and Chris Bobel (University of Massachusetts Boston) will serve as guest editors. Manuscripts should be submitted electronically through Signs’ Editorial Manager system at http://signs.edmgr.com and must conform to the guidelines for submission available at http://signsjournal.org/for-authors/author-guidelines/.