I know a lot of people get excited about conferences, seminars, and festivals organized around vegetarianism and/or nonhuman animal advocacy. I wish I could get as excited about these events, but I tend to be put off by the ever present class privilege that is built into the vast majority of them.
In a previous post on White privilege at an nonhuman animal advocacy conference, I mentioned how a $120 registration fee for a conference excludes poor and working-class people from attending. In response, Gary commented:
Regarding the $120 price for the conference, which could preclude some people with lower incomes from attending...What would be some practical solutions to that issue? I think FARM did allow for a certain number of people to get paid at the conference, or to receive a discount in return for helping out, but I don't know the details.
I'm not going to suggest a quick-fix, because I believe that the price is part of a much larger problem with the organization of this and similar conferences like it. While unfamiliar with the details of the FARM conference discount policy, I am familiar with similar policies that allow poor and working-class people to attend at a lower rate in exchange for "helping out." I find these programs extremely annoying for the very fact that they allow conference organizers to appear charitable and "inclusive" while upholding a classist dynamic. That is, the policy simple reinforce the classism with the poor attendees having to labor while the rich/middle-class attendees go about oblivious of their privilege.
Obviously, $120 is reasonable for many upper- and middle-class people. Furthermore, conferences usually privilege middle-class professionals, particularly nonprofit professionals who often have their registration fees paid for by the nonprofit. And most of these events held in posh hotels and conference centers, which isn't a huge issue for professional and upper-middle-class attendees, especially those reimbursed by their organization for lodging and travel. So access to these conferences is largely open to these folks.
In contrast, $120 is a significant hurdle for most poor and working-class people. Unlike professionals, for working-class people not only is it a problem finding the funds to attend, but also attempting to get time off from work and the loss of pay for this time is significant. Then there are all the cost of travel and lodging. Poor and working-class people often can't afford a room in the hosting or nearby hotels and may have to travel to a more affordable room some distance from the conference site. However, assuming that a poor or working-class person is able to overcome the financial, time, travel, and lodging issues and attends on a discounted rate, once at the conference this individual is expected to labor and serve the professional and middle-class attendees. In effect, the policy ends up only furthering class privilege and exploiting the poor and working class.
If a conference is truly going to include poor and working-class folks, then it must address the very roots of classism inherent in the traditional conference, seminar, and festival format.