All posts filed under: Gender

“Rape of the Land:” 21st Century Ecofeminism and Environmental Rape Culture

One of the primary theoretical driving forces in the emergence of ecofeminism in the 1980s is the “rape of the land” concept. Essentially, ecofeminists argued that the root of contemporary ecological problems rested in a patriarchal society – one that placed a lower value upon the “other,” which was anything outside of the perceived norm: anything not male, not white, not heterosexual, and not “civilized” culture. Women, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous people, and homosexuality all fell under this category. The realization that nature was also in this group was the work of early ecofeminists like Carolyn Merchant, Susan Griffin, and a slew of other creative and bright minds. The idea that a patriarchal society could “rape the land” stemmed from two theories: 1. That it is the nature of a patriarchal society to dominate and control entities that fall outside of established rules of culture. 2. That women could reclaim imagery of the goddess in nature (or, Mother Earth) as a source of power. A few of the ways in which it was perceived …

“Proud – I’ll Say!”: Images of Patriotic Service and Domestic Responsibility in World War II

When asked, “Why did you volunteer for military service?” very few female veterans will say that it was a propaganda poster which inspired the commitment. Common responses reflect a brother/cousin/friend’s enlistment or conscription. That they felt it was their duty and responsibility as a citizen of the United States. Moreover, female friends who wished to join, or had done so already, encouraged the decision. Frequently women felt their lives needed a change and they saw potential for independence and education with the military. Volunteerism was exciting, but also many thought it was necessary. At the core of all volunteer military enlistments is patriotism. Yet, visual imagery had a major impact on their decisions. As curators William L. Bird, Jr. and Harry R. Rubenstein write, “World War II posters helped to mobilize a nation. Inexpensive, accessible, and ever-present, the poster was an ideal agent for making war aims the personal mission of every citizen.”[1] It seems the advertising firms behind the messages seem to have done their job well, since few veterans acknowledge the poster as …

About That Woman in the News…

Hey, everyone! Did you hear the news about Bruce Jenner this week? …said (hopefully) no one ever. Of course we heard about Caitlyn Jenner! If you are reading this, you most likely have an attachment to social media and you certainly participate in the digital world. In the United States the top news story of the week is not the gas station explosion in Ghana killing 100 people, the expiration of the Patriot Act, or even the sad news about Beau Biden’s death. No. The inspirational story/fascinating celebrity gossip/horror-inducing sin of the week (depending on your perspective) is Caitlyn Jenner. And my, oh, my – is it ever complicated. If anyone states that the issue(s) surrounding the story is clear-cut, they are not fully paying attention. When news like this breaks, the story no longer becomes “the news.” Media coverage, community reactions, activist commentary, and political positions all become The News. It is my goal in this article to discuss a few of the ideas floating around the core of the Jenner news that reflect …

The Western Association of Women Historians 2015 Conference, Sacramento

Ok, folks. Here is a brief run-down of the conference I attended May 15-16, 2015. Many bits of conversations from this trip will find their way to a future AD blog posts. I love that I was able to talk through ideas with other scholars and feel inspired to pursue both academic writing and “on the side” blog topics on various issues. Until then, here is the Western Association of Women Historians 2015 conference, in brief. Historian Jane DeHart (emerita, UC Santa Barbara) declared, “Research and writing is a collaborative effort.” This contradicts much of what the public perceives of as the historian’s burden. In fact, it challenges the typical working experience of many intellectuals! But I trust the words of an incredibly successful academic when she proclaims that relationships are of utmost importance to the researcher-writer. (Additionally, one might notice a grammatical error in the statement. Are “research” and “writing” two separate actions? Deeply and somewhat obviously, no. If one writes, one researches, and vice versa.) So, here I am at the Western Association …

The Womanhood Issue, #3: “Are Women’s Colleges Necessary in 2014?”

Recently, I talked with a friend about the changing status of women’s colleges in the twenty-first century. We are both affiliated with a small liberal arts college that freshly transitioned to a co-educational institute after nearly 150 years as a women’s college. While the decision to change enrollment standards was rooted in financial considerations, it is fraught with emotion on all sides of the argument. Alum who find a strong bond to each other and the college through tradition wished for little change in this area. Faculty and staff who hoped for job security reluctantly conceded a change. Current students were caught in the middle, not fully realizing the weighted history of the woman’s college as viewed by alum and professors emerita, nor the financial burdens of the institution, and the students fell on one side of the argument or the other. It is not my goal to question the validity of the decision or critique one of these opinions, but rather to take a step back and ask: “Are women’s colleges necessary in the …

The Cyborgs are Coming!: Women and the Fear of Leadership

For the first installment of the Womanhood Issue series, I present the Cyborg. You may wonder, “What does science fiction have to do with what it means to be a woman?” This is a legitimate question. By the end of this post you will see the lengths women must go to in order to seize the ability to work beyond hegemonic femininity, as defined in the last post. Before jumping into theory, a definition is required. A “Cyborg” is the unification of “cybernetic organism” and originates in popular science fiction culture. Some examples include The Bionic Woman television series (1976-78), which is the story of a female spy who uses semi-robotic skills which gives her an “edge” above and beyond other female agents. The 1975 film (and 2004 remake) The Stepford Wives portrays an uncanny neighborhood where submissive spouses are not entirely human, and the Austin Powers series (1997, 1999, 2002) parodies the cyborg idea through the “Fembots,” ultra-feminine cyborg women who dress scantily and contain deadly machine guns in their breasts. The underlying theme …

The “Womanhood” Issue

Over one year ago I turned thirty and finally felt like a woman. I mean a real, adult woman. In contrast, the years leading to my thirties felt nothing like adulthood, let alone womanhood. Since this mental shift, I ruminated the question over and over, “What happened?” [Short pause for tired age-related jokes.] As it turns out – a lot. None of it has to do with personal history. Rather, I believe it relates to real issues of womanhood: what makes one feel like an authentic adult woman, what constitutes womanhood, and problems with stereotypes relating to this problem. I was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion at the Eastern American Studies Association, entitled “Beyond the Binary: Exploring Contemporary Concepts of Femininity and Masculinity,” and held at La Salle University the weekend of March 28, 2014. As the “women’s studies” scholar on the panel, I was surrounded by talented intellectuals: Jeanine Ruhsam of Penn State Harrisburg, representing study on transgender issues; Amy Milligan of Elizabethtown College, who works in the realm of gay/lesbian scholarship; …

50 Years After Friedan, A Fresh Look into “Nuclear Age” (Women) Scholars

Review: College Women in the Nuclear Age: Cultural Literacy and Female Identity, 1940-1960 by Babette Faehmel (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013) In search of a good read, I stumbled upon Babette Faehmel’s new publication College Women in the Nuclear Age: Cultural Literacy and Female Identity, 1940-1960 and was thrilled to discover a text that took on an issue in America’s history that I feel has been overlooked in recent years: the lives of collegiate women during World War II and Cold War. Possibly due to current popular obsession with retro culture (think of HBO’s Mad Men or clothing stores like Mod Cloth) this compelling study eases its way into both pleasure-reading and academic conversation. It is equally a quick, enjoyable read and thought-provoking inquiry that takes its place among women’s studies classics by Barbara Solomon, Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz and Linda Eisenmann. Faehmel’s revisionist framework relies on Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, published exactly fifty years ago in 1963, but acknowledges that she is not the first to do so. Faehmel seeks to bring forth …