All posts filed under: The Womanhood Issue

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; …