ACRL Women & Gender Studies Section Blog

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Summer Reading

book cover image of bell hooks text "Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom"
bell hooks. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

Summer is a great time for reading and writing. Even though my institution has summer session, they don’t seem to make use of research or the library. For one of my writing projects, I’ve been rereading bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress. She makes great use of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and expands it into feminist pedagogy. In the library classroom, I often feel forced to choose between feminist praxis and the pressing demands of the faculty member or students, who aren’t all that interested in active, collaborative learning. Regardless of whether I make use of hooks’s suggestions in the classroom, reading her work has been healing. My favorite quote so far:

…the production of theory as a social practice…can be liberatory.


What are you reading this summer?

ACRL 2015: Conversation About Search Engine Bias

Image of Dr. Safiya Noble from ACRL 2015 conference
Safiya Umoja Noble, assistant professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Photo credit: American Libraries Magazine.

One of the highlights of my ACRL experience was getting to listen to Safiya Umoja Noble speak about how search engines represent women, especially women of color. You can read more about her fascinating presentation in this American Libraries article.

You can also find out more about her research and publications on her website.

~ Susan Gilman, Research Librarian, Lamont, Tozzer, and Widener Libraries, Harvard University

Uncivil LIS #critlib on Twitter, 9/30/14

Flier image of "The Impact of the Salaita Case on LIS: A #critlib discussion." The image is of a snowy, gray background that also contains the text, 9/30/14 9pm ET Titter #critlib

One of the advantages afforded to us by social media is the ability to engage others in our profession, across distances and in real-time. Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 30, 2014, from 9-10 p.m. Eastern time, #critlib and Uncivil LIS will be discussing the impact of the Salaita case at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This is a great opportunity for members of library and information professions to engage with others on topics that are pertinent to our collective work. The focus of the discussion will be on matters of intellectual freedom, underlying power structures, and relevance of these to critical pedagogy, information literacy, and civic engagement.

I hope you will come join us on Twitter during the discussion time. If not, the #critlib hashtag will gather together all comments made.

A word (okay, paragraph) on full disclosure and Uncivil LIS: I am a member of Uncivil LIS. We are group of concerned graduate library school students at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We came together because of the Salaita issue and have found common ground in the desire to engage our profession and our colleagues with matters of social justice and equity, especially those that affect us directly. We are individuals acting in concert and do not claim to represent any entity or group other than ourselves. In keeping with the intellectual activism of scholars who find a home in Women’s and Gender Studies, and similar departments, we are mindful and aware of difficulties that come with the conversations we propose. However, we do contend such opportunities for dialogue are crucial.

To gain a bit more on the perspectives we have, please read our open letter to our colleagues at the UIUC American Indian Studies program. Should you be moved to support us, our open letter is accepting signatures.

Should you have questions or concerns you’d like us to know about please don’t hesitate to drop us an email at uncivil.lis [at] We will respond in a timely manner.

Thank you. And I do hope to “see” many of you on Twitter tomorrow evening!



National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference Preview

Publicity save-the-date image for the 2014 National Women's Studies Association Annual Conference, entitled Feminist Transgressions.

The 2014 National Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference will be held November 13-16, in Puerto Rico. Due to intense interest and a record number of applications to present, this will be the largest NWSA conference to date, with over 500 sessions! Below are two library-related panels that are being presented by faculty-librarian teams (including several WGSS-ers), plus the Librarians Task Force Business Meeting. Please consider coming to Puerto Rico. It’s not too late!

Encountering Digital Feminist Scholarship: Faculty and Librarian Collaborations for Student Research in the Classroom
Presenters: Jane Nichols, Sharon Ladenson, Sherri Barnes, Kryn Freehling-Burton, Cheryl Caesar, and Chloe Diamond-Lenow

Fri, Nov 14, 7:45 to 9:00am, Sheraton, Miramar-4

Strong collaborations between women and gender studies teachers and librarians are effective means to building student research skills. Panelists will examine pedagogical approaches to teach students to think critically about all aspects of research from production, evaluation, organization, distribution, to preservation of feminist scholarship. A particular focus for this roundtable is the engagement with digital scholarship and how this scholarship can be used in conjunction with other disciplinary bodies of literature. Join us to share what has worked for you, hear new ideas, and ask questions about future directions for collaborations between teachers and librarians.

Technologizing Information Literacy in Introductory Course Group Projects
Presenter: Brian Jara, West Virginia University (Workshop)

Fri, Nov 14, 2:30 to 3:45pm, PRCC, 207 (LCD)

The workshop facilitators, a women’s and gender studies research librarian and the faculty coordinator of a multi-section introductory course, will discuss a year-long information literacy course enhancement project in which we developed a series of curricular revisions centered around a public “Women’s and Gender Studies Fair” of group research projects. We invite participants to join us in sharing successes, challenges, best practices, ideas, sample projects, and rubrics.
Librarians Task Force Affiliation Business Meeting

Please come if you are at the conference. We need to strategize for next year!

Sat, Nov 15, 2:30 to 3:45pm, PRCC, 211


For more information visit the NWSA website.

Many thanks to Jennifer Gilley for bringing this to our attention!

Fall Reading

As the weather gets colder it’s time to grab a cup of tea, a blanket, and a good book. Here are a few random selections to get you inspired. For more ideas Goodreads has a variety of lists and groups devoted to books relating to Women, Feminism, and LGBTQ individuals, such as the F-Word group and the LGBT bookshelf.


Book cover for Roxane Gay's "Bad Feminist," a book of collected essays on feminism

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay


Book cover of Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl," a novel.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Read it before you see the movie!


Book cover of Sophia Amoruso, "#GirlBoss."

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso


Book cover of Amy Poehler's "Yes Please."

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Coming soon on October 28th!

In the News: A Big Week for Transgender Women

Mount Holyoke became the most recent women’s college to change its policy on the admission of transgender students. Read more in this Chronicle of Higher Ed article.

One of Mount Holyoke’s students participating in the campaign, Open Gates, that supports the inclusion of trans women.  Image courtesy of the Open Gates MHC Tumblr

Martine Rothblatt, a trans woman, was just named the highest paid female executive in the country. This profile from NY Mag provides an interesting and in-depth look at her career, thoughts on gender, and vision for the future.

Martine Rothblatt (left) with partner Bina Aspen. Image courtesy of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance.

Women’s & Gender Studies and Academic Freedom @ UIUC

GWS UIUC event 9/5/14

Even before the 2014-2015 academic year started, controversy has already been roiling within our higher ed circles. The heat, it seems, is just getting hotter. Specifically, the controversy I’m referring to involves the contentious un-hiring of Dr. Steven Salaita from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) American Indian Studies (AIS) Program’s roster of faculty members.

There is much to learn and understand about the Salaita case, the high volume of information generated about it, including the demonstrations, boycotts, and protests that have come about, especially because of the responses from the UIUC Chancellor and Board of Trustees.

This is a very big teachable moment. Our colleagues in the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies (GWS) of UIUC agree. They are hosting an open discussion event on Friday, September 5, 2014, from 12nn to 3pm Central. Brava, GWS! The department is honoring the strong tradition of public engagement within Women’s & Gender Studies scholarship.

Though I personally can’t be at the event, I hope those who are able to make it to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois will demonstrate support by attending. Barring that, let’s send them love notes via email, tweets, posts, likes, and traditional, handwritten letters. Regardless of our individual political position on the Salaita case, our colleagues at UIUC GWS are providing a very important informational service to their community. GWS UIUC, I commend you!

All my best,



In the News: Facebook Takes A Stand With Free Access To Women’s Rights Info In Africa

via TechCrunch:

“No one should be denied understanding of their human rights just because they can’t afford a mobile data plan. Now women in Zambia won’t be, as Facebook and’s new app gives them free Internet connection for accessing women’s rights resources like MAMA  (Mobile Alliance For Maternal Action), WRAPP (Women’s Rights App), and Facts For Life by UNICEF… “’Women’s access to technology — and their ability to use it to shape and drive change in their communities — is critical to gender equality” says Global Fund for Women’s President and CEO Musimbi Kanyoro. “This technology will give voice to millions of people, including women, in Zambia, Africa and the whole world, and empower them to share ideas, drive innovation, and build more inclusive and democratic societies.””   — Read the full story


Anti-Feminism in the Digital Age

anti-feminism-symbol-finished-large4In case you haven’t heard, the interwebs is alight with controversy, yet again. Well, more accurately, when is it not alight with controversy, right? There are myriad controversies that abound within the spaces of social media and the corners of the internet. Most relevant to us on this blog and ACRL-WGSS is Women Against Feminism (WAF) on Tumblr and Facebook, which has been catching fire recently. As soon as famous celebrities start getting into the action, it’s safe to assume that the phenomenon has more than just momentum.

Of course, this has less to do with older ways of conceptualizing knowledge, information, or data than it does with the attention economy of the internet. In the attention economy approach, the Web is the platform or soapbox, attention is both the product being sold and bought, but also the currency with which we trade. One way to read the internet is as a platform for performance. Among the things we share on the internet–besides pictures of our beautifully assembled meals and videos we have taken of our pets and/or babies–are ways we demonstrate who we are, ways we perform parts of our identities, be it our political affiliations or points-of-view regarding particular social issues. We demonstrate these online in myriad combinations. Attention is significant in these performance endeavors since it is essentially how images and videos go viral. Catching the attention of others is how our identity performances online expand beyond our individual spheres to those of others. This ability to spread ideas quickly, along with the ability to amplify them, is among the most significant aspects of the Web as platform. If an image or a video resonates enough, it will be shared and re-shared and even more attention will be paid, traded, and trained on the image or video.

Which brings me back to perspectives delivered through Women Against Feminism’s social media channels. I must admit that I am confused by the perspectives shared on the WAF Tumblr and Facebook pages. I find the comments left on the stories about WAF baffling as well. Of course, it is very easy to just dismiss these occurrences as oddities and of being of little consequence. However, I do think that there’s something worthy of deeper examination in this latest iteration of anti-feminism on the Web.

Perhaps I ought to qualify my confusion by stating that I have had only very positive experiences with feminism. I am also baffled with the assertions of feminism as an organization or a singular movement. As if we completely agree on everything. I accept that there are many forms of feminism, as there are many types of feminists. Sure, the principles of gender equality, social justice, and empowerment are what ties us all together. But some of us emphasize some aspects of lived experience more than others. We also have differing views and outlooks, which often get translated into various corners under the vast umbrella of the feminist movement. I have heard stories of women who have been shamed or ejected from feminist organizations because they got married or expressed desires to have a domestic life with men. This is the type of feminism with which I have no experience at all.

As I intimated earlier, I don’t quite know what to think of WAF. To me, its demonstrations on Facebook and Tumblr show a fundamental failure. Perhaps feminists need to develop a more unified message that communicates the value of feminist ideals, one that strongly resonates with more people, especially those who are younger and those who don’t identify as women. And one that gets pushed out through different channels, more than once in a long while. Or maybe more educational opportunities need to happen. Some WAF posters don’t seem to get that feminism is all about equality. I don’t understand how feminism got equated with female supremacy over men, but it’s there.

Quotation-Andrea-Dworkin-defense-expression-feminism-women-Meetville-Quotes-259612I expressed my befuddlement among people who actively engage in issues of social justice. To make sense of WAF, I offered to them an idea that I had.  The adamant rejection of feminism, and by extension the label “feminist,” I posited, seems to be the inverse of having the power to name, the power to write and speak the official word of history and experience. While the power to name is among the highest of privileges and is therefore associated with those who have such things, I am uncertain what the inverse, the refusal to name (in this case to claim the label “feminist”), entails. Is it akin to colorblind racism? There’s probably a scholarly grain in this train of thought, somewhere. And yes, the racial composition of the majority of participants in WAF has not escaped my notice.

A friend pointed out that, ultimately, this recent example of rejection of feminism derails us from more substantial critiques of feminist ideology, such as those made by women of color, indigenous women, and women among the working poor. In short, this fight takes attention away from considerations marginalized women are asking mainstream feminists to make. I agree with my friend. However, are there some substantial critiques among the images posted on WAF, just waiting to be retrieved through astute analysis? Just for instance: How is feminism truly for gender equality if boys are growing up feeling like they are persecuted because they will become men? How are we addressing the issues boys are faced with? These are just some of the questions that I found moving among the images shared in WAF. The abstractions we often speak of (i.e., patriarchy, privilege, oppression, colonialism, imperialism, etc.), though quite concrete to many, are, at the same time, very nebulous to others. Feminism needs to continuously translate its theories, concepts, positions and ideals in ways that are accessible and resonant to a variety of people. That’s a tall order, but a worthwhile one.

As always, dear readers, I offer very little answers or solutions. I do invite you to read through the links provided in this post. I also invite you to write your thoughts in the comments. May these internet discussions of social issues prove fruitful in your teachings of Women’s & Gender Studies.

~Melissa I. Cardenas-Dow, ACRL-WGSS blog co-editor, 2013-2016