Collaboration! Suffolk County Community College’s Feminist Film Series

image of Shelby Knox, on March 26 2014, at the Suffolk County Community College East

 Shelby Knox speaks at Suffolk County Community College, March 26, 2014

Susan Wood, Media & Reader Services Librarian:

Last fall term, I was invited by faculty members in Sociology and in Counseling & Advising to help plan a series of screenings of feminist documentaries on our campus in conjunction with several student organizations.  I was excited to get involved with feminist programming and to have found an opportunity to promote the Libraries’ Media Collection.

Eight films were chosen from the Libraries’ Media Collection with an eye toward representing women’s issues internationally. The intention was to choose films that give voice to social problems, as well as to resistance and activism around those social problems.

We applied for a grant from our Campus Activities & Student Leadership Department, which is given for programming with interdisciplinary appeal.  The grant made it possible to invite Shelby Knox to speak following our screening of the 2005, Sundance-award-winning documentary of which she is the subject, The Education of Shelby Knox.

The documentary profiles Ms. Knox, who, at the time, is a teenager in Lubbock, Texas, working with other students to convince the school district to replace the abstinence-only sex education curriculum with a comprehensive one.  The numbers of unwanted pregnancies and STIs in Lubbock were, and still are, some of the highest in the nation.  The documentary shows us a young woman in a socially conservative community beginning to question her inherited worldview regarding religion, sex, politics, and authority.

A decade has passed since the events set in the documentary. Ms. Knox is now a professional feminist organizer at Change.org and a talented public speaker with significant activist experience.

The combination of the back-to-back film and talk was powerful, and the seemingly instantaneous transformation of Ms. Knox from teen to adult was charming.  Ms. Knox is very well informed on current issues, and students and faculty alike left the program with insights about current social problems and a clearer understanding of how activists are utilizing social media to promote positive changes.

The film series has given me plenty of opportunities to promote the Libraries’ collections, facilities and services. The series also provided me with occasions to make connections across the college with students and faculty. One of the many happy results has been requests from student organizations and from faculty and staff in several departments to help develop future film series on our campus on a variety of themes (foreign language films, sexual assault awareness and LGBTQ themes).

I’m looking forward to continued collaborations with Dr. Curreli and many others, and I’m reflecting again on the power of a good documentary.

Misty Curreli, Instructor, Sociology:

As a professor and researcher in the field of Sociology, I have always found teaching about gender inequality and feminism to be an important yet challenging aspect of the curriculum.  To my dismay, it seems that many young men and women are resistant to the idea of feminism. I get the sense that, somewhere along the way, they have learned that feminism is unnecessary and “uncool.”

This is why I decided to reach out to the members of the campus organization called I Am That Girl.  This student club is a local chapter of the non-profit organization that motivates girls to, “BE, LOVE, and EXPRESS who they are through education, content, and community.” From this platform, the Feminist Film Series was developed to create awareness around issues of gender-based inequities, as well as explore solutions to these social ills.

The students in my Modern Social Problems class attended the screening of The Education of Shelby Knox, as well as her presentation on what feminism looks like today. Shelby Knox informed the audience that one of the chief complications about gender inequality is that people often believe it’s an individual problem, i.e., it’s happening to me and no one else. She said, “Let’s kill that myth.” She also wished to abolish another common myth that young people are apathetic and unengaged.

Ms. Knox described “millennials” as supporters of cultural diversity. They are concerned about many social topics, some of which they advocate for in online settings, such as blogging and web-based petition-making. This is the basis of what she calls the FORTH (not Fourth) wave of feminism, a type of contemporary feminism that largely takes the form of consciousness-raising via online venues. The presenter’s last address to the audience was a call to action. She asked us to think of small things that we could do to make an impact on the world.

After the event, the class discussion that followed was quite informative and refreshing. The vast array of feminist topics that Ms. Knox covered (the representation of women’s accomplishments in textbooks, gender-specific toys, healthcare coverage of contraceptives, etc.) served to inform students about feminist gains that have been made and the work that still needs to be completed.

My students were especially appreciative of how Ms. Knox depicted their generation and of her authenticity in how she became a feminist (or how feminism found her). I was pleased to see that many of the men in my class were vocal about gender inequality. One student remarked that he was surprised to learn that men can be feminists.

Ms. Knox’s talk served to demystify feminism and make feminist pursuits real. Above all, she created excitement about activism, which I hope has effects long into the future.

 

Update 04/11/2014: Corrections made for grammar and further clarity. ~Melissa Cardenas-Dow, WGSS blog co-editor

Excerpts from “Making the Grade”: Gender Matters

image of a woman in a black burqa.Women’s History Month is an important time set aside for us all to consider the many voices that have paved the way to our present state of social progress. It is also a time to honor current voices that help us look at our collective past and anticipate a brighter future.

ACRL WGSS marks Women’s History Month 2014 with guest articles from different areas and perspectives. Our second article comes from Angi Caster, an instructor of English and writing from Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington, near the city of Seattle. She is currently writing a book called No More Secrets, No More Lies: Community College Teaching in the 21st Century (publication date still to be determined). The following are excerpts from the book’s fifth chapter. 

Image of a Dolce & Gabbana ad depicting a woman lying down under a man while other men look on.Please give Angi a warm ACRL-WGSS welcome and thanks in the comments.

 

My students include single moms who prostitute at night to earn money for college, Somali women whose labia have been cut away in “female circumcision,” full-burqa-ed women whose identities become only their clothing, white Christian missionaries with no idea where Somalia is, and sickle-cell anemia sufferers wanting to achieve before they leave an orphaned daughter. Every time you write, you put a self on paper—or nothing.

 

Ms. Mullet, she of the minuscule, unreadable ½” printed essay, read my story of abuse, looked at me directly, blinked, burst into tears and blurted out the long-term molestation by her uncle and abandonment by her biological parents. We talked about how much that sucks and how (and when) to truth-tell and what happens to your soul and self if you don’t. I did not even mention the problems with size and style in the paper—just asked for another draft. Like most of my students, there was nothing whatever the matter with Ms. Mullet’s brain or her rationale: She knew she would fail because she’d have to ignore her real life and lie to present the required evidence, especially if other students would read her work. Peer-review is important since there is only one of me and 90 of them, and they are producing 7,000 to 15,000 words in each quarter. But, to be honest, in her case, it meant shame. So I suggested only I, the teacher, would be her reader. She said that was ok, and I got a passing draft the very next day from Ms. Mullet in script 3 times as big as the first draft, with edited grammar, undistracted by lies and invested enough in the content that she actually rewrote it to make herself clearer. She did not have to hide in front of me and the secret was out despite promises to the uncle. After reading published writers’ commentary about abuse, Ms. Mullet even shared her writing with the whole class. Some cried and now she trusted peer reviewers to help.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Muslim Somali student Aria’s full-black burqa-covered body sat silently at the extreme edge in the back of the class. Since learning is a dialogue, not a lecture, I speak honestly to the students about how much I depend on their body language to cue my own responses. In her nun-like, loose fitting dark robe and full face coverage, only her eyes are available for me to read.

So I walk around among the desks, closer to her there, alone in the back of the room, naming and explaining this phenomenon of visibility as a teaching moment. I know from experience that the other 30 students are aghast, will not meet my gaze and certainly not Aria’s–they never look directly at students in full burqa. That would be “rude.” Preferring to focus blindly on the lecturer, the class is totally silent and uncomfortable at my naming what is real, visible…but, Aria knows she has on the full black burqa! I say so and see laughter in Aria’s eyes—and relief.

Two hours later, Aria shows up for the first time for my office hours. As she sits down in my tiny, messy office, her eyes dance and she says conspiratorially, “Wanna see my face?” Drowning in angst, the old white woman Angi asks shyly, “Is that ok?” Aria laughs and laughs and removes the veil, chattering away about how much she is enjoying the class and my authenticity because in my class she is not invisible. Now we are a couple of gossipy high schoolers (despite the chasm of a 40-year age difference), comparing her cool, sassy sparkly heels under the austere, black robe, how relieved she feels not to have men looking at her body, but wishing she could speak with more people as she is speaking with me. The next day, she sits in the front row where she remains for the rest of the quarter, speaks up, and, not surprisingly, so do the rest of the students! Now, they are peers and learning, no longer lost or invisible.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Another Somali-American student, Dionna, wears trendy jeans, has blond-streaked hair and wrote about her mother, burqa-clad and obediently producing one child a year (she was on her twelfth). Dionna wrestled with outrage over her mother’s subservience, burdens, and dependent situation, even as she loved and worried about this overworked woman–her heroine and role model.  Dionna vowed to have no children whatsoever. Her family, then of course, thought her morally corrupt. Later, in the next writing class, she wrote a fabulous research paper on khai, a psychoactive traditional herb smoked by Somali men and deemed an illegal Class I narcotic in the U.S. Complete with academic evidence, multiple citations, fabulous photographs, and personal interviews, the paper condemned the use of khai on several levels, but the dominant one was its tranquilizing properties, the ability to keep an entire population of men mellow instead of resistant. About a week later, the  news broke about a  U.S.  khai ring crackdown. Poor Dionna called me in a panic: Had I published it yet?  She was terrified for not only her family’s immigration status, but for criminal repercussions.  Fortunately, we hadn’t, so the essay could vanish, extant only as an A in my grade book.  To be bicultural can be hazardous not only to your psyche but to your freedom–from deportation and/or jail.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Thu, a slim, beautifully made-up and manicured 4.0  A+ student, the American-born daughter of Vietnamese refugees, was a pre-Nursing student in our cell biology and writing class. All her work was simply perfect—as she knew it had to be to get into any of the very competitive nursing programs, including ours (where the instructors boast that they have to have a trashcan outside the door of practicum exams because students routinely vomit from stress, yet another reality of 21st century college life). She inexplicably vanished during the 6th week of class. I tried emailing her, but got no response. Then I phoned, but received only a heated but unintelligible rant from non-English speakers.  She deserved an incomplete but we were unable to track her down, so a 0.0 was posted to her transcript.  Only  the following quarter did we learn from another student what had really happened: Thu’s parents thought she was sneaking out to date (when she was actually meeting with study groups as required by our course), and so they took away her cell phone, then her car, and finally kicked her out of the house.  No one has heard anything about her since, and it breaks my heart.

 

This is why I “get it,” why I will spend the rest of my life passionately mentoring students, facilitating their stories, wheedling them to turn stuff in, listening to their obscene and raucous music and to their tears in my office, even playing their violent video games while daily challenging them to get angry enough to stamp their feet and say NO! to The Man—or to The Family—or to The Media—or to The Culture that manipulates them to internalize failure, abuse, sexism, racism or any other negative self-image. Because nobody ever did it for me.

 

REFERENCES

Dolce & Gabbana. Advertisement. 2006

Woman in burqa.  Photograph. Sipa Press/Rex Features. “Passnotes 2952.”  The Guardian. 3 Apr 2011.

Mainstream Feminism: How It Works, Why It Doesn’t (Always)

Image of iconic Rosie the Riveter, which is the main image used on continuumissuesFor Women’s History Month 2014, ACRL WGSS has asked writers from outside of the association to share their writing on our blog. The first piece comes from Alex Dill. She is a working writer living and daydreaming in Manhattan, NYC. You can find her first published work, a book of collected poetry entitled Venn Diagrams, wherever eBooks are sold. For more thoughts on feminism in this post-millenium world, check out her blog continuumissues. Please give Alex a warm ACRL-WGSS thanks in the comments.

The first thing you should know is that there is not only one kind of feminism.

Like all big political/cultural movements, there are different sects and different strains. When you stop for a moment to think about why this is, the answer seems simple: women are not all alike. We are not one monolithic group. We differ across race and class lines, we grew up in different neighborhoods with different families, we have different motivations and desires, and yes, even different bodies. But while women everywhere are different, in some ways, we are still alike in others. We are oppressed by a system (the patriarchy) that works to keep us quiet, confused, and caged, and stifles our full potential. This oppressive system works in big and small measures, in ways both obvious and insidious, and it will affect each person differently, depending on some of the factors I have mentioned above. Feminism has to morph and shift around race and class lines, and spread across all the neighborhoods on all the continents on this earth. Feminism has to be huge because the needs of women world wide are huge and no girl or woman can be left behind.

We feminists are not always successful when we try to do feminism. Usually, someone gets left out or left behind. These shortcomings do not negate the good our work does, but we must be ever-vigilant and self-reflective so we can get better and better at doing feminism as globally and completely as possible. I think we will continue to approach the limit without ever reaching it. But even so, we will keep striving.

Feminism today has many voices and faces, folks of all genders and races and backgrounds who align with feminist values. Technology has given those voices a great boost, especially in the blogosphere. It is only a matter of minutes after someone (usually a dopey, aging senator/governor/political candidate) says something so sexist that his quote is blasted across the interwebs, scathingly dissected and re-tweeted and mocked as a symbol of a system that is bygone and breaking down. I think that this is freaking awesome. Adding my own voice to these stories is one of the most rewarding things I do.

Sometimes, though, it’s not just the old white guys who mess it up. Sometimes it is one of our own. And I think how we deal with those kinds of screw-ups is much more important to the movement. The latest example of this is a new campaign launched by Sheryl Sandberg, author of the well-known, but less-liked, book Lean In. The campaign is titled Ban Bossy (#banbossy), which is simple and alliterative and perfect for a Twitter hashtag. The video features such prominent bad-ass ladies as Beyonce, Condaleezza Rice, and Jane Lynch. The issue they are hoping to tackle is the dearth of female leadership in this nation, both as political leaders as well as your run-of-the-mill front-office execs, scientists, board members, etc. This is such an important problem to tackle. The message is that when boys are assertive, we call them leaders and give them a gold star, but when girls act the same way, we call them bossy. So they think we should stop using the word “bossy.”

Hm. If that sounds kind of awkward, well, that’s because it is. I wanted to like this campaign so much (hello, Beyonce is involved), and yet it lands with a thud at my feet. We are going to change how girls feel about themselves by banning a word? A word that could actually be helpful to use when it is warranted? One word, amongst all the varied and hateful words that are used against women of all ages, that make us feel less than human, small, and incapable? That’s the plan?

Now, over at leanin.org you can take the #banbossy pledge and download some activities for girls of various age groups. There are some actual leadership tips, so it’s not totally about the word “bossy.” But I would really love to see more action from a group of women with considerable resources, reach, and influence.

Let’s leave that aside for the moment and just be happy that Beyonce is out as a feminist and that the media is talking about these issues at all. Here is where and when I take a step back, become just a little bit more frustrated. This campaign, like Lean In, is for a very specific group of people. Lean In speaks for women who want to make partner or senior executive at a corporate firm, land the corner office. It is a campaign for educated upper-class women with high-paying jobs. It is very smart and I believe it makes some important points. However, it doesn’t speak for women who want to succeed without foregoing work-life balance. It doesn’t speak for anyone who doesn’t have corner-office ambitions. It is absolutely pro-corporation and gives no advice on how to change the system itself, only how to better work within it.

The campaign #banbossy echoes that Lean In idea. Not all little girls are leaders. For that matter, neither are all little boys. And while I can completely back the need to make room for more girls in leadership roles, what about the quiet girls? The thinkers and dreamers? They too need tools and tips to gain self-confidence. Not everyone is on-track to make partner at a law firm or run a Fortune 500 company. And the sad fact is that because certain players have the money and the voice, it is the issues that they choose that will get the most press coverage and the most support. It means only one kind of feminism gets disseminated., It means that we alienate potential allies who look and say ‘That doesn’t have anything to do with me. That’s not for me or about me.’

Ok, obviously, one campaign cannot cover the vast array of issues faced by women (access to healthcare, reproductive rights, the wage gap, everyday sexism and misogyny, homophobia, domestic and sexual violence, etc.). I don’t expect any organization or campaign to touch on everything and, indeed, specialized sects are good. It’s better to focus on one thing and do that thing well. Some other campaigns and organizations that are worth discussing are the #girlscan campaign from Cover Girl, the Joyful Heart Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. Can you guess what all these have in common? They have lots of money, a corporate sponsor, or celebrity endorsements. Which is absolutely tremendous and wonderful. But I get nervous that those with the most money, and the most access to celebrities and politicians, will end up with all the light and resources despite other worthy issues.

Regardless of the limitations our media does have, we must remember that campaigns like these are important, because they shine light on feminist issues even if they aren’t perfectly executed. And I believe with all my heart that when powerful, popular women come to bat for feminism, that act does a great service for a movement that continues to be misrepresented and maligned (we are not all whiny complainers who don’t shave their body hair and wish men would disappear, although body hair is totally fine, FYI). I hope that the more people are given access to facts and stories they can relate to, the more they will come to understand and internalize feminist values. We are all more alike than we are different and I believe that empathy and compassion are the best tools we have against the hateful, against the patriarchy, and against our own persistent  shortcomings.

Book Review & Great Images

In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s a related book review and some truly wonderful accompanying images for Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II.

via Boing Boing.

Women of Library History on Tumblr

logo of the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association

To wrap up Women’s History Month, we want to point you to this incredible resource from the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association. Women of Library History highlights a different woman for each day of the month. Make sure you check out their Call for Submissions (2014), too. Is there someone in your library you’d like to highlight?

Women of Library History can be accessed at: http://womenoflibraryhistory.tumblr.com

International Women’s Day 2014

Happy Women’s History Month!

To begin the month, we are highlighting International Women’s Day on March 8. The official United Nations theme for International Women’s Day 2014 is “Equality for women is progress for all.” Another theme that sprang from this is “Inspiring change.” Below are some resources and news topics.

How are you celebrating on your campus? What resources have we missed?

CFP: Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium

image banner of the Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium to be held at the University of Toronto in October 2014

An announcement from Litwin Books, LLC:

CFP:
Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium
The University of Toronto, October 18, 2014

Gender and sexuality are two of the critical organizing axes of contemporary life. Alongside and intersecting with race, class, nation, and others, they constitute the ways through which we make ourselves known to ourselves and to one another: as men, women, or one of the 58 new gender options offered by Facebook, and as lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, and all the other varied and ever-changing linguistic markers of preferences of physical and emotional intimacy. Just as legal studies, the hard and social sciences, philosophy and literature, information studies is a discourse called to respond to the challenges posed by critical perspectives on gender and sexuality. Perhaps more than any other discipline, information studies confronts the theoretical with the material. How do both the “the archive” and the archive organize, and how are they organized by, gender and sexuality? From the collections we build to the access tools we design to the histories we collect, catalog, and preserve, information studies theorists and practitioners are always engaged in the projects of making and being made.

We invite proposals to join and extend these conversations during a one-day colloquium to be held at the University of Toronto on October 18, 2014. Presentations will consist of individual papers organized around themes that emerge from the submissions.

Suggested topics include:

  • Information studies and its engagements with cross-disciplinary theories of gender and sexuality
  • Practice-based responses to critical theories of gender and sexuality in information responses
  • Critical approaches to cataloging and classification
  • Feminist and queer library pedagogies, both in information studies schools and at the K-12 and undergraduate levels
  • Queer and feminist archival practices, both theoretical and material
  • Sexed and gendered labor in information environments
  • Intersections of gender and sexuality with race, class, and other axes of social organization
  • Critical feminist and queer critiques of the technologies of information production, organization, and dissemination

Please submit abstracts of no more than 500 words to emily.drabinski@gmail.com.

Proposals due May 1, 2014. Notification June 1, 2014.

Thanks to the University of Toronto Faculty of Information for generously hosting this colloquium.

Gender Composition of Scholarly Publications

Researchers at the University Washington’s Eigenfactor Project have produced a gender browser that shows how many female authors were published in JSTOR journals between 1665 and 2011.

A few pertinent facts:

  • For the overall period (1665-2011), only 22% of authorships of any author position are women
  • Women had the highest percentage of authorships (37.3%) for Education
  • Women were the least represented in Mathematics (6.6%)
  • During the period of 1990-2011, the overall percentage of female authors rose to just over 27%. In other words, men were still over twice as likely to be authors than women.

(The Chronicle of Higher Education has a very nice interactive graphic of the results, but you’ll need an online subscription to access it).

Accardi wins 2014 ACRL WGSS Significant Achievement Award

image of Maria T Accardi

Release reprinted from: http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2014/02/accardi-wins-2014-acrl-wgss-significant-achievement-award

CHICAGO – Maria T. Accardi, coordinator of library instruction at Indiana University Southeast, is the winner of the 2014 Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Women and Gender Studies Section (WGSS) Award for Significant Achievement in Woman’s Studies Librarianship. The WGSS award honors a significant or one-time contribution to women’s studies librarianship.

A plaque will be presented to Accardi at 8:30 a.m. on June 30, 2014, at the WGSS program during the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

“The committee selected Maria T. Accardi based on her noteworthy accomplishment, the 2013 book ‘Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction,’ published by Library Juice Press,” said award Chair Jennifer Mayer, associate librarian at the University of Wyoming. “The committee was impressed by her book-length treatment of the intersection of information literacy and feminist theory, which is unique, important and fills a gap in the literature.”

“While theoretical, the book is also an accessible, practical handbook including exercises and assessment strategies,” noted Mayer. “Accardi’s work also helps readers apply and integrate feminist pedagogical approaches in less-likely places—across the curriculum, in online classes, and with students who may not identify with feminism or understand the relevance in their lives. Committee members valued the wide appeal of Accardi’s book. ‘Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction’ is a must-read for any librarian with interests in feminist issues, pedagogy, and library instruction.”

Accardi received her M.L.I.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and her M.A. in English from the University of Louisville.

For more information regarding the ACRL WGSS Award for Significant Achievement in Woman’s Studies Librarianship, or a complete list of past recipients, please visit the awards section of the ACRL website.

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The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for librarians. Representing more than 11,500 academic and research librarians and interested individuals, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to help academic and research librarians learn, innovate and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship. ACRL is on the Web at www.acrl.org, Facebook at www.facebook.com/ala.acrl and Twitter at @ala_acrl.

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For Immediate Release

Mon., 02/03/2014

Contact:

Chase Ollis
Program Coordinator
ACRL
collis@ala.org

Call for Proposals – 2014 WGSS Poster Session

The Women & Gender Studies Section will hold its 7th annual Research Poster Session during our General Membership Meeting at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago on Saturday, June 28, 2014, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. The forum seeks to provide an opportunity to present newly completed research or work in progress. Both beginning and established researchers are welcome to apply. Participants may receive collaborative feedback and recommendations for future publishing and/or new initiatives.

The potential scope of the topics includes, but is not limited to, teaching methods, instruction, information technology, collection development, interdisciplinarity, and collaboration with academic faculty.
* For research ideas, see the newly updated Research Agenda for Women and Gender Studies Librarianship.
* This year the committee is especially interested in receiving submissions which highlight the ways in which librarians work with faculty and/or establish faculty partnerships. However, as stated above, submissions are NOT limited to this particular theme.

Applicants chosen to present their work at the poster session are expected to supply presentation materials, including poster boards. Tables for presentation materials will be provided.  Attendees at the forum will find an arena for discussion and networking with their colleagues interested in related issues and trends in the profession.

The committee will use a blind peer review process.

Selection criteria:

  1. Significance of the topic. Priority will be given to Women and Gender Studies Section members and/or women and gender studies topics
  2. Originality of the project

 

PROPOSAL SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Proposals should include:
    1. Title of the proposal
    2. Proposal narrative (no more than 2 pages, double spaced)
    3. Name of applicant(s)
    4. Affiliation (s)
    5. Applicant Email address(es), Phone number(s)
    6. Are you a member of the Women & Gender Studies Section?
      * If you would like to become a member, go to: http://www.libr.org/wss/join.html
  • Submission deadline: March 31, 2014  
  • Proposals should be emailed to: Beth Strickland, Chair, WGSS Research Committee (stricklb@umich.edu)
  • The chair will notify the applicants by April 30, 2014