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 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:

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:

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

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:

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.


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, Facebook at and Twitter at @ala_acrl.


For Immediate Release

Mon., 02/03/2014


Chase Ollis
Program Coordinator

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



  • 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:
  • Submission deadline: March 31, 2014  
  • Proposals should be emailed to: Beth Strickland, Chair, WGSS Research Committee (
  • The chair will notify the applicants by April 30, 2014

Micham wins 2014 ACRL WGSS Career Achievement Award

image of Laura Micham

Release reprinted from:

CHICAGO – Laura Micham, Merle Hoffmann director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture and curator of gender and sexuality history collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at Duke University, has been selected as the 2014 winner of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Women and Gender Studies Section (WGSS) Career Achievement Award. The award honors significant long-standing contributions to women’s studies in the field of librarianship over the course of a career.

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

“The awards committee selected Laura Micham based on her significant leadership strengths and contributions to the world of archives as the Merle Hoffman Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke University,” said award chair Jennifer Mayer, associate librarian at the University of Wyoming. “One colleague describes her vision and commitment as bringing the dreams of ‘a vibrant hub of feminist scholarship’ to its current reality. Another describes her ‘unparalleled intellectual grasp of the field of women and gender studies, her boundless energy for programming and her remarkable ability to work with all sectors of the university community.’”

“The committee looked at Micham’s tenure as director and the resulting successful archival programs, instructional offerings and collections in women and gender studies disciplines—all of exemplary quality—developed under her leadership. The committee was also impressed with her proactive work with students–how she makes collections come alive for students, and her passion to connect students with archival resources. During her directorship, the Sallie Bingham Center has grown both its collections and its national profile. Micham is described as an individual who fights hard and fairly—and successfully—for archives. Her work and partnerships with other Duke curators have led to the acquisitions of high profile collections including the Dorothy Allison papers, the Meredith Tax papers, the records of Ipas and many other significant collections.”

Micham received her MSLS with a concentration in Archives and Rare Books Administration from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

For more information regarding the ACRL WGSS Career Achievement Award, or a complete list of past recipients, please visit the awards section of the ACRL website.


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, Facebook at and Twitter at @ala_acrl.


For Immediate Release

Tues., 02/04/2014


Chase Ollis
Program Coordinator

#NotYourAsianSidekick: Asian American feminist online conversations

collage of various images and headshots of panelists for the #NotYourAsianSidekick panel

18MillionRising’s publicity image for the #NotYourAsianSidekick campaign.

Last Thursday, January 16, 2014, 18MillionRising (18MR) had its first public forum online for their  #NotYourAsianSidekick campaign through Google Hangouts. The topics: the #NotYourAsianSidekick trend on Twitter, which started in mid-December 2013, women of color and feminism, and using social media for activism and community organizing. The forum consisted of Asian American panelists, moderated by PaKou Her, campaign director for 18MR. Featured speakers were writer and activist Tanzila Ahmed, Soya Jung from ChangeLab, originator of the #NotYourAsianSidekick hashtag Suey Park, comedian and activist Kristina Wong, and Miriam Yeung from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).

Subtitled “The Past, Present, and Future of Asian American Grassroots,” the online public forum focused on necessary conversations we must have with each other, our friends, family, and colleagues. Topics such as race, gender equality, and political engagement may be difficult to talk about, but they must be discussed. The #NotYourAsianSidekick Twitter trend and the subsequent responses signal the need for such conversations.

The energy and interest generated through social media present many opportunities–to engage youth in political and civic matters, to educate and inspire others, to connect, to facilitate ideas and thoughts into meaningful action and change. The list goes on. A very descriptive summation of the discussion generated by the forum was provided by Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed: “Activism isn’t just about the dramatic shift. It’s about the 1-on-1 conversation.” Such gems were tweeted and retweeted by forum participants, reaching those who follow #NotYourAsianSidekick on Twitter and other social media outlets.

Two useful lists mentioned by participants of the forum:

A second online public forum for the #NotYourAsianSidekick campaign is in the works. It promises to be another stimulating discussion about grassroots activism, the intersections of race and gender, and social change.