Fighting with the Sky

Posts Tagged ‘activism

Women’s Studies On Its Own is a compilation of essays edited by Robyn Wiegman.  I read many of these essays and articles for my my senior seminar in Women’s and Gender Studies, specifically looking at articles related to the role that activism plays in women’s studies.

From the back cover:

Since the 1970s, Women’s Studies has grown from a volunteerist political project to a full-scale academic enterprise.  Women’s Stuides On Its Own asseses the present and future of the field, demonstrating how institutionalization has extended a vital, ongoing intellectual project for a new generation of scholars and students.

Women’s Stuides On Its Own considers histoyr, pedagogy, and curricula of Women’s Stuides programs, as well as the field’s relation to the manage university.  Both theoretically and insitutionally grounded, the essays examine the pedagogical implications of various divisions of knowledge – racial, sexual, disciplinary, geopolitical, and economic.  They look at the institutional practices that challenge and enable Women’s Studies – including interdisciplinarity, governance, administration, faculty review, professionalism, corporatism, fiscal autonomy, and fiscal constraint.  Whether thinking about issues of academic labor, the impact of postcolonialism on Women’s Studies curricula, or the relation between education and the state, the contributors bring insight and wit to their theoretical deliberations on the shape of a transforming field.

I really liked this book because of the wide variety of viewpoints that it offered.  For some purposes, I really like these kinds of anthologies.  It was great to see all of these essays on the role of Women’s Studies in the university/college and the impact that it has on students.

The essays are definitely academic.  It’s not always an easy read.  The essays are four categories: histories of the present; institutional pedagogies; in the shadow of capital; and critical classrooms.  Some of my favorite essays were in the “critical classrooms” section because they covered some of the intersections of feminism and racism, classism, and other -isms, as well how women’s studies as a discipline approaches these issues.


This is a cross-post from Miss Wizzle at  Miss Wizzle is a product of the Midwest suburbs and was raised to think for herself. She never realized how important this upbringing was until she was transplanted into the Wild West and the like-minded community she gre up with became a distant memory. After a couple years in the conservative west, she has developed a clearer idea of who she is, what she believes, and why she believes it.  Read Miss Wizzle’s previous cross-post.


The Middle East has become the focus of a great deal of attention in the recent history, and as the region continues to draw our interest, we are increasingly made aware of the status of the women who reside there.  In her heartwrenching memoir, In the Name of Honor, Mukhtar Mai allows us into her personal experience of trauma, loss, courage, hope, and the quest for justice in Pakistan.

After a family feud results in false accusations of rape committed by her twelve year-old brother, Mukhtar Bibi (as she was called at the time) must present herself to the rival family, the Mastois, and offer an apology on behalf of her family.  Guided by her father, older brother, and uncle, Mukhtar bravely carries her Koran into the neighboring community, wholly unprepared for what is about to occur.  A number of the citizens turn guns against her chaperons, and four men carry Mukhtar into a dark barn where she is gang raped and then tossed out, humiliated and half naked.  The intensity of the experience, and the feeling of being in that dark building with Mukhtar is devastating.

Following her assault, Mukhtar falls into a deep depression, having lost all honor for herself and her family.  She considers suicide, explaining that the aggressors “know that a woman humiliated in that way has no other recourse except suicide.  They don’t even need to use their weapons.  Rape kills her.”  However, Mukhtar’s loving mother refuses to leave her daughter’s bedside, even as she begs for acid to drink.  Finally, the hopelessness subsides and Mukhtar is driven by her anger to do something unheard of in such cases: report the attack and fight back until justice is served.

Mukhtar fights an uphill battle the whole way to the Pakistani Supreme Court as a result of pressure from jirgas (traditional tribal councils) on local government, false testimonies composed by police officers taking advantage of the widespread illiteracy of women in the region, and the misogynistic bias that prohibits her access to a fair trial or even humane treatment.  Despite all this, Mukhtar never gives up, and in fact uses her case to draw global attention to the status of women in Pakistan, and the use of rape as an essential bargaining chip in the relations of tribes and clans in the country.  In order to make the lives of future generations less painful, Mukhtar uses the money she is offered from various causes to start a school for girls as well as boys, and becomes a source of hope and strength for those who survive horrendous abuses and traumas as a result of the old ways of the patriarchial, misogynistic culture.

The courage and persistence demonstrated by Mukhtar Mai despite it all is cause for hope.  “Sometimes, the magnitude of the problem overwhelms me,” she states.  “Sometimes I’m so angry I can hardly breathe.  But I never despair.  My life has a meaning.  My misfortune has become useful to the community.”  Because women like Mukhtar are beginning to stand up, the world is noticing.  Their stories turn a distant region into our own backyard, and force us to stand alongside them.

To learn more about the causes of Mukhtar Mai, visit these links.

Happy Sunday!  This has been an exciting week for me.  I’ve started a new job and am in the middle of training and as you can see, I have have moved my site to a brand spanking-new self-hosted site!  Take a peek around at some of the new stuff and let me know if you have any suggestions.  Per usual, this post will feature some link love from the past couple days as well as a reminder of some of my favorite posts from the week as featured on Tuesday and Thursday.  Don’t forget to leave links to what you have been writing and reading this week (a little self-promotion never hurt anyone!).

New link love:

How PETA is Damaging the Animal Welfare Movement [this ain’t livin’] – Pretty self-explanatory from the title…don’t we all love PETA?  I’d also like to point you to meloukhia’s Feminism and Joss Whedon series because those are two of my favorite things!

Normalization of maleness and whiteness in beer packaging [Deeply Problematic] – Have you ever stopped in the beer aisle and taken a look around?  What do you see?  An overwhelming number of white males on the packaging.  And how are women and people of color represented on these packagings?

Dinner Party Anyone? [Choices Campus Blog] – An idea for raising awareness about feminism on your campus (if you are a college student) which is also a great idea for anyone!  I want to plan a feminist dinner party…too bad all of you are so far away!

Small Strokes Podcast: My Definition of Feminism [Small Strokes] – Take a listen to Ashley’s first podcast about what feminism means to her!

Weekly Link Love:

Getting out of the way so women can save the world [Feministing] – A look at the recent NYT magazine of “Saving the World’s Women.”

Ashley at Small Strokes started a series on why and how feminism should be taught in schools which I was lucky enough to guest post for.  Because the teenage years are important part in the development of the person and values, teaching feminism in high school is very important!

The 5 Ways Glamour Undermines Its Size-12 Self-Acceptance Message [Glossed Over] – All of the uproar over Glamour’s size 12 model didn’t quite sit well with me and didn’t really know why, but Wendy has explained my uneasiness about it very well.

Bros before Hos: A Post Ted Kennedy Story [Recursive Paradox] – After Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death, everybody was quick to praise his contributions to women’s rights. But Recursive Paradox pointed out a not very well-known story about Ted Kennedy that should also be remembered!

Today, I received an email from a reader who raised concerns about armchair philosophy and me not taking any action to further the cause of feminism. From the outset, I would like to say that I have since addressed the issues that this individual had and we have worked towards a resolution, so this is in no way an attack on this individual. I simply wanted to express my inspiration for this post.

The question I want to address is: is blogging an act of feminist activism?

Of course the blogging in question would have to be feminist in nature; not all blogging could be considered a form of feminist activism (just too at, more on this later). (Note: feminist in nature does not necessarily mean specifically about feminism, just with a feminist leaning.)

I think that there is a general conception that feminist activism is all about marches and “taking to the streets.” In the 70s, that’s what got people’s attention. “Sisterhood” was strong and radical things needed to happen (not that radical things don’t need to happen today). Today, in the third wave, we are all about individual freedom and choice (I know I am generalizing, which is usually not a good thing, but the purpose of this generalization is to show the difference in activism between the 70s and today).

Today, activism can take many forms. Activism, to me at least, is all about enacting change in any way that you can. This can be done through volunteering, participating in activist organizations, writing letters or otherwise contacting elected officials, companies with sexist practices, etc. with your concerns, and anything else that you think can make some sort of change. And yes, activism still involved protesting, but it is not the only part!

For me, part of feminism is making sure that everyone’s voice is heard, especially the voices of people who are usually silenced by society. I see blogging as a great way for these voices to be heard. Anyone can start a blog, therefore anyone’s voice can be heard.

Feminist blogs are a great addition to the conversation that is going on in the blogosphere (I must admit that I am a little biased, obviously). And because of this, the voices of the people who write feminist blogs (and comment on them) are being heard. While this may not seem like a lot, feminist blogs raise awareness about feminist issues, therefore are enacting a form of change. Raising awareness about feminist issues is an important part of activism and that is preciesly what feminist blogs do!

I do not want this post to seem like some form of excuse of a guilty conscious for not participating in other forms of activism. I started this blog as a compliment to other forms of activism. As the reader who emailed me correctly said:

any attemt to change must surely be active – it must involve a discourse between yourself and others, between culture and the individual, and through this active self sacrifice and imposition of a different ‘narrative’ the forms and connexions of power may shift in a way that you consider favourable.

Activism has to be active, has to be about conversation, and ultimately comes down to some form of self-sacrifice.

I see blogging as active because you are doing something about you personal beliefs in feminism rather than just sitting there wallowing in your anger over the state of the world. But if you are going to enact change, there has to be more than blogging. You have to partake in other forms of activism (as I talked about above) to enact change. This is not to say that feminist blogging is not adequate activism (because I would not completely negate all that I just said). Feminist blogging is just one aspect of feminist activism that is used to raise awareness of feminist issues and enact change. So to all the feminist bloggers out there: keep doing what you are doing and be proud of the change that you are enacting through raising awareness about these very serious and important issues!

If I tell someone that I have a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies, I often get the responses: “What’s that?” or “What are you going to do with that?” How do you explain to others, especially potential employers (in this economy) the skills that Women’s Studies provides that other disciplines don’t? How do you dispell the false beliefs about Women’s Studies and show the importance of the knowledge gained through Women’s Stuides? While people in the field of Women’s and Gender Studies know the advantages of it, the general public is still uneducated on the benefits of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Women’s Studies majors know how to read analytically, write passionately, and apply their knowledge from the classroom to the “real world.” In my senior seminar, we had to write a definition of Women’s and Gender Studies in 100 words (in my case, 102 words) and I think that this can be helpful in marketing your Women’s Studies degree to future employers, friends, acquaintances, and anyone who might have a curious comment.

Women’s and Gender Studies is the interdisciplinary examining and questioning of interlocking forms of oppression that different women face that is grounded in their lived experiences. While the experiences of women play an important role in the construction of knowledge within women’s studies, it is important to question the context of those experiences. It was developed as the academic arm of “the” women’s movemnet and has further developed the connection between academics and activism. Academics feeds activism, but activism also feeds academics. Women’s studies encourages questioning the construction of knowledge both outside and within the discipline and its relation to the patriarchy.

While the definition does not highlight all of the skills and knowledge that one gains as a Women’s Studies major, it is an important first step. Understanding what Women’s Studies means to you in a concise way will help you realize the marketable skills that you have.

I encourage everyone to write their own definition because so much of Women’s Studies depends on personal experience. Start by thinking of the definition, then the skills, such as analytical reading, good writing skills, and the application of classroom knowledge.

What is feminism without activism really? We can sit here and talk about all the ways that women are oppressed and how horribly the society treats women, but nothing is going to change if we don’t make it happen. Here are some small ways that you can make a difference in your community and in the country:

-Volunteer at your local Planned Parenthood clinic
-If there is a NARAL office near you, volunteer there
-Volunteer at a domestic violence shelter
-Volunteer at a food pantry (since many of the low income people visiting food pantries are single mothers, plus it’s just a good thing to do…)
-Get involved with your local YWCA
-Research the non-profit organizations in your community. Find one that caters to women’s issues to volunteer at
-Get involved with your local NOW chapter
-Write your elected officials about the issues you care about
-Write to companies that don’t have fair treatment of their employees, run offensive ads, or are Walmart

You don’t have to do all of these things. Just by choosing one that you care about or that you have time for in your busy schedule will make a difference.