PANEL: Women and Cultural Activism

Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 4:45 PM

This panel will be moderated by current SLC Women’s History student, Robert Leleux.

Out South of the Salt Line: Lesbians in the Court of Public Opinion

Debbie Hicks

Tourists recall images of the Gulf South port of Mobile, Alabama: teen Azalea Trail Maids as a pastel curtsy of antebellum hoop skirts; maskers rocking Mardi Gras floats; hurricane flooded bayous, and record-busting deep-sea fishing rodeos. Each image speaks, in part, to an aspect of history, custom, and values shaping the lives of women and their families living in a city which boasts a colonial legacy as birthplace of French Creole culture and Mardi Gras in America. Yet lesbians and other gender-minority women in coastal Alabama, like all women in the Deep South, can rightly claim less significant if less heard herstories of advocacy. Our discussion identifies lesbian advocates, their organizations, and strategies which advanced social justice for lesbians and other minority genders in the Mobile area.

Debbie Hicks is an independent scholar who lives and writes about the lives of women and gender-minorities in coastal Alabama, as well as historically segregated Indian communities in the Deep South. She is an activist whose work has included community organizing for civil rights starting in 1977, during which time she participated in the Student Coalition for Community Health (SCCH) to offer the first integrated health care program serving all residents in a rural Alabama community. She currently coordinates Charlotte’s Tree, a volunteer program that recycles materials destined for landfill to assist low-income persons.

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Womanspace Gallery: From the Laundromat to the Woman’s Building

Elizabeth Dastin

Los Angeles during the 1970s was host to a wealth of significant art historical feminist activity. The best known is the 1972 installation, Womanhouse, organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. As an homage to and extension of these efforts, the cooperative gallery Womanspace (1973-1974) opened its doors and the following year, as did the Woman’s Building (1973-1991), a non-profit arts and education center. Although the Woman’s Building closed in 1991, its legacy has recently generated a surge of interest, culminating in a 2011 Getty sponsored exhibition which historicized its contributions to feminist communities in Los Angeles… I correct the glaring omission of Womanspace within the narrative of the Woman’s Building and locate the gallery as an overlooked and instrumental player within feminist activity in Los Angeles. …I extend the Getty’s energies to unearth a narrative for the post-war art scene in Los Angeles to include Womanspace and its contributions to the regional expressions of 1970s feminism.

Elizabeth Dastin is a PhD candidate in Art History with a certificate in Women’s Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. She holds an MA from Christie’s and a BA from Wellesley College. She has taught and lectured at a number of institutions in New York and California, and she currently teaches at Santa Monica College.

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Women and Political Activism in Selected Novels by Julia Alvarez

Naglaa Hasaan

Julia Alvarez (1950- ), a Dominican-American poet, novelist, and essayist, is known for her engagement with the political dilemmas of her native country, the Dominican Republic. In her novels In the Time of the Butterflies (1991) and In the Name of Salome (1994), she not only grapples with the traumatic historical experiences of Caribbean islands under dictatorship but she also foregrounds the role of women in creating a new revolutionary spring. Alvarez’s novels will be read in light of Foucault’s theory with particular focus on the mechanisms of power and resistance, how power works out to subjugate people and how resistance can take multiple forms, primary among which are discursive practices. To apply Foucault’s concepts to Alvarez’s feminist/political novels will cast mutual light on both writers, elucidating their views in a way that weds theory and practice.

Naglaa Saad Mohamed Hassan earned her PhD from Cairo University in Egypt. Her dissertation, completed in 2009, is entitled, “Cultural Politics in Selected Works of Derek Walcott: A Study in Postcolonial Theory and Practice.” She is a Fulbright scholar and currently lectures in English at Fayoum University. Her other accomplishments include numerous translations from English to Arabic, and articles exploring the Muslim world and Arab cultural identity.

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