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.

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.

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.

PREVIEW: 15th Annual Women’s History Month Conference in Honor of Amy Swerdlow


“Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait For Liberty?” — Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress’ Women’s History Month archives.

Hello women’s history enthusiasts and loyal readers!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year– namely, WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH! To kick off the month of March, Sarah Lawrence College’s Women’s History graduate program hosts an annual conference, centered around a theme in women’s history and activism. This year, our conference honors the late Amy Swerdlow, historian, activist, member of Women Strike for Peace, and former director of the WH program at SLC. Swerdlow expertly combined scholarship and activism in her own amazing life, and we draw on her example as inspiration for the work and message of this year’s celebration.


As a member of the conference’s committee, I was privileged to read and select from the brilliant submissions to our conference this year. In the next day or two, the Re/visionist team will be posting excerpts from the papers that will be featured at the conference on March 1st and 2nd, 2013.

In the mean time, mark your calendars and don’t forget to REGISTER HERE so that when you arrive at Heimbold Auditorium on March 1st and/or 2nd, there will be a lovely folder with your name on it!

I can’t wait to see you all there for a day and a half of illuminating and diverse presentations on the intersection of feminisms, activisms, and scholarship in the study of women’s history.



SLC to Screen Documentary on Masculinity, “Tough Guise” – Tuesday 2/19 @ 8 PM



TOUGH GUISE: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity

A documentary by Jackson Katz, Jeremy Earp, and Sut Jhally

Film Screening & Discussion

Tuesday February 19th, 8pm in Titsworth Lecture Hall

(click here to watch the trailer)

Further discussion will take place at the Feminist Collective Meeting on Wednesday February 20th at 7pm in the Tea Haus

Pizza will be served

Brought to you by the Feminist Collective and the Women’s History Graduate Program


We at R/V would love to see you there, and feel free to comment on this post with your thoughts on the film! 

Robert Leleux on Gerda Lerner in The American Prospect


Gerda Lerner in 2002 speaking at University of Wisconsin-Madision, where she founded the PhD program in Women’s and Gender History.


We are pleased to announce that our illustrious colleague in the Women’s History program, Robert Leleux, has written an illuminating piece in The American Prospect on the late Gerda Lerner and her contributions to Women’s History and academia as a whole. Leleux writes:

The restoration of half the human race to the historical record has led to consequences beyond anything Lerner could have imagined at the start of her career. When scholars started peering over the formidable shoulders of such “great women” as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and began researching and analyzing the traditional stuff of the vast majority of women’s lives—pregnancy and childbirth, child-rearing and housework—a picture of humanity with subversive implications emerged. …Little wonder that the insights of women’s history have proven contagious, inspiring the LGBT community to discover its own place in the past.

Enjoy Leleux’s excellent tribute, “Matriarch,” here.

In Other News, Not All Pregnant Women Are Created Equal

If you’ve read anything at all today, including top news sources, you know the most important thing EVER has happened: yes, the Dutchess of Cambridge, Kate, is pregnant. Jezebel has an excerpt from the official statement, as well as a comprehensive retrospective of tabloid coverage of Kate’s uterus.

I think this is an apt opportunity for us to note the wonderful problems with our collective obsession with Kate’s pregnancy. Or, if I can rephrase this as a question: WHY DO WE CARE?

I’ll tell you why, in case you were wondering. We care, apparently, because “Prince William and Catherine’s child will be next in line to the British throne after William” (NPR). Mmmm. OK. And British monarchy plays such an instrumental role in the geopolitical landscape. Oh, especially because we definitely support bloodline-determined power. Even though we fought a revolution against it to found our nation. But no, it’s cool. It’s classy. It’s chic.


The Cult of Royal Motherhood, a la Diana.


If we are feminists, we might care because “Leaders of Britain and the 15 former colonies that have the monarch as their head of state agreed in 2011 to new rules which give females equal status with males in the order of succession” (NY Times). Yes, that’s good. Personally, I’m glad that it only took 10 centuries for that to be the case. The arc of history… amiright?!

But there are some among us who care about this because it is a blatant example that not all pregnancies and motherhoods are treated equally in this world. While women of color and ethnic minorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were told to stop being so “fertile” and having babies, white mothers were encouraged to continue “their race” and sparked a crusade against homebirth/midwifery, leading to our current medical industrial complex surrounding birth. Oh the precious little angels! Unless they’re poor. Or immigrant. Or not the children of venture capitalists and titled royalty.

Listen, I watch Downton Abbey, too. I find it all fascinating from an historical standpoint. But it remains true that as long as major news publications make “royal” women’s reproduction a top news story–and as long as we continue to care–we will be contributing to the uneven, racist, and classist notions of motherhood that underpin our culture. Celebrate her pregnancy if you love pregnancy–but consider the underlying assumptions about that pregnancy, too.

In case I’m being too vulgar for you, there is a real live book that may seem more legitimate to you, and which covers this topic en gros. It is Susan Douglas’ The Mommy Myth, and it is a brilliant history/study of the cult of motherhood.

Stay tuned for less angry (perhaps) and more diverse content on the subject of motherhood, coming soon in the December/January Issue of Re/visionist.



Deck the halls with gender stereotypes, fa la la la laaaa, la la la la!

Have you experienced the following exchange during the commercial break of a recent sports event or new episode?

You: Oh. My. God. Are they @#$%*&@$ serious.

TV-watching partner: What? What is it?

You: Seriously? Ser– no, seriously? Are they? What the @$%%$#$%$#%!!!!!!

If this sounds familiar, you may be eligible to win Re/visionist’s First Annual Holiday Ad Contest!

Tis the season, and with it comes a slough of misogyny, racism, and general stereotyping in advertisements. Why? Well, because if we are too comfortable with our gender/race/class/sexuality, WE MIGHT NOT SPEND ANY MONEY.

Hence, in order to stay sane, the Re/visionist team has decided to ask all of you for unpleasant, uncouth, and uncool holiday-themed ads, be they print or video. Please submit the ad via email to With it please include a short blurb analyzing the stereotyped, hurtful, degrading, and/or problematic portrayal of gender, sex, race, class, and/or sexuality. (We’re leaving it pretty wide open here.) Deadline: December 7th, 2012.

In 2009, this body spray ad baffled us in the feminist community. As someone at Bitch magazine commented, it could be an ad for pepper spray and they wouldn’t have to change a thing.

The TOP 10 BEST (or shall we say, worst) will be selected and posted on the blog on the last day of Hannukah, December 16, 2012, just when you’ve had it up to your nose. For their insightful analyses, winners will also receive a small but special token of our feminist admiration, courtesy of their favorite women’s history grad students.

For inspiration, we invite you to check out Bitch Magazine’s examples from their recent post, “It’s the Most Terrible Time of the Year: Offensive Holiday Ad Showdown!”

It’s the most powerful antidote to insensitive advertising: sharp feminist criticism.

Also, stay tuned for the December/January Issue of R/V, coming next month!


The Editorial Team