Friday, June 29, 2007


These are my notes, at times hard to follow, from my first session. My style for this session was to record the comments of both the panelists and participants and letting my mind (read in bold) go where it felt called. So my thoughts unspoken are in bold and the rest are the discussion points.

Session One: Feminist Leadership in Student Affairs:
A Critical Look at Scholarship and Practice

Definition of Feminism
Intersection of Race, Class, and Gender

It's about not bemoaning that we’re not where we want to be, but action toward building toward where we want to be.

Common language:

What is your definition of feminism?
Radical inclusion that works toward the empowerment of all individuals and the dismantling of all personal and systematic oppression.

How does it play out in your leadership style in the Women’s Center on your campus?
I challenge, speak out, seek mentoring and being a mentor in every situation that I am involved.

Others Sharing:
Egalitarian, so student focused.
Examining power and privilege in individual schools (what percentage of the student body is women)

I feel an acute sense of individualism, high intellectual streamlined thinking where people want to self-talk talk talk, than collaborate and share. Community is about supporting and laughing, not just working together.

Piercing eyes, not the most welcoming of leaders.

Why is there power and privilege and assigned worth in every thing?
“We’re as smart as the faculty,” say staff.
“We’re as smart as the psychologists,” say social workers.

“They think the women dress like whores.” – audience participant, on introducing a dress code and someone’s thought on how it would apply on women

I have serious issues with the word whore. What is a 'whore?' A women who has a lot of sex? A woman who will sleep with anyone? A woman who charges or takes money in exchange for sexual activity? What is a whore? Regardless, there is an incredibly unjust label, a pejorative label, to assign any individual. Never mind there is no equivalent for the male gender, but there's something about the word WHORE, as if it's something we strive to NOT be, be afraid of. If it is a woman who is hypersexually active, there is usually a much detailed backstory that necessitates privacy and/or understanding that women, especially, are so slow to give one another.

From a perspecive of clinical pedagogy, experiential learning:
“If you don’t name it, you’re not doing it.” – law studenton practices that are feminist, but not labeled as such; if you don’t use it as a critique of the hierarchal approach, it’s not enough for me

Are we more obsessed with things being labeled feminist than just the reality that things are in practice without being labeled as such?

“I was first aware of my whiteness than before my gender.” – far more committed to issues of social justice; talking about how few student affairs administrators identify as feminists; identifying in an academe that is NOT feminist and pointing out contradictions

A researcher compares experience of academic feminists and the experience of immigrants in the 1920s and 30s….

That last comment is a bit of a stretch. Sounds a bit too Friedanian for me. Like when the Betster compared stay at home middle white class women to the torture of the refugees in Nazi camps.

I first thought of myself as a black person, then as a women. WOC are always asked to choose. I began struggling with what it meant to be woman, looking at womanism. Moving to a women’s center, I felt a personal mission to talk about race, social and economic class in the context of feminist work, which I found was often left out.

Good stuff. Nothing new. I think the
lack of new thoughts has more to do with the academe than the speaker. Academe might be the slowest place to catch up with the trends. It’s more about the venue of distributing one’s knowledge than it is a place for change.

Feminist leadership: not many resources. Good number on women and leadership; gender and leadership, but not feminist leadership; organizational development and transformational leadership – they’re feminist principles! But now it’s called *** and *** and now it’s ok for men to claim it. Feminism caused a split between woc feminism and mainstream feminism; conversations are different, especially with men; split between communities; relegated to issues; it’s opened my perspective but has constrained my work –doctoral candidate for educational leadership


Dated a man who was gay and came out after a long time – I’m going to support him or be angry. Obviously, she took the caretaker road.

Hello. Most women usually take the "caretaker" road. I think the majority of women in this situation would take the supportive role in the sense of "Staying friends, being there for him." I can only speak for myself, but in my history of being in a relationship where the other person at the time is not certain of who s/he is, and what their identity is, it ALWAYS turns unjust for the other. Always. It's so imbalanced that it's impossible for mutually healthy relationship to flourish. I think there are ways to end relationships out of self-respect. I take, "I love you, but go figure your shit out and quit screwing me over," road. I don't think "support" always necessitates standing by one's side presence and enduring emotional daggers to the soul.

I came to social justice in this relationship experience, first time to think about these issues. Began another “turning point” after working in a dv/sa position. Women with multiple identities are often forced to choose communities. In all white women communities, I didn’t find a mentor or anyone who broke down race, class, gender. We need to hold our partners accountable as partners because once you talk about women in student affairs we immediately talk about balancing family; also getting men involved in the movement; bring men into the conversation in constructive ways that do not take away from the work that women have been doing for ht past several decades; hold them to higher standards; do not exclude women who choose not to have children and respect that they have the need for balance as well.


I was here from the beginning. It was easy to come to before.
I was the first to join the hockey team. There are still more firsts to be had. There is still more work to be done. - audience

Talking about the .76 to a man’s dollar. "I’m not satisfied with that."

Why do we always hold this as one of the mainstays? Like, always.

Practical ways; being intentional about the library; south end press utilization; it is NOT feminist practice to give so much money to other “big” speakers and privilege that over smaller, grassortts activism, like using the money to really expand the resources (what movies, documentaries do we need? What else can we support?)

Activism should be focused on broadening the definition of feminism
Hiring practices – search committees – should work on shifting the language “I’m looking for an activist,” not a student affairs professional. Look at the students who are working in your office.

I realize it is a privilege to talk about gender all day. At NASPA, we had a session on feminist leadership, we had a room this size and it was full and women CRIED.


I’ve had grievances filed against me for hiring practice, but you have to have the courage to do it and hopefully you lay the ground for someone else to do the same. These are various forms of activism, but you have to find other people who do it. You find yourself talking to yourself a lot.

What does your activism look like?

Be transparent with students
There was an immediate gag rule
I can’t talk about this or do it, but you can. What can I do to help you? We can’t support you because some things are too institutionalized. It sucks and I hate it, but I can personally support you. – says Duke Women’s Center employee

Be sure there is sustainability in your feminist activism.
How do you get people jazzed about sexual assault preventative education?

I think getting men jazzed about it is more important.

We work well together because we all identify as feminists. We all have women-centerd principles. Feminism is a wonderful foundation for social justice work – you can call it what you want – just adopt it and use it.

Get feminism into the headlines and titles into topics, dissertations, conferences, national boards, literature

Of course Women Writing for a Change in Cincinnati came up – feminist leadership academy – Mary Pierce Brosmer

It’s more important to be more collective.

Word. Why’d that come at the end?

1 comment:

  1. Shortly after reading this, I happened across this post on Letters from Gehenna, which I think points out quite clearly what's wrong with the word "whore". It means "a woman who is outside the social contract and thus doesn't count as a real person or need to be treated as one." So, if a woman is a "whore", it means it doesn't matter if she gets abused or whatever. And, if she looks like one, well, honest mistake, eh?

    With that kind of baggage, it hardly even matters how one decides who's a "whore" -- as you say, it's incredibly unjust to apply to anyone.


Hey there,
Before you leave a comment, just remember two things:
1. You are taking responsibility for a public comment
2. Anything that resembles racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, or anything based from religion, citizenship, or ethnic bias - don't bother commenting, you'll be deleted.