Welcome to the official blog for Villanova's Gender and Women's Studies program! Please come back often for information on events, programming, academic opportunities, alumni news, student accomplishments, and more! Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

GWS Major News: Emily Tifft, Internship at the Supreme Court

Crammed into a packed, outdoor amphitheater, sitting between centenarians and college students alike, I found my future. Two and a half years ago, based on my passion for my high school’s Mock Trial team, my mother took me to see an interview with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Twenty minutes into hearing Justice O’Connor detail her journey to become the first female justice on the nation’s highest court, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I also discovered, however, how much I wanted to be a Gender and Women’s Studies major. And although I did not know it at the time, my GWS degree would lead me to the very place Justice O’Connor worked for almost 25 years: the Supreme Court of the United States.

Sitting in the audience, I was moved by Justice O’Connor’s determination. Lawyers and judges told Justice O’Connor women could not attend law school. In response, she went to Stanford Law School and won awards for her publications as Editor-in-Chief of the law review. When she was told the only job she could get in a law firm was as a secretary, she founded her own firm—and worked her way all the way to the Supreme Court. In retirement, she founded a website, iCivics, which uses games to teach middle school students about the government and has crusaded for the abolishment of the elected judiciary system. In short, throughout her life, Justice O’Connor has proven that despite obstacles and close-mindedness, women can achieve anything to which they aspire.

Stories of remarkable women like Justice O’Connor have inspired me to fight for women’s equality. They have inspired me to declare a major that empowers men and women alike and campaigns for justice and equality. This semester, with the help, guidance, and support of some amazing GWS professors, I took a big step toward my legal future by applying for, and later securing, a position as the Visitor Programs Intern at the Supreme Court of the United States.

For the past two months, I have been studying a small library of books, news articles, and legal briefs to prepare for visitor inquiries. During the next four months, I will use that research and knowledge to lead tours of the Court, develop new presentations, and share the history of the institution with more than 200 people at a time inside the nation’s most famous courthouse. In short, I will be pushed far outside of my comfort zone. Luckily, I feel prepared. After all, I have a broad base of skills from my GWS studies.

I was selected for my internship out of a national pool of bright, talented applicants. In my application, I wrote an essay about gender inequality in America. The essay discussed my desire to make a difference, however small, in enacting the words written on the entrance to the Supreme Court: “Equal Justice under Law.” I talked about my Villanova courses in feminist theory and the study of intersectional oppressions and prejudices. While I am sure there were many factors in my selection, I know it is not an exaggeration to say I would not have been chosen for my dream internship had it not been for my ability to differentiate myself as a GWS major.

This summer, I will lead guests through the courtroom, the on-site history exhibitions, and, most meaningfully to me, a retrospective on Sandra Day O’Connor. Just as Justice O’Connor inspired me, I look forward to sharing her story and message with others, so they too can see the power of perseverance and the importance of justice.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Faculty News: GWS Academic Director Featured on NPR

The Gender and Women's Studies program is excited to announce that our own Academic Director, Dr. Jean Lutes, was interviewed on NPR's national radio program Morning Edition today! She discussed the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nellie Bly, the famous American female reporter. You can listen to the interview on NPR's website.

Dr. Lutes has also edited a Penguin Classics edition of Bly's new stories that you can see here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Congratulations to our GWS Graduates!

We wish you the best of luck in all you do. Thanks so much for being a part of the Gender and Women's Studies Program during your time at Villanova.

Majors: Tara Lombardia and Kelsey Utter
Minors: Olivia Ferguson, McKenna Hinkle, Elyssa Strickler, Katherine Welter, and Jacqueline Zellman

"As a graduating Gender and Women's Studies Major I can honestly say my outlook on the world has been changed because of my major. My classes have affected me beyond the walls of the classroom. What I have learned is relevant no matter what situation I am in. I've learned most importantly to ask "why?" Why is the world the way it is and why do we accept the world to be what it is? My courses and my professors have opened my eyes to the fact that the world is what we make of it, and sexism is still prevalent in every aspect of life, even if it doesn't seem obvious. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to learn how to think critically. Gender and Women's Studies majors and minors understand that the world could be a better place, and as a Gender and Women's Studies student, I want to be part of that change."-Tara Lombardia
(Interested in declaring a Gender and Women's Studies major or minor? Contact our Academic Director, Jean Lutes, at jean.lutes@villanova.edu. You can also find more information on our website.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Word From a GWS Alum

(By Laura Freeman)
My early educational experiences, probably not unlike many from small town, USA, consisted of rousing conversations about the greatness of our forefathers, the groundbreaking scientific discoveries of Newton and Edison, and countless re-readings of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It’s not, of course, that these subjects don’t have merit, it was just always more of the same.

When I began studying at Villanova in the Fall of 2005, I was astounded at the types of subjects I got to study: Ancient Medieval Renaissance Thought, Poetry and Prose of the 1800s. I read authors I’d never heard of and examined narrative in a deeper way than ever before. In that Poetry and Prose class with Dr. Marylu Hill, I got my first taste (pun intended) of a gendered perspective when we studied Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market.” I was fascinated by this visceral poem that described a woman being lured into the sleazy and dangerous marketplace and how only her sister could save her using the addictive fruit that called to her in the first place. I would study this poem again in graduate school and rediscover its many layers that centered on the complexity of femininity and what it means to be a woman in the world. I can just picture my 19 year old self sitting in Dr. Hill’s class with my mouth hanging open thinking, “What would my mom say if she heard this?"

The truth is I was never raised to think much about what it meant to be a woman. My mom is one of the most hardworking women I know and I don’t think she has any idea that this is true. She is the quintessential “do-it-all” woman – she works full time, she takes care of her husband and her children and her house – and she never ever questioned this as the path for her. The more I was exposed to feminist studies and a gendered perspective through my classes, the more questions I asked her about why she made the choices she did, whether she felt pressured to be a certain way because she was a woman, and even whether she thought about how she may have raised my sister and I differently from my brothers. Her answers were typically, “I just never thought about it,” which only inspired me to continue applying a gendered lens to practically everything I encountered – both in academia and outside of it – because I wanted to think about it I was fortunate enough to continue my analysis and research of gender and women’s studies during graduate school when I became the GWS graduate assistant (a job that had I been allowed to keep I would have!). It was very early in my two year tenure that my passion for the necessity of gender studies at Villanova and elsewhere was reaffirmed.

During our first appearance at the Majors fair in 2010, I set up our booth and placed on the table a poster collage that some of the current majors had made. On it were pictures cut from magazines of all types of bodies, male and female, in various states of dress and undress, and the poster challenged those looking at it to consider the difference between sex and gender. A Villanova employee setting up her own booth next to me, glanced at the poster and asked, “Why are there men on your poster?” I replied, “What do you mean?” She said “Well, I thought you were Gender and Women’s Studies. Isn’t that just about women?” I explained, “Men have gender, too. You know, masculinity?” And she just shrugged her shoulders. Indeed, there was still work to be done. In my graduate work, I tried to read and analyze almost everything with a gendered lens, my final project tracing motherhood through the waves of feminism – a culmination of my academic interests and the questions I raised to my mom. It had been my goal from the beginning to delve even deeper into the subject that already meant so much to me as an undergrad. Thankfully the English department at Villanova is amazing and my professors supported me every step of the way. So I would plan GWS events during the day – thinking of the best way to reach undergrads who maybe like me hadn’t had any experience with gender, and I would think through these things through literature and criticism at night. It might seem like this would become tiring, but it really didn’t. There was so much to think about! An issue that while growing up may have seemed black and white, now had many beautiful shades of gray. And while this expanded palette did expose more societal injustices and issues that I had not before considered, it was still beautiful since it is only when we see these problems that we can begin to combat and solve them.

And now outside the walls of academia, I can safely say that I wasn’t wrong – gender, in one form or another – plays a role every day. In my position as a project manager at DirecTV’s home security company, LifeShield, I work in an office of about 50 people and I am the only woman. Many days, I feel like I am playing a tug of war with what I was hired to do and what I am assumed to want to do because I’m a woman. Office maintenance tasks not included in my job description often get pushed to me - because surely I want to order the coffee – I’m a woman! I give the credit for my ability to realize that I don’t have to give in and play this part to my GWS education and to the classes that urged me to challenge what was most widely accepted about gender roles. It also taught me that sharing this awareness – even on the small scale of a 50 person office – is worthwhile. In my little niche, I can challenge the gender norms in my office and thwart the idea that “the technology field isn’t for women” by being very good at my job, asserting my authority, and continuing to learn and advance in the company.

It has been extremely rewarding for me to see aspects of my GWS education play out every day – in my work and in my life. It is as if I am shaking my fist at everyone who ever said, “Gender and Women’s studies? What are you going to do with that?” I have a more liberated and fair perspective of how gender affects a workplace dynamic and the understanding that individuals should pursue any field they desire regardless of gender. Both women and men don’t have to fit into pigeon-holed positions that are typically prescribed for them – instead we can cultivate our talents, follow our passions, and let that lead us into the positions in which we will thrive. What will you do with an education in GWS? You will be a thinker! You will be an examiner of life. You will never take somebody else’s word for how things are or should be. We are challengers. We disrupt the commonly accepted conclusions. We make the world a more fair, exciting, and meaningful place to live. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

ECS 2014

GWS majors and minors enjoying the luncheon.
Each spring, Villanova University’s Gender and Women’s Studies program hosts the annual Elizabeth Cady Stanton Conference. This year, in honor of its twenty-fifth anniversary, GWS joined forces with the Greater Philadelphia Women’s Studies Consortium to expand the conference and open it to students at area schools including the University of Delaware, Haverford College, Ursinus College, Temple University, West Chester, and others. Students were invited to showcase their work, discuss their interests with fellow students and faculty from the area, and see the broad range of intellectual disciplines that Gender and Women's Studies encompasses. Between the Villanova community and Greater Philadelphia schools, ECS welcomed close to 70 undergraduate and graduate students at this year’s conference!

Students presented on a series of fifteen different panels, and shared work on a variety of compelling topics, including but not limited to, gender and adolescence, women's health, sex and sexuality, representations of masculinity and femininity in pop-culture, pornography, war and the military, gender and economics, queer identity, and women in classical literature. In addition to this work, multiple students also presented creative projects (poetry, visual art, and performance) that engaged a variety of gender-related issues. Dr. Heidi Rose and Dr. Shauna McDonald (Communication) organized a performance showcase entitled "Embodying Text," which featured an interactive Q&A with the student performers.

Student presenters at ECS!
We are happy to announce that much of the amazing student scholarship presented at ECS will now be available to the Villanova community through our recently established Elizabeth Cady Stanton Student Research Proceedings website—a public online journal that archives each year’s collection of ECS papers. Our hope is that this site will encourage students and faculty to continue celebrating and engaging the important work of Gender and Women’s Studies. While ECS is a single day here at Villanova, the interdisciplinary work of this field is unfolding in departments, classrooms, and faculty and student scholarship, every day of the year.

The GWS program and the ECS committee would like to thank the Greater Philadelphia Women's Studies Consortium for joining Villanova University this year and helping us make this day a very memorable twenty-fifth anniversary. We would also especially like to thank the GWS steering committee and all GWS faculty and students who have contributed to the ECS conference over the last twenty-five years. The conference would not exist without your continued support, enthusiasm, and participation!

 CJ Pascoe giving her Keynote presentation, "BULLIED:
Youth, Gender, and Homophobia."
You can see more photos on our Facebook page! ("Villanova's Gender & Women's Studies")

Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest Post: "Human Trafficking Panel Brings Issue Close to Home"

Guest Post: "Human Trafficking Panel Brings Issue Close to Home"
by Marie Bouffard
(This article was also published in Vol. 102:5 of The Villanovan)

When most people think about human trafficking, they conceive of it as an international problem, not something close to home. The reality, however, is that labor and sex trafficking goes on right in this country, in this city, and in this area. A panel on human trafficking took place February 12th as part of the One Billion Rising campaign. The event sought to open up a dialogue in the Villanova community on such a pressing matter.

Several panelists who are experts in the topic of gender violence and human trafficking presented during the event, including faculty member and area coordinator for rhetorical studies Billie Murray, anti-labor trafficking attorney John Rafferty, Dawn’s Place Executive Director Sister Michelle Loise and “Project Dawn” graduate Anne Marie Jones. Two of the featured panelists, Loise and Jones, represented Dawn’s Place, a non-profit organization located in Philadelphia that provides support for women who have been victims of trafficking.

Although sex trafficking is often the first form of human trafficking to come to mind, it is not the only one. Labor trafficking is also prevalent and could be going on in any house in any neighborhood. Trafficking in the labor industry can occur anywhere including domestic workers, warehouses, construction, agriculture, dishwashing and landscaping. Basically anywhere there are people who need jobs and cannot afford to be picky about their employment, labor trafficking can be a problem. Traffickers lure people in by promising them valid employment opportunities and then yanking them away, leaving people trapped and exploited. The case is often that people will bring in someone from their home country under the promise of employment and once they are here, simply not pay them. The victims are then trapped in a foreign country where they do not speak the language and are afraid or unable to get help.

Such a complex problem requires a multifaceted solution, and health care professionals are not the only people who can make a difference in the lives of people suffering under human trafficking. Among trafficking victims there is a great need for legal assistance, so that law professionals like recent Villanova Law School graduate John Rafferty make their career helping exploited workers. Rafferty works as an attorney at Friends of Farmworkers where he focuses on human trafficking. Rafferty works to identify cases of human trafficking in Pennsylvania and to empower victims of labor trafficking. As to solutions to the problem of human trafficking, all the panelists agreed that this is a complex structural problem, and there is no quick fix. Human trafficking is a systematic problem, which means that solutions will have to interdisciplinary and will require everyone to look at the part we play in the system. It is not just labor traffickers, pimps or prostitutes who are implicated. Everyone is involved in this system.

There are many people who do not understand that sex trafficking and prostitution are not victimless crimes, so these issues are not investigated properly. Pornography is closely linked with sex-trafficking because of the differences in the way it portrays men and women and because what starts out as being voluntarily filmed can easily turn into sexual exploitation. Things like glorifying pimps, victim-blaming, and joking about prostitution all contribute to the rape culture that allows this system of exploitation to exist.

The key to fixing these structural issues is awareness. The panelists all expressed the importance of understanding the problem, especially for those in power such as police officers, judges and prosecutors. This system of violence against people who can’t speak up is prevalent in our culture. It is vital to help these victims, seeing as they often do not have the means to help themselves. In order to change the system, people must first change their own behavior by being aware of a culture that perpetuates  harmful views on subjects like relationships, pimps, prostitution and what it means to be a man or woman.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New GWS Grad Class

Villanova's Gender and Women's Studies Program is offering a new interdisciplinary graduate course during the Fall 2014 semester.

Course Code: GWS 8000-001
Course Title:   Critical Perspectives on Gender
Professor:  Dr. Jean Lutes
Schedule: Wednesday 5:20-7:20 PM

An interdisciplinary study of gender, women, and sexuality, this course surveys contemporary developments in feminist, gender, and queer theory. It also applies those theories to a variety of topics, such as the representation of gender, the history of sexuality, the science of sexual difference, gender in the workplace, and gender in the digital age. Throughout the semester, we will consider how ideas about gender are bound inextricably to ideas about race and class. Likely theorists include Sandra Bartky, Karen Barad, Simone de Beauvoir, Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler, Patricia Hill Collins, Michel Foucault, Elizabeth Freeman, Judith Halberstam, Alison Jaggar, Chandra Mohanty, and Eve Sedgwick.

Email Jean Lutes at jean.lutes@villanova.edu for more information!