In partnership with the Women's Status Committee, WGS sponsored award winning photojournalist and women's rights activist Paola Gianturco, to share images and stories from her new book Grandmother Power: A Global Phenonmenon.
Additionally, Olga Plakhotnik and Rakshinda Shah were featured guest speakers at the USF Peace Corps event for Women's History Month. Olga's presentation "Feminisms in Ukraine and around" was focused on the most visible feminist groups - Pussy Riot, Femen and Feminist Ofenzyva. It provoked intense scholarly discussions about postcolonial feminisms, female body issues in feminism, and the contemporary forms of feminist protest.
The Conversation Continues
Women’s and Gender Studies hosts World Café “Conversation2.0” to Launch WGS Society
Fifty-two women gathered on Wednesday, June 6 at USF’s Alumni Center to talk. Just to talk. While the laughter throughout the evening was abundant, the seriousness of women’s talk permeated the discussions. Elizabeth Bell, Chair of USF Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, welcomed all to the event and spoke of women’s talk as important work.
Elizabeth Bell, WGS Chair
Bell listed just some of the ways that women have been discouraged from talking—in public and to each other. “Admonitions against women’s talk have always been severe. From Corinthians ‘Let your women keep silent in the churches,’ to the ducking stools of 17th century Europe, to the prohibitions against women giving speeches in 18th century America. Even today, the words for women’s talk—nagging, whining, small talk, gossip—are ways to diminish its worth.”
WGS Society Launch
Like the consciousness raising sessions of the 1960s women’s liberation movement, “The Conversation2.0” invited women from the community, USF, and faculty and students of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, to share their experiences. Conversation2.0 launched the WGS Society, the new alumnae and friends group for the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Genie Skypek, Tampa psychologist, is one of the core organizers of the WSG Society, along with WGS MA alumnae Zoe Fine and Kelly Wagner.
“The USF Women’s Studies program was established in 1972—one of the oldest programs in the nation. In 1987, we offered the first bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies in Florida. In 1997, we began offering the Master’s degree. And yet WGS has never had an alumnae group,” Bell said.
Bell continued with her recruitment pitch: “It’s time to round up those forty years of USF Women’s Studies graduates, to partner with people in the community interested in gender equity and gender issues, and to ally with USF folks who share our interests in feminism and social justice.”
Genie Skypek also welcomed participants and emphasized the benefits of joining the WGS Society: invitations to USF and WGS events, film screenings, guest speakers, and priority invitations to the Conversation. More than 60 individuals have joined the WGS Society. The big push to contact forty years of WGS alumnae through the USF Alumni Association begins in July.
The Stars Came Out
During Conversation2.0, women shared experiences and ideas across feminist generations. Participants’ name tags indicated their generation by decade. Women aged 70 and over wore gold stars, women in their 60s wore silver stars, and on down to the 20-year-olds who wore “green” stars. A “world café” discussion format moved people to a new table every 30 minutes. As women moved to a new table to work on a new question, “stars” from every generation joined a new table.
Marlene Springer, Joan Chase, Eleanor Cecil, and Ruth Talley—all wearing gold stars of the “practically perfect in every way” age group—spoke of the early feminist movement of the 1960s. Springer said, “That was a terribly acrimonious time. Feminists disagreed with each other about liberation, especially the separatists who wanted nothing to do with men. I think we’ve learned better.”
Joan Chase, Eleanor Cecil and BJ Star
Joan Chase, retired clinical psychologist, spoke of the early wage gap when women were thankful to have any professional job outside the home. “I was hired at considerably less salary than the men in the medical school. And every year, the gap between our salaries grew bigger.”
Eleanor Cecil, long time educator and activist, is a member of the Tampa Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Cecil arrived with her “NixSix” button, offering to run workshops for any groups interested in learning about the negative impacts on women of Proposition Six on Florida’s November ballot. Ruth Talley emphasized the importance of supporting women candidates for political office. She offered Emily’s List as a terrific political resource.
The Survey Said
Participants voted on preferences for the evening’s topics: from preferred gender pronouns, images of contemporary housewives, to girls and boys’ toys at the Disney store. The top vote-getters for discussion were:
Are we are experiencing a backlash against women today? If so, why?
For white, middle-class women, feminism opened up the professions. Yet 70% of women workers in America are not professionals but work in retail, service, clerical positions, or health care. Have working class women’s lives been changed enough by feminism?
If you could offer one word of advice to a girl today, what would that be?
The youngest women in the crowd, high school students Beth Burford and Karey Lipham, were guests of Julie Dumois-Sands, an alumna of the Women’s and Gender Studies MA program. They listened intently to words of advice, including Ayele Hunt’s recommendation: “Don’t wait until college to learn about feminism. Start in high school. It will change the way you look at the world.”
Inspiring, Depressing, and Extending Our Classrooms
All the young women—green and red stars—spoke of the value of listening to their elders. Emily Ryalls, Visiting Assistant Professor in Communication, also attended the first Conversation. “Just like last year, it was one of the best things I've done this year. While at times depressing, it was also very inspirational.” Christie Rinck, Undergraduate Advisor in WGS, also spoke of the double-bind of inspiration and depression and the difficulty of “winding down after getting all riled up.”
Jan Roberts, longtime supporter of Women’s Studies at USF and former member of the WGS Community Advisory Board, was delighted to have met new WGS faculty. Michelle Hughes Miller, Sara Crawley, Diane Price-Herndl, Ednie Garrison, and Kim Golombisky all shared their knowledge of women’s issues, feminism, and gender theories.
Jan Roberts and Elizabeth Bell
Golombisky said, “The Conversation is an opportunity to extend our classrooms and to take feminism and gender theories into the world.” WGS Society members will have access to WGS faculty for guest speaking engagements, as well as opportunities to audit online and face-to-face classes.
For more information about the WGS Society, its benefits to community members and alumnae, and how to join, go to http://wgs.usf.edu/friends/
Click on photo to view the slideshow. Photos by Ginny Scott.
The First Conversation June 2011
USF Women's and Gender Studies Hosts Community Leaders and Cross-Generational Conversation
TAMPA—Tampa’s first woman mayor, the Florida Legislature’s first
woman representative and the National Organization for Women’s Tampa chapter
board member all joined USF faculty and students from Women’s and Gender Studies
(WGS) for a cross-generational conversation hosted at Mise en Place Restaurant on
The event, titled “The Conversation: Across Feminist Generations, Work and
Lives,” attracted more than 30 Tampa Bay women, including former mayor Sandy
Freedman, former Florida House Representative Helen Gordon Davis, and Tampa NOW
chapter board member Eleanor Cecil.
Genie Skypek, a St. Petersburg psychologist and active member of the WGS Community
Advisory Board, organized the event with in-coming WGS Chair Elizabeth Bell. Their
plan was to give women from different age groups the opportunity to talk to each
other about social changes they witnessed in their lifetimes.
Bell said, “What a luxury to be here just to talk, with no specific problems
to solve and no agenda other than to share and learn about each other.”
(Pictured from left to right): Kim Golombisky, Helen Gordon Davis, and Elizabeth Bell begin the Conversation across generations.
Participants’ name tags indicated their generation by decade. Women aged 60
and over wore gold stars, etc., and on down to the 20-year-olds who wore “green”
stars. A “world café” discussion format moved people to a new
table every 15 minutes. As women moved to a new table to work on a new question,
“stars” from every generation joined a new table.
Participants discussed role models who influenced them and challenges they see for
feminist movement in the next 10 years. Women from all generations named common
challenges, including balancing work and family, negative perceptions of feminism
and conservative backlash.
Skypek said, “It was tremendously exciting to see Helen Gordon Davis sharing
her stories with students in their 20s, and the 20-year-old students had much to
say about gender politics in today’s mediated world.”
Davis described organizing local women, including USF women’s studies faculty
and students, in the 1970s not only to launch Davis’ political career but
also to open the state’s first women’s crisis center in Tampa. She said,
“Today you wouldn’t believe how hard we had to work back then to get
a woman elected.” She said she couldn’t have done it without the support
of women. “I don’t care what anyone says, sisterhood is powerful.”
Former mayor Freedman said her 6th grade teacher inspired her political career,
as did participating in sports. “I learned lessons playing collegiate tennis
that I would never have learned anywhere else: about competition, about discipline,”
she said. “Title IX is probably the biggest and best change in women’s
lives—giving us the opportunity to participate and to learn these life lessons
through sports.” Title IX is the 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination
against women in education.
Heather Curry, a USF alumna of the WGS master’s program, participated wearing
the blue star of 30-year-olds. Curry described changes in childbirth since her mother’s
“medicalized” experience. “The doctor-as-god, use of pharmaceuticals,
and the medical institution controlled it all,” said Curry, who is a licensed
doula returning to traditions of midwifery and women-centered birthing practices.
For Bell, the event served to introduce her faculty and their students to influential
women in the community. “Women who lived through second-wave feminism have
much to offer to students studying gender today,” she said. “These connections
offer research opportunities for oral histories, focus groups and internships, not
to mention guest speakers for classes.”
Bell also said the event let academics practice the translation work necessary to
make theory relevant in real lives: “In the classroom, we teach that gender
is not set in stone. Gender bending, gender crossing and gender blending are testimony
to gender’s malleability. For the women in the community, it’s a chance
to learn about new developments in thinking about gender. Most important, we all
get to see that women’s issues and movements are still important.”
WGS and friends are already planning “The Conversation 2.0” with new
questions, issues and faces at the tables.
The Conversation Slideshow (click on the picture to begin)