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Knowing the Body
2004 Final Web Report
Feminism and gender politics affect institutionalized systems such as Haverford College, the Justice System, governmental family policy or working family policy, and even feminism itself. All four systems are based on one perspective on gender. All were changed or are changing due to feminism and gender politics. The landscape of our book is patriarchal systems from the past and present and reflections on the past. We are addressing a more enlightened present. Our argument explores past patriarchal systems that have been thwarted or challenged by gender politics and new waves of feminism. We will also explore why patriarchy as represented in our four systems is resistant to change. We will begin with a case study of Haverford College in the 70's, them more on to broader examples such as the Justice System, and Governmental Policy, ending with the analysis of the challenges facing the concept of feminism itself.
Haverford College was a very different place than it is today. From its founding days in 1833 the school was constructed on the premise that it would provide a fine education for young men. Despite the faculty and students having voted to go coed in 1870, the Board of Managers did not concede and Haverford remained single sex until 1980. The decade prior to 1980 was a time of much reevaluation and consideration on the part of the students, administration, and faculty. The essence of the debate fell between two camps. One said that continued cooperation with Bryn Mawr was the best choice for both schools. The other said that it was time for Haverford to prevent its identity from become half of a couple with Bryn Mawr and step out on its own as a coed institution. The battle lines were drawn the debate continued with passion for most of the decade. Haverford's President Coleman saw that Haverford's financial state was in jeopardy if it did not expand. He also saw that by prohibiting 50% of the population in this expansion would decrease the caliber of students at Haverford. Bryn Mawr's president Wofford felt passionately that the fate of Bryn Mawr rested on the decision of Haverford. His concerns were exacerbated by the seemingly coercive patterns Haverford's Board set by claiming to let the issue of coeducation rest but then by having it become a possibility again each year. More was going on than financial struggle in these years of debate. Students were questioning the merits of a single sex institution meaning both Bryn Mawr and Haverford, while others expressed opinions of the necessity for single sex institutions based on gender differences and the necessity for men and women to have their own separate spheres. The 70's were a time when the Haverford community grappled with the questions of institutional discrimination and gender differences.
Much like the institutionalized systems of Haverford College, governmental family policy and even feminism itself, the United States criminal justice system has always been and still is greatly affected by changing gender politics as well as the different waves of feminism. Similar to the other institutions listed above, the criminal justice system is a patriarchal system and is thus based on one perspective of gender, the male perspective. In looking at the history of females in the criminal justice system, the social manipulation of these females and the influence that the changing waves feminism has had on the system, I plan to argue that the criminal justice system is another form of patriarchal control, which creates conflict between the private sphere of a woman's life and the public. This control extends far beyond the just incarcerated women, it affects all women and despite the fact that there have been changes to certain policies and prison regulations, though made with resistance, none of the changes have been for the better. By looking at past and present situations as well as the differing feminist perspectives on the justice system, I hope to offer ways and opinions on how to improve this system and allow women to equally balance their life in the public sphere as well as their life in the private sphere.
The United States Justice System reflects the same narrow view of gender as policies on work and family. In the matter of current work policy, the government reinforces traditional gender norms. Feminists and conservatives alike are voicing their opposition to the limited arrangements the workplace supplies modern families and calling on the government to make the necessary changes, but for different reasons. However, one has to question how did the workplace evolve to what it is today and do people really want to see it change? Why is it that the government must step in and not individuals? Will new policies have any impact on gender norms in the workplace? Should we really leave such private issues up to the government in the first place? The fact that it will take government regulation to tame the workplace says a lot about what some Americans really value-and if time at work is valued for some, is it right for it to be restricted in the name of others? These policies are meeting resistance not just from the government, but also from individuals. Who are these individuals and why are they against receiving these "benefits"? All of these questions address our society's model of gender both in the workplace and in the home, and how this model is reacting to change.
Finally, moving in to the broader category of feminism itself, history may promise to repeat itself in the form of 'difference feminism'. Lisa Belkin, a woman who gave up a high-power career to spend more time with her children, wrote 'The Opt-Out Revolution' which appeared in the New York Times Magazine. The article analyzes the phenomenon of highly educated women leaving the work force in order to pursue more traditional maternal and female roles. Belkin leaves the reader with the distinct sense that having the ability to choose to be seemingly antithetical to the feminist cause is actually a rite (and a right) of feminism itself. Indeed, moving towards a different idea of feminism that can embraces the unique aspects of womanhood may be the next big movement, but what are the implications for women? If women achieve an enlightened view of traditionalism, does this mean men will follow suit? Not necessarily. In the current political climate, with the country moving in an arguably more conservative direction, "enlightened women" may be all the more ineffective at preventing male-centric policies from affecting the nation. Cynthia Enlowe arguably might fear that these 'difference feminists' are likely to become militarized without their direct knowledge or participation, merely by their acquiescence. However, Virginia Woolf might say that the difference feminist will help destroy the harshness of wartime policy and action and replace it with a more feminine, peaceful method.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1) Coeducation at Haverford: A Forced Revolution by Sara Ansell
Chapter 2) The United States Justice System by Bree Beery
Chapter 3) Governmental Family Policy by Marissa Chickara
Chapter 4) A Changing Feminism by Nancy Evans
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