|This paper was written by students in a course at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, and reflects those students' research and thoughts at the time the paper was written. Like other things on Serendip, the paper is not intended to be "authoritative" but is instead provided to encourage others to themselves learn about and think through subjects of interest, and, by providing relevant web links, to serve as a "window" to help them do so. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.|
Sex and Gender
2005 Final Web Papers
The life of a woman is a curious balancing act. There is always the struggle to make things fair, or equal: male and female coworkers, mothers and fathers, young girls and young boys in the classroom. It's not only a struggle because of the different identities that are constructed for women and men but also because of the ways these differences are manifested in societal interactions and institutions of work and learning.
The modern woman is cast as a juggler. This compilation seeks to explore the ways in which women balance their lives and why this juggling is necessary. It also hopes to explore the limitations of the figure of the juggler, and find a different sort of balance. How many of the things which women juggle are societally expected and imposed, reasonable or otherwise?
How do women express their desire to maintain loyalty to these diverse obligations? Virginia Woolf explores the idea of unreal loyalties and the usefulness of seeking freedom from them. It is our contention that women should be able to examine their situations and determine which of their commitments represents real loyalties and which do not. This process is specific to each woman and her situation and location. Whether it is the institution of higher education, the classroom, or beauty; these loyalties can all shift over time and circumstance as in a relationship that has soured.
A modern woman's juggling act is ever changing: balls are added, taken away, mysteriously change shape and weight. The goal of keeping the balls in the air is a never ending responsibility which engages each woman differently.
Anna looks critically at Bryn Mawr's historical and original focus: setting up a space for women to study and behave like men. Through interviews, she comes away with a clearer idea of the necessary time-management skills of female faculty at Bryn Mawr. By asking them to discuss their personal and professional realms, it seems as though no one felt pressured to choose, though some clearly did. What many women have said is that there is a pressure for professionalism, and not the expectation for one's personal life to take the backseat to one's professional career. However, the ability to give birth is something that is unique to women and is an important facet of womanhood. What does it mean to choose the academy over a family? Or to attempt to manage these two spheres at the same time? What would Bryn Mawr feel like with a childcare center in a corner or campus? It would dramatically alter the feeling on campus because Bryn Mawr would no longer be a strictly academic world – we would have room for babies and thinking.
It's not just the academic world, but also the world of appearances that places demands on women. Emily wants to look at the unreal loyalty of beauty, and how this has complicated and hampered women's progress in the work world and beyond. Who asserts that this beauty loyalty must be maintained? How much do women "self-police" in this beauty culture? And how can women stage an effective separation of the concept of "beauty" from the concept of "worth"? Drawing from Naomi Woolf's "The Beauty Myth" and Virginia Woolf's "Three Guineas," this essay argues that women can and should begin this uncoupling, and uses the words of the wolves to figure out exactly how to go about it.
By encouraging one sex to thrive in the educational system, we need to ensure that we aren't crippling the other. Societally, we encourage the sexes in different ways, providing different incentives for classroom success for girls and boys. Currently, with the onset of increased numbers of ADD diagnoses for boys, boys are seen as marginalized for their inability to focus. However, increased focus on "troublemakers" leaves dutiful girl students with less time to learn. The classroom is a closed economy, one which a teacher (male or female) must navigate. A lot of the debate surrounding gender in the classroom is rooted in the fact that there are different educational ideals for men and for women. Must progress for one gender always be made at the cost to the other? Lindsay's essay applies the concept of a closed economy to the Bryn Mawr classroom. She makes inquiry as to why the culture of Bryn Mawr might inhibit students from learning and teaching each other. Examining the relationship between student and classroom, she calls for a reform in the ways we give and take knowledge, a better balance.
This friction between genders can be translated into a private struggle behind closed doors. This struggle is really about power and the need to create a desired hierarchy within a given relationship. Many relationships, of varying types, go from healthy and equal to abusive and unbalanced. On rare occasions this attempt to usurp total power is publicized and ended; more frequently, however, it remains hidden and undetected until it is often too late to ameliorate. Talya will be looking at how education can support relationship equality as well as teaching empowerment skills for women.
Women are the ones who will be on the phone with teachers, driving kids around, cleaning and cooking, struggling to achieve workplace and domestic equality, and trying to decide what it means to be a woman. Can she be feminine and still a feminist? Can she wear pink and still kick someone's ass? Women are always juggling time and commitments. However, the figure of the juggler is necessarily limiting, because the juggler works alone. To take an image from Lindsay's paper, perhaps the definition of modern woman needs to be expanded to that of a participant in a see-saw game. Men should not be exempt from this drive towards self-definition and balance. No woman is an island, and if women are going to continue this drive towards balance, men must be included too, as see-saw partners and willing participants in this struggle to juggle.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
II. The Politics of Bryn Mawr:
Time Management – An Acquired Taste
III. A Modest Proposal
IV. The Eternal Gap: A Myth
V. Being Hurt Is Not a Given:
A Feminist's Perspective
| Course Home | Serendip Home |