Meet the Director
Hello to you from Women’s Studies~ and me. Welcome to our program—and our site.
On behalf of us all,
We .... welcome you, invite you in. We are glad you’re taking a peek, giving us a listen.
There is more to who we are and what we do than meets the eye. Women’s Studies—and Gender/Sexuality Studies—as you may well and rightly guess, were not among founding partners in this great game-changing, paradigm-shifting enterprise we call Higher Education. We entered these undertakings as challengers, the crashers, not the invitees to the party.
Ours is an inter-, multi- and trans-disciplinary field that retains the spirit of challengers.
we confront unprecedented news; we wake to twists that seem to set us back a hundred years.
Ours is a time and a place where what we know—and what we don’t know—matters.
Given the sheer volume of voices in the noise of now—and here—it’s fair for each of us to wonder,
Does it matter what I think? What I say? Or what I post online—or submit as finished schoolwork to my professors?
From the vantage point of our program,
we want to say, yes, it matters.
It matters because this is how we, each of us individually, “become” our-selves and forge our alliances.
It matters for other women; it matters for Women’s Studies because we are best served by testing our
sworn commitments to respect—aim to understand—women. Men, too. To challenge sorry and deeply costly habits of binding “others” to our demands and expectations.
It matters that, together, whether we’re in or out of sync with one another,
we are trying to know something, do something, make a difference, learn….
Here, in the Kent State School of Multi-disciplinary Social Sciences and Humanities,
and here in our program (Women’s Studies @KSU), we are striving—hands on—to add skills to our skillsets, tools to our toolkits: for troubleshooting, problem solving, navigating, negotiating, telling stories, world making.
If the last half-decade has taught us anything, it’s taught us what can happen right before our eyes.
Summer of 2022 marked an end to the Roe v. Wade Era. In the words of Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux,
For most of the past 50 years, Roe v. Wade was the ruling … people seemed to believe … would last forever — even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.
Turns out, Women’s Studies’ scholars and practitioners were ahead of their time:
very much in the know. For the last two decades, they laid the truth bare.
In 1990, Judith A. Baer wrote her searing analysis of the blindness inherent in American political arguments and of the travesties of politicized courts. She pointed to Roe’s shaky foundations and real failures to acknowledge women’s deep inequalities.
In 2011, Linda Greenhouse and Reva R. Siegel begged readers to delve into Roe’s story to enlarge their understandings, to reappraise conflicts in political life, to attend to people’s real motives, to see the true stakes—and to hone the effectiveness of their participation in crucial conversations.
Like so much else, the defeat of Roe is ours to study. Women’s Studies—as a venture—goes to places off the radar of other disciplines, places in between. It goes to places marked, Don’t go there.
Set in motion in the late 1960’s as an odd lot of impassioned courses-on-offer in contexts of snowballing socio-political, cultural upheaval, it boiled down to ... women ... ready, willing, almost happy to face down/face off the almost freakish on-the-ground and historical facts of women’s lives, experiences, endeavors to breach a man’s world. Never mind the more than freakish facts that, as women—and yes, as different kinds of women at that—they’d been denied histories, legacies, access to everything from government to medicine to school to desirable work.
The women of Women’s Studies had a “big ask.” They asked to have voices, roles, rights on par with those to whom such prizes were granted—or ceded. Jill Lepore, in These Truths, sees the “revolution in scholarship” rising from the “revolution on the streets”: twin struggles, strenuous and fraught. One bled into another; there were heavy questions on the ground—amongst activists—and there was fight in the study—amongst teachers, learners, scholars, practitioners.
Women’s Studies purposes to know stuff: stuff others miss or gloss over, the other half of a half-truth.
Our original conception of the KSU WMST Minor read as follows:
The Women's Studies minor offers flexible and diverse coursework across a variety of disciplines. Distinct in its commitments—born of women’s struggles, movements, lives and work—the program invites students to revise perspectives, make fresh inquiries, broaden and deepen understandings by means of a simple but radical shift: the re-rendering of the female half of the human race not as "the second sex, but as primary, fundamental, essential and real.
This radical shift is more profound than it appears—and so much more profound than any dictionary definition or textbook rendering of feminist or feminism.
Muriel Rukeyser, in her poetic tribute to Kathe Kollwitz, asked a question:
What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
Her answer? The world would split open.
We believe that.
In recent years, we’ve delved reproductive rights, arguably feminism’s ungainliest fight; we’ve studied radical comedy—like Hannah Gadsby’s—and women deemed monstrous—like witches, like Hillary Clinton. We’ve investigated the feminist practice of emulation—icon-making—tackling the case of “The Notorious RBG.” We’ve studied the aftermath of America’s meltdown when Clinton ran for President; we’ve probed and interrogated Rape Culture, the #MeToo movement; we’ve conducted case studies of rarities like Katharine Hepburn and Shirley Chisholm In collaboration with LGBT Studies, we dared a study of the “war” ongoing between trans-activists and radical feminists.
Finally, let me close by saying,
It is never our mission to end where we began.
Women’s Studies is not a doctrine. It is a way forward. We are ready and willing to grapple with the big boys; we don’t mind putting our intellectual mettle on trial by fire. We take stances, but we also revise perspectives. We make dangerous inquiries for one reason: we want to know—because we really want to know. We come from lineage: brave, scrappy, diligent, keen and eager minds, capable, itching to know more than “what ladies should and ought to know.”
As we broaden and deepen—and, where warranted, correct ourselves—we do so, empowered by newfound knowledge, to bring our understandings to conversations that might make a difference. We upgrade our gig; we amp up our wattage; we just about literally illuminate our lives and world. We carry keys—that open locks, loosen chains: ignorance, deception, unexamined dogmas and ideologies.
In 1971, as Joan Kelly told the tale, she was confronted by legendary feminist historian, Gilder Lerner.
Lerner encouraged Kelly to “look again” at every particular “thing” from a new vantage point.
In Kelly’s words, Doing so “changed everything. Everything!
“Everything I thought I had known.”
We bid you,
Come take a chance on us.
Join us in re-thinking what each of us thinks we know. Re-consider...it...all.
Hey! Thanks for tuning in~
Hope to—one way or another—get to know you~
Dr. Suzanne L. Holt
Interview with the Director:
Watch Dr. Holt in action as she discusses teaching "Hillary Clinton Case Study" at Kent State University. Our program is represented on " Forum 360" - a television interview by Leslie Ungar, its host.