Kalikow Acceptance Speech
I thank the President’s Commission on the Status of Women for this recognition, and I would also like to thank a few people who have been instrumental in my work with Women’s Studies on campus and in my life: the wonderful women and men of the Women’s Studies Council, my administrative assistant, Mary Petz, who graciously donates her time to the program, to Callie Garp, our intrepid student worker, my good friends, my family, and my husband, Greg.
It has been my privilege to serve on the Women’s Studies Council for five years, including three as its chair. I have been fortunate to work in a place with such strong women faculty, operating staff, administrative leaders, and students. As many of you know, it’s not like that everywhere, so I really appreciate the community and environment I’ve landed in here at Plymouth State University.
A few days ago, I was commiserating with my dear friend and colleague, Robin DeRosa—former Chair of the Women’s Studies Council and past recipient of the Kalikow award—about how difficult it is to ‘do’ Women’s Studies. I told her about feeling like I wasn’t doing enough for the program on campus, about how it was a struggle to get students involved and interested in a minor, about not feeling ‘feminist’ enough. And she kindly and helpfully reminded me, in a good way, that “I” am not Women’s Studies.
Now, this may sound like a harsh thing to say to your friend. What do you mean, I’m not Women’s Studies? I’m the chair of the program. I lead the Women’s Studies Council. I staff, schedule and assess all of the Women’s Studies courses. I advise all of the minors. I manage a budget, albeit a small one. How can I not ‘be’ Women’s Studies at Plymouth State?
But she’s right—on so many levels.
First and foremost, I am not Women’s Studies because many people don’t even know I’m the chair of the Women’s Studies Council and Director of the program. Because there is no centralized office, department, or ‘home’ for the Women’s Studies program, it’s difficult for administration, faculty, students, and community leaders to find out ‘who’ Women’s Studies actually is. In fact, even though I’ve been chairing the program for three years now, many people on campus still regularly email Robin DeRosa to tell of her of upcoming events or speakers, to ask for program information for the Commencement ceremony, or to pass things on to the Council. Ironically, I found out about receiving this award from a forwarded email from Robin just the other day. (I’m just kidding, of course).
Even though the Women’s Studies Council meets once a month to discuss curriculum and to work on excellent programming on campus, I often feel like much of my Women’s Studies work is done alone, in my darkening office in Ellen Reed, squeezed in between grading English papers and preparing for classes that are not Women’s Studies courses. Of course, my pedagogy, classes, and research are continually informed by feminism, but I’m constantly reminded that I’m in the English department; I am not Women’s Studies.
Many of my colleagues tease me that I don’t even look like Women’s Studies. I wear skirts and make up. I like to watch make-over shows like “What Not to Wear.” I wear lipstick on a regular basis. A few years ago when I had the opportunity to teach in Ireland for PSU’s Limerick Program, the Council members joked with me that they didn’t want to ‘be’ me—that is, serve as interim chair—because they didn’t want to have to wear lipstick. “Women’s Studies” isn’t lipstick.
But there are benefits to not being Women’s Studies, too. Not being Women’s Studies means the program is much bigger than me—with all of my faults, and shortcomings, and distractions. Women’s Studies is the Women’s Studies Council—a spectacular and visionary group of women who are passionate about feminism as a philosophy, a theory, and a movement. They dedicate their time, energy, ideas, research, and classrooms to the idea that women matter. They challenge pre-conceived ideas about what it means to be women and what it means to be feminist—lipstick or no lipstick. These are the women and men who take responsibility for the education of future feminists on our campus, with little recognition, and I want to thank them here for all of their hard work and commitment.
I am not Women’s Studies because Delilah Smith and the SAGE Center work hard to bring exciting and eye-opening programming to our campus that reaches out to the wider student body. Events like the DragFabulous Show, Women’s History Month, and sending students to the Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. last week all help to build a feminist community on campus.
I am not Women’s Studies because our students are. Active student organizations like AWARE and ALSO show other students that patriarchy is not dead, that we are not in a ‘post-feminist’ age, that gender and sexuality and identity are still important and powerful concepts to be analyzed, interrogated, and questioned.
I am not Women’s Studies because the President’s Commissions on the Status of Women and on Diversity are doing great work on highlighting important issues relating to women faculty, staff, and students, on campus. It is they who graciously hold this ceremony and who recognize those who strive to further the cause of women’s issues and identity on campus.
My work these past few years has been about showing myself and those around me that Women’s Studies is much bigger than an individual. It is the Women’s Studies Council. It is the SAGE Center. It is AWARE and ALSO. It is the President’s Commissions on the Status of Women and on Diversity. It is our administration. It is our staff. It is our students. It is our community.
Say it with me: I am not Women’s Studies. Plymouth State University is Women’s Studies.