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Generations: Academic Feminists in Dialogue

Devoney Looser
E. Ann Kaplan
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 376
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Composed of essays from academic women at various professional stages-from established scholars to junior professors to graduate students-this collection illuminates the debates of feminist histories and future legacies, while analyzing the challenges of “passing the torch.” Contributors: Diane Elam, Elizabeth Francis, Linda Frost, Jane Gallop, Dana Heller, Jane Kalbfleisch, Jeanne Marecek, Nancy K. Miller, Mona Narain, Angela M. S. Nelson, Judith Newton, Rebecca Dakin Quinn, Gita Rajan, Judith Roof, Theresa Ann Sears, Ruthe Thompson, Michele Wallace, Barbara A. White, and Lynda Zwinger.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8785-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction 1: An Exchange
    (pp. 1-12)
    E. Ann Kaplan and Devoney Looser



    Subject: introduction 7/31/95


    I’m excited about refining our ideas for a jointly authored introduction toGenerations: Academic Feminists in Dialoguevia e-mail. It’s made me think of the collaborative feminist projects of the second wave that have influenced me and therefore this process. Do you remember the descriptions that theWomen’s Ways of Knowingauthors gave of their collaborative process? That book was written in stolen pajama party weekends, which, I must admit, makes me wince a little; it’s so cute. E-mail has changed collaborative projects, feminist and otherwise, in such important ways.

    In fact,...

  5. Introduction 2: Feminism, Aging, and Changing Paradigms
    (pp. 13-30)
    E. Ann Kaplan

    All perspectives are limited, constrained by what one cannot see, and structured by context. One structuring context for the feminist standpoint I will outline is that of age. I use the wordagerather than the more usualgenerationbecause it clarifies what is at stake and may avoid some of the problems that the wordgenerationcauses:agerefers to the personal/longitudinal axis as against the loose cultural/historical subject-interpellation thatgenerationconnotes (see my “map” [table 1], following this essay).Age(on the longitudinal axis) means that one has been around for a while; that one has had certain...

  6. Gen X Feminists? Youthism, Careerism, and the Third Wave
    (pp. 31-54)
    Devoney Looser

    Widespread speculation about the everyday practices and intellectual commitments of feminism’s next generation can hardly be called “new.” For many years, I have read with great interest the writings of established feminists about those of us who are “following in their footsteps,” and I have been enlightened—and sometimes angered—by these writings.¹ Many second-wave feminists have lamented what they see happening to the scholarly work they produced and the political projects they began a decade or more ago. These lamentations are not merely a result of backlash coming from outside the women’s movement. Clearly, some second-wave feminist angst has...

  7. Sisters Are Doing It to Themselves
    (pp. 55-68)
    Diane Elam

    A specter is haunting women’s studies departments—the specter of postfeminism. In hallways, in meetings, in classrooms, this apparition keeps whispering that there is nothing more to be gained from feminism. It’s time to get on with things, the voice says, time to stop worrying about women’s oppression, equal rights, and the evils of patriarchy. However, given the continued attempts to make abortion illegal, the growing violence against women, and existing data on pay and conditions for working women, it would seem that postfeminism is more than a little out of touch, even for a specter. But postfeminism has thus...

  8. Generational Difficulties; or, The Fear of a Barren History
    (pp. 69-87)
    Judith Roof

    “It was the need for a new identity that started women, a century ago, on that passionate journey, that vilified, misinterpreted journey away from home,” recounts Betty Friedan inThe Feminine Mystique,her 1963 “bestseller that ignited women’s liberation.”¹ Offering this feminist prehistory in chapter 4 , Friedan suggests that the feminist journey halted after women won the right to vote. The movement’s 1920s inertia transformed the “passionate journey” into an apparently barren history that seemed to end with a brood of unhappy daughters “who could not go back to that old image of genteel nothingness” (FM,93). Employing an...

  9. Black Female Spectatorship and the Dilemma of Tokenism
    (pp. 88-102)
    Michele Wallace

    When I wrote this essay, I was struggling with something crucial in my knowledge of myself as a writer, intellectual, and perhaps even as an “artist” (although I don’t usually think of what I do as art), but, as usual, I had no idea where it all would lead. As such, this essay was not written with the intention of sharing conclusions already arrived at but, rather, it was a sketching out of ideas in formulation, more or less, at the moment of composition. There has been considerable editing after the fact in an attempt to make things fit in...

  10. Talking Across
    (pp. 103-131)
    Jane Gallop and Elizabeth Francis

    Jane Gallop: Let’s decide who is going to talk first. How are we going to decide that?

    Elizabeth Francis: I think we should just start.

    JG: Well, we shouldn’t both talk at the same time.

    EF: Okay, so we are going to explain who we are. Well, there’s two of us having a conversation. I’m Elizabeth Francis.

    JG: And I’m Jane Gallop, I say looking at the tape recorder.

    EF: And how do we know each other? . . . I am the wife of one of Jane’s graduate students at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

    JG: I want you...

  11. Feminist Psychology at Thirtysomething: Feminism, Gender, and Psychology’s Ways of Knowing
    (pp. 132-150)
    Jeanne Marecek

    Viewed from the outside, feminist psychology in the United States appears to be a burgeoning success. The field boasts four journals, a vast library of books, and two flourishing professional organizations—the Division of the Psychology of Women of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Women in Psychology. But as the number of workers in the field has grown and the scope of its projects widened, the contours of feminist psychology have shifted, opening up fault lines and fractures. These rifts reflect differing epistemological commitments and different feminist politics. Moreover, it once seemed unproblematic to locate a praxis...

  12. Shifting Locations: Third World Feminists and Institutional Aporias
    (pp. 151-164)
    Mona Narain

    If indeed we are “now involved in the construction of a new object of investigation—‘the third world,’ ‘the marginal’—for institutional validation and certification,”¹ then it is particularly urgent that the specific location and politics of the third world academic feminist within the institution be discussed and examined. If the third world feminist is not to find herself colluding with an institutional validation of the “third world” simply as an object of knowledge production that neutralizes politics of resistance to hegemonic tendencies within academia, then a process of self-examination and self-clarification must be a part of such a politics...

  13. Jason Dreams, Victoria Works Out
    (pp. 165-173)
    Nancy K. Miller

    In the spring of 1994 Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar proposed a Modern Language Association (MLA) forum called “Feminist Old Girls; or, What Have We Wrought?” The forum and related workshops were designed to provide a “retrospective on the achievements of feminist literary criticism over the past twenty-odd years” as well as an “assessment of our current situation.” The title, Gilbert and Gubar explained, was meant to indicate “a certain degree of confusion” (as in FOG: Feminist Old Girls in a fog, but no one was amused) about a variety of issues, notably, “some keen concerns about current generational competitions,...

  14. An Open Letter to Institutional Mothers
    (pp. 174-182)
    Rebecca Dakin Quinn

    The first thing good daughters should acknowledge is the debt they owe their mothers. This is no less true in the metaphorical motherdaughter relationship that obtains within academic feminism. So first I would like to say thank-you to all the generations of women who came before me, particularly the so-called 1970s feminists, who helped to create the intellectual space I now inhabit. Your labors gave me life, made it easier for me to claim a voice than it was for you. Those of you in the university especially have earned the gratitude of subsequent generations for establishing the women’s studies...

  15. Dancing through the Mother Field: On Aggression, Making Nice, and Reading Symptoms
    (pp. 183-196)
    Lynda Zwinger

    I don’t know about you, but when someone says to me, “Not to get personal or anything, but . . ,” I pretty much know I’m not about to have a Hallmark moment. Whatever is coming, I’m not going to like it—and it’s also pretty certain that I’m going to reject whatever diagnosis is about to be offered as incorrect, inaccurate, or as simply not the real me. By the same token, when I’ve made whatever pitch I might be making, and my interlocutor leans back and says, “Well,personally,I’m all for it, but . . ,” I...

  16. Working Mother
    (pp. 197-218)
    Ruthe Thompson

    With its clean, well-lighted photographs of attractive women and children; slick advertisements for Corningware, Rice-a-Roni, and designer cigarettes; and glossy articles with titles like “The Power of Puppy Love: Those Early Crushes Are Practice for the Important Relationships That Lie Ahead” and “Quick & Cool: Beat the Heat with These Summer Suppers,”Working Mothercould hardly be considered a “feminist” text.² Yet feminist politics and philosophies have surely helped to create an atmosphere in which a monthly magazine targeted toward mothers in the labor force could flourish asWorking Motherhas done. Introduced in 1979 by the same publishing firm...

  17. “Somewhere in Particular”: Generations, Feminism, Class Conflict, and the Terms of Academic Success
    (pp. 219-236)
    Linda Frost

    Reviewing our subjectivities and the politics of identity that comprise those subjectivities has become a trend, if not a fad, in current feminist writing. Yet, like other things popular, it isn’t necessarily bad. Reviewing our positioning within the frameworks of our lives, our communities, and our nations is an essential part of understanding why we do what we do and how we can do it better. Feminist writers therefore don’t have to apologize for using personal narrative as a means of analysis; the personal is, as we well know, political. So this is not an apology. But it is an...

  18. The Objectification of Julia: Texts, Textures, and Contexts of Black Women in American Television Situation Comedies
    (pp. 237-249)
    Angela M. S. Nelson

    African Americans became involved with experimental and full-scale television network programming as actors and entertainers in 1939 withThe Ethel Waters Showon NBC. Over the past fifty years of American commercial television, African Americans have appeared in various forms of action-adventure and melodrama including medical, family, and detective dramas as well as Westerns, made-for-television movies, anthologies, soap operas, miniseries, and comedy variety shows. However, blacks have appeared in the situation-comedy genre more than in any other television formula. American broadcast and cable television has aired approximately 800 situation comedies since 1947, and since 1948 there have been 165 situation...

  19. When Feminism Met Postfeminism: The Rhetoric of a Relationship
    (pp. 250-266)
    Jane Kalbfleisch

    This essay sets out to work on a distinctly feminist couple: namely, that produced by the relationship between feminism and postfeminism. Although feminist-postfeminist coupling is undoubtedly informed by other cultural relationships and identities, it requires analysis of and on its own terms. Because the survival of (post) feminism¹ relies, perhaps above all, on our ability as women to relate to one another, it is politically crucial to examine how we represent—and consequently experience—the relationships among us. I hope that eventually such reconsiderations of what feminism and postfeminism mean to each other will prompt us to reconceive our-selves, which...

  20. Feminist Misogyny; or, What Kind of a Woman Are You?
    (pp. 267-273)
    Theresa Ann Sears

    When I began to write this article, my mother was dying, although no one knew it. A working-class woman of Eastern European peasant stock, she had begun to die in her own mind much earlier, when she was in her forties. If she had remained in her mother’s land, she probably would have died that young, since she gave birth only with great difficulty. Granted a reprieve by better medical care, my mother never found a use for the extra nearly forty years; once she had pushed her daughters out of the nest (and she did so resolutely and completely),...

  21. Three Feminist Mother-Daughter Pairs in the Nineteenth-and Early-Twentieth-Century United States
    (pp. 274-287)
    Barbara A. White

    Generational conflict has often taken the form of struggle between a feminist daughter and conventional mother, as in the case of Florence Nightingale, who defied her mother to become a nurse. Or sometimes the path of a feminist mother, like Charlotte Perkins Gilman, has been firmly rejected by her daughter. In this essay, however, I consider historical mother-daughter pairs in which both women identified themselves as feminists. The principal question is what kinds of generational tensions, if any, appear in the lives and writings of these feminist mothers and daughters?

    I have looked at three mother-daughter pairs: Elizabeth Cady Stanton...

  22. Fissuring Time, Suturing Space: Reading Bharati Mukherjee’s The Holder of the World
    (pp. 288-308)
    Gita Rajan

    Writing for an anthology that self-consciously examines the alteration in focus from the first wave of feminist ideology and the burgeoning role of women in culture to the multitudinously splintered oeuvre of feminism(s) that incorporates the authority and enunciation of feminine subjectivity is exciting from a historical and theoretical perspective. Further, to query the evolving problematics of race and gender through the metaphor of generations reiterates the unfolding intellectual and methodological paradigm shifts of female/feminine identity in narrativity. In other words, tracing the imprint of critical and creative work of feminist scholars over the past one hundred years or so...

  23. The Anxiety of Affluence: Movements, Markets, and Lesbian Feminist Generation(s)
    (pp. 309-326)
    Dana Heller

    Originally, I intended this essay to be a critical rumination on the generational shift from 1970s lesbian feminist politics to 1980s queer politics and the anxieties this shift has produced in U.S. feminisms of the 1990s. I set to work in a tenor of gravity and good will, but somehow, somewhere my fancy turned—as fancies are wont to do—to shopping.

    How did this happen? Well, my trouble began when I got sidetracked in an effort to position myself as a generational subject of feminism. To my mind, you see, the termgenerationimplies a body of beings who...

  24. Feminist Family Values; or, Growing Old—and Growing Up—with the Women’s Movement
    (pp. 327-344)
    Judith Newton

    Making my way through a crowded lobby at the Modern Language Association (MLA) convention in San Diego in December 1994, I failed at first to recognize a good friend, one whom I had known in graduate school, had always felt close to, and had seen from time to time, in just these settings, over the past twenty years. Had John gained weight, I asked myself, after he called my name and I had sheepishly recovered enough to give him a hug. Or was it my appalling memory again? Had my eyesight actually gotten worse? Later that evening, over dinner, as...

  25. Contributors
    (pp. 345-350)
  26. Index
    (pp. 351-361)