Friday, February 29, 2008

Stukes: Interview

Spiced Up Her Life

My “Ama,” Mary Fuller McDill, has lived a typical Southern life: she was a small-town, family-oriented girl who always cleaned her plate of fried chicken and fried okra before she jumped in Pa’s pick-up to go church every Sunday. Because of her seemingly traditional lifestyle and prim and proper, “womanly” demeanor, I believed that the more liberal topics we have discussed in my women’s studies class would be completely foreign and somewhat unspeakable to her.  However, after talking with Ama, I learned that she has added her fair share of spice to the Southern way of life. She has something to say about the issue of women’s rights, as she has been a perfect example of independence from a very young age.

Ama has always lived in a small town in South Carolina. She solidified the stereotype that Southerners are “buried in their way of thinking” (more so back then than now, she says), and this affected the way she grew up in many ways.  She told me that figures in her childhood taught her to “wear dresses, talk sweetly, and keep her legs crossed in order to be a proper lady.” She always followed suit in order to do well through young adulthood and to appease her mother. Much sooner than expected, though, Ama had to abandon her idea of perfect womanhood and take on more responsibilities than she could have ever imagined.
Her family was never well off financially, but they were always able to make ends meet, even through the Great Depression. She graduated near the top of her class and a year early from high school, and she proceeded to be the first person in her family to attend college at Lander University. Two years into her schooling, her father died, leaving her mother, younger sister, and she emotionally and financially devastated. At the age of 19, Ama began working odd jobs and soon became a teacher, making little to no money, in order to support her family nearly single-handedly. In our interview, she told me how she knew that her younger sister Betty had to go to college seeing as to that she had gotten the opportunity and how she knew that her “Mama needed a new refrigerator instead of an old ice box.” To make a long story short, she stretched her measly salary far enough to accomplish both of her goals and more.  While working eight hours a day, she put her younger sister and herself through college; she bought her mother that new refrigerator that she wanted; and she came up with the funds for her family to put food on the table and to keep the electricity bill paid. Even she agreed with me in that she didn’t know how in the world she made it work.

After she explained some of the details and the struggles of her life, I started asking Ama about the feminist movement she experienced so many years ago. She said that she could remember some feminist activity, but it was hard for her to gauge how much activity really went on due to the fact that news didn’t spread as quickly as it does now and the following of the women’s rights movement was much smaller back then. She believed that “women should be in the forefront,” so in that respect, she liked the fact that women were being proactive about claiming their rights. However she did not approve of the women that would speak about women’s rights in “inappropriate places like church.” She said that this turned people against their cause by offending them.

Her description of feminism when she was younger paints a picture of first- wave feminists. She realized the following of the women’s rights movement was relatively small back in the 1920s and 1930s, but she had heard of their cause. This shows how first-wave feminists made their mark on the world despite their lack of numbers and the short time period in which they worked their magic. The movement appealed to my grandma in that they were fighting for something that needed to be fought for, but the fact that they were so upfront about their cause steered her away from naming herself a “feminist” or involving herself in any of their activism.  Ama declared herself “inactive but still active” – a more third-wave feminist way of thinking.
Soon enough, Ama and my grandfather, Papa, started a family. They had four kids. Ama chose to stay home with her first two children and be a typical housewife – she cooked and cleaned and took care of matters at home. Before her third and fourth children were born, she hired help at home and started back to work as a history teacher because she wanted to help out with the financial situation of the family and prepare for her children to go to college.  She said she did not regret her decision to go back to work because it was necessary and because she was still able to be a mother to her last two children.  By that point in her life, she had already gotten used to supporting herself, so to have a partner to help financially was just a perk. She was not at all upset to have to go back to work, for she realized that a marriage is equal and that “not all men can do it themselves.”

My grandma showed strength and independence during times when women were not expected to. She showed these qualities in a time when women were actually discouraged from being strong and independent. In this way, I think she showed definite signs of feminism by doing just what she said, being “inactive but active.” She set an example for her friends, her younger sister, and her children, just to name a few, and this in and of itself is activism.

Being an American history teacher, I was curious as to what Ama thought about why women were predominantly left out of history textbooks. She told me about how she thought it was mainly due to the fact “women didn’t come forth in society until the time of Susan B. Anthony”, and even then society didn’t acknowledge women. She stated in a negative way, “women were kept in the background for a long time.” Later in the interview, she also remarked on how women were coming more to the surface of society, and therefore they would
probably be and should be mentioned more in textbooks to come.

Finally, I asked what my grandmother’s feelings on some issues of the current day were. I will admit that I was a little nervous to step into this territory for fear of getting a lecture on how I should think more conservatively. Much to my surprise though, I instead found similarities between the two of us.  Abortion – a hotly contested topic, a new-age medical term, and my first question. My grandma, though she herself has birthed four kids, identified herself as a pro-choice advocate.  She went on to talk about how the context of the pregnancy matters more than anything, a strong reference to Allison Crew’s And So I Chose. She said that she has always thought that it should be the woman’s choice despite her conservative Southern upbringing and the fact that she never chose to have an abortion. Secondly, I questioned Ama on her thoughts on calling a husband or wife a “partner,” for my women’s studies professor introduced me to this idea. Her first impression was to question the reasons behind it, but once I explained my professor’s justifications behind the practice, Ama came around. She even went as far as to say that she thought it would be better if everyone were to call their spouses “partners.” Ama’s seemingly conservative exterior turned out to be entirely deceiving when it came to women’s rights.

I chose to talk to my grandma because she has lived her life in a much different time than I have lived mine (She just stopped complaining about her 89th birthday.); she has witnessed each of the mainstream feminist movements, and I previously believed that we had opposing viewpoints on most debated topics. Our talk opened my eyes to how just two generations ago (at least in my family), women’s rights were barely talked about. I have always had so much respect for my grandma, but now, more than ever, I realize that she has been through a lot in her life and has gone against the norm to set an example for women of today.

Monday, February 18, 2008


From the discussions we have had in past class sessions I have come to realize that everyone is different and have their own opinions. I would like to share my opinion about the topic of backlash. Backlash happens with a lot of women. Having a career and money may be very important to certain women and they would rather have the material things than the responsibilty of being a wife and having a family. I think that being able to support yourself in today's society is very important and money is a great thing to have. I also feel that a woman can have both just at a reasonable limit. The woman who desires this can not spend too much time at work and can not neglect her home. Most importantly I think that if the woman has to choose between work and family then family definitely always come first. This is just my personal opinion.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Media Analysis

Media Analysis
50 Points
Due: 12:00 am 4/28

As we learned in class, new media is a great venue for feminist communities. The Internet provides a great place to publish commentary and produce new media—both are helpful to a feminist agenda. For this assignment you have two choices—create a media text or critique one. For both projects you must turn in a hard copy to me and post an entry to our class blog by the deadline. Remember that all written work must be in Times New Roman 12 point font, double spaced, and page numbered. Your blog posts will be formatted into single space automatically and that is okay. In general, all written work should be in first person “I argue that this is…” Please see the writing tips under course content for more writing help. YOU ONLY NEED TO TURN IN A BIBIOGRAPHY WITH THE WRITTEN WORK. PLEASE DO NOT ATTACH A BIBIOGRAPHY TO THE BLOG ENTRY.

Produce a feminist text:

All over Youtube are great examples of feminist artists. Many make their own videos, poems and monologues. Contribute your voice to these artists. You can make a 3-6 minute video that represents a feminist text. The video must be posted to Youtube AND then posted on our class blog (you embed the URL provided on the Youtube page). Specific guidelines:

  1. You need to provide some written commentary as well. So perhaps you explain your video montage by citing the people that you drew upon. If you write a poem about the beauty industry, your written commentary should explain the beauty standard, summarize the feminist critique and then offer up your explicit argument. You should have at least 3 sources in your entire project. They can all be in the written component if needed.
  2. The written commentary should be no less than 500 words and the video should be no less that 3 minutes.
  3. If your created text is less than 3 minutes, you can fill in the additional time by summarizing some of the critique/argument in your hard copy.

EXAMPLES: (poetic critique about the beauty industry) (Video montage showing the objectification of Disney princesses) (Video montage of female representation in commercials)

As you’ll notice, these videos would be made stronger with some evidence and explanation. As such, your blog post will be a blend of the two. Produce a text but explain the reason for it and the point behind it. Some questions to guide your writing: why is your text needed? Does your text represent something NOT found in mainstream media? Is there a reason you have to post on youtube rather than find a more mainstream outlet? Is your text a continuation of a string of positive text that can be found if one looks hard enough? What feminist authors did you draw upon for your ideas? Are there any feminists who would find your argument controversial or straight up wrong?

Media Criticism:

* You need to clear your case study by me before 4/10. You can do this via e-mail or by giving me a handwritten statement. I will give you a little feedback. As much info as you can give me about the direction of your paper the better!*

  1. The most important thing to remember is that a criticism is not necessarily a criticism. It may very well be that you analyze a media text you support and love. Rather, a criticism implies a very close look at the text with a lot of insight and analysis.
  2. Your case study can be any form of media. For example—television show, movie, popular book, a line of commercials.
  3. Your job in this criticism is not simply to say this movie stinks. Rather it is to show what assumptions are at work in the movie and perhaps what is problematic or helpful from a feminist lens.
  4. Every paper must have a clear thesis a preview. Example “This paper argues…. And it proceeds in four sections: W,X,Y,Z.”
  5. A good paper will have (a) a clear case study for analysis, (b) a clear thesis statement, (c) an analysis of the text that include a close and detailed reading of the text (d) feminist, scholarly material (e) your own argument.
  6. The paper should be between 1000-1500 words. It is fine if you go over but your grade will be penalized if you go under.
  7. Your research needs to be a blend of scholarly and publicly circulated periodicals. For example, you may need to use a simple article in the NYT to prove that a television show is popular. But you’ll also need to include feminist literature that sets up some sort of perimeters what a feminist television show looks like.
  8. You should ask yourself if you have anything NEW to add to the discussion. Many feminist have written about Sex and the City and Disney, for example. You are welcome to do those topics if you have something new to say about it.
  9. You must use 4 total sources—at least three from outside the class. If you use more than 4, you can use more than one class source.
  10. Please see both the writing tips and the sample paper under course content for more guidance about what I expect writing wise.

Some questions to guide your thinking: What are the goals of a feminist text? What are the goals/messages/opinions of the text you are analyzing? Does it comply with certain things that are “feminist” but not in other things? Is it part of some themes that are popular in lots of media? What is your opinion about the text and what feminist scholars informed your opinion?

Research Help: You need to have outside research. You need to have scholarly research. That means you should use the library databases. IF ALL YOUR SOURCES COME FROM .coms YOUR GRADE WILL SUFFER. If you are accessing the databases from outside campus you’ll need a password which is “bike.”

  1. All the blogs listed on our class syllabus (they will help with the writing style and for case study ideas)
  2. Under the alphabetical library databases:
    1. “L” Lexis nexis academic for lots of magazines and newspaper articles
    2. “C” for Communication and Mass Media which will have scholarly information about your case study (or at least the genre—television, movies, etc). You will also find some scholarly feminist articles here as well.
    3. “W” Women’s Studies International which has a variety of feminist sources including book chapters and journal articles
  3. Online books at
  4. You can use the internet but look for sources that come from .org sites rather than .com

**Please title your entry like this-- LAST NAME: MEDIA ANALYSIS

Interview Assignment

Interview Blog Post
25 Points
Due: 5:00 p.m. March 7, 2008

  1. The interview should take place with someone who identifies as a woman OUTSIDE your age bracket. So you should be looking for women who are either significantly younger or older than you. It will also be a better interview if there are other demographic differences between you and the interviewee (race, class, political membership, etc).
  2. The goal of the project is to compile a historical report and future projection of feminism as well as get a feel for the current status of the ideas we’ve been learning about in class. It is your chance to get a feel for how people of all ages, races, and classes have dealt with the concepts of feminism, equality, sex, beauty, oppression, race, class and many more!
  3. When you write your blog post, you should blend excerpts from the interview with some reflection. In short, the blog post should read more like an essay than an interview (see girldrive example). You will share key quotations, information about your interviewee’s life, and the larger lessons you can connect to our class material.
  4. The essay should be between 4-6 double spaced pages and should comply with my writing expectations. Please see my writing tips for more help on this. You should have a thesis statement that guides the essay. The essay should be in first person. Remember to use Times New Roman 12-point font, double space the text and add page numbers!
  5. When you turn in your hard copy, please attach a list of your questions and the contact info for your person (including phone number). The list of questions does not count toward your page total.
  6. Feel free to do whatever you can to spruce up the blog entry (include audio or photographs)
  7. You will be graded not only on quality of writing but also insight and attention paid to the interview. In other words, you will not receive an A if you simply ask close-ended questions and write things like “Sally is a feminist because she is a woman.” The questions and the essay should be more complicated than that!
  8. Some information to consider: Why did you choose this person to interview? What is interesting about their life that makes them have interesting insight into feminist issues? Do they have historical information to share with us? (Do they remember when the Feminine Mystique was written? Do they remember some of the changing notions about feminism?) Are they playing a key role in shaping the feminist agenda for today? What are some hardships they have gone through that has contributed to their life philosophies?

For more inspiration, look here: (to prepare for an interview)

**Please title your interview with your last name: Interview