The Journal of International Women's Studies is an on-line, open-access, peer reviewed feminist journal that provides a forum for scholars, activists, and students to explore the relationships among theories of gender and sexuality and various forms of organizing and critical practice.

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The Globethics.net library contains articles of Jounral of International Women's Studies as of vol. 1(2001) to current.

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  • Changing the Canon: Chinua Achebe’s Women, the Public Sphere and the Politics of Inclusion

    Nwagbara, Uzoechi (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2013-01-07)
    This paper examines the subjugation of Nigerian women with regard to how their political marginalisation constricts the public sphere, the resource centre of public opinion, which strengthens the ideals of democracy and good governance. The political marginalisation of women in Nigeria is a rectilinear upshot of their low participation in government and politics necessitated by patriarchy. This patriarchal practice has animated the urgency of expanded public sphere as well as feminism, an ideological, aesthetic and cultural movement, steeped in agitating for the rights of women and expanding the frontiers of their participation in the political process. In the political novel Anthills of the Savannah, which is to be considered in this paper, Chinua Achebe has deftly refracted the rise of new Nigerian women, who are generation changers. Beatrice represents Achebe’s new women; her portraiture in the novel interrogates postcolonial Nigerian politics of disempowerment, marginalisation, shrunken public sphere and gendered space that occlude good governance.
  • A Critique of Anti-Carceral Feminism

    Masson, Amy (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-05-11)
    In analysing carceral logics in the context of the ‘unholy alliance’ of neoliberal and neoconservative hegemony, this paper seeks to acknowledge the central place of a distinctly moralistic, authoritarian neoconservative philosophy implicated in the crime control agenda. Thus, it is contended that carceral politics are in fact produced by a fusion of neoliberal and neoconservative ideas. Anti-carceral feminists argue that ‘carceral feminism’ has been co-opted by neoliberalism but fails to recognise and name these neoconservative forces, collapsing them into a confused conceptualisation of neoliberalism, lacking in theoretical clarity. In doing so, they do not see the spaces where their own politics risk appropriation by neoliberal principles. Dichotomies between neoliberalism and neoconservatism serve to produce a politics of backlash. Hence, by distancing themselves from the neoconservative forces of punitive state retribution embedded within carceral feminism, anti-carceral feminists unwittingly mobilise concepts central to neoliberal rationality. The anti-carceral position reflects a state-sceptical agenda, mirrored in the neoliberal turn to privatisation hastened in austerity, and reliant upon voluntarism in the community. This itself is dependent on a valorisation of the community, and a correspondent minimisation of its punitive drives. An erasure of nuance in the debate is indicative of the polarised backlash climate, whereby anti-carceral feminists are, understandably, keen not to give ground to the forces of the carceral state. Ironically, this approach may risk the very process anti-carceral feminists seek to avoid co-option by neoliberalism. The dominance of austerity politics, particularly following the 2008 recession, provides fertile ground for the convergence of privatisation policies. Progressive movements are unlikely to win tangible gains unless they promote a broader set of political interests. As such anti-carceral feminism could be viewed as providing a timely opportunity for states looking to cut public spending whilst simultaneously answering bi-partisan calls for criminal justice reform. The discussion focuses primarily on literature from the USA - however due to similarities in their political contexts pertinent examples from the UK are used where relevant, specifically in relation to voluntarism and austerity.
  • Postfeminist Hegemony in a Precarious World: Lessons in Neoliberal Survival from RuPaul’s Drag Race

    Chetwynd, Phoebe (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-05-11)
    The popularity of the reality television show RuPaul’s Drag Race is often framed as evidence of Western societies’ increasing tolerance towards queer identities. This paper instead considers the ideological cost of this mainstream success, arguing that the show does not successfully challenge dominant heteronormative values. In light of Rosalind Gill’s work on postfeminism, it will be argued that the show’s format calls upon contestants (and viewers) to conform to a postfeminist ideal that valorises normative femininity and reaffirms the gender binary. Through its analysis of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I further intend to develop our understanding of the relationship between neoliberalism and postfeminism. It will be argued that neoliberalism conditions postfeminism and yet at the same time neoliberalism is in some ways dependent on postfeminism for its own survival. Thus, this paper will demonstrate the importance of caution with regard to superficially subversive cultural objects in an era which has witnessed the increasing entanglement of progressive and regressive politics.
  • Unending and uncertain: thinking through a phenomenological consideration of self-harm towards a feminist understanding of embodied agency

    Heney, Veronica (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-05-11)
    Agency has been much discussed in both popular and academic feminist discourse, particularly in the context of empowerment and sexual practices. Following a third-wave emphasis on women’s ability to respect women’s choices and ability to exercise agency free from domination, postmodern feminist scholars have critiqued such a view as thoroughly implicated in discourses of neoliberal individualism and compulsory self-discipline. However, these critiques have not entirely succeeded in providing convincing alternative approaches for incorporating concepts and experiences of change and intentionality within frameworks which emphasise the governmentality of discourses of empowerment. Thus, this essay explores the benefits of shifting the frame of the discussion of agency from sexuality to self-harm, a practice and experience which is under-theorised within feminist thinking. Existing theorisations of self-harm, in which ideas of choice and self-determination are both centred and refused, highlight the particular importance of incorporating considerations of embodiment into discussions of agency. Therefore, the discussion uses a phenomenological perspective, as articulated by Sara Ahmed, to conceive of self-harm as an embodied, relational, and repeated act. Exploring each of these facets of self-harm highlights the need to explore theorisations of agency as messy and uncertain, reflecting the multiple pulls which can be exerted upon the body and to which the body can respond; as exercised by emplaced bodies which exist within contexts of necessity, wherein actions might be neither freely chosen nor entirely unwanted; and as continuous rather than discrete, never fully completed but rather a constant process of negotiation which exists in relation to complex personal and social histories. This return to the body, and the multiple and messy experiences of embodiment, highlights the benefits of both grounding feminist theorisations of agency within phenomenological considerations and of avoiding binary frameworks in which the possession or absence of agency are placed in discrete opposition. Centring uncertain and indeterminate embodied experiences might allow for a more productive platform for future feminist thinking.
  • Masculine Failure and Male Violence in Noah Hawley’s Fargo

    Weisser, J. T. (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-05-11)
    ‘Quality’ television drama is drama marketed as being filmic and boundary-pushing, yet it tackles the concept of masculinity in highly normative ways. Scholars argue that many quality television shows feature narratives of men struggling against emasculation at the hands of contemporary society before using violence to assert their masculinity by force. However, this interpretation is limited, assuming that all quality television shows which engage with violent masculinities root this violence in normative, ‘aggressive’ masculinity. In many cases, the violent masculinities of quality television are anything but normatively masculine: they are inescapably queer and othered. Using a queer theoretical framework, this essay explores an illustrative example: Season One of Noah Hawley’s anthology series Fargo (2014–). Within this season, male violence is an expression of queer masculinities, offering a transgressive space which questions the coherence of the masculine body and exposes its vulnerabilities. While threats of violence are a way to demonstrate and approximate normative masculinity, these normatively masculine performances can be conquered by direct acts of violence, which are positioned as being queerly ambiguous. Violence between men functions as an erotic transgression of bodily boundaries: weapons allow men to ‘penetrate’ other men, to act on violent desire in a sexualised context. Men can also weaponise their emasculation, violently embracing their ‘failure’ to perform normative masculinity rather than struggling against it, which allows them to access the danger of ‘failed’ masculinity and othered femininity. This queer form of violence allows men to claim power over other men, in contrast to the idea that ‘failed’ masculinities are necessarily physically weak and non-violent. The show’s most brutal acts of male violence are not in conflict with the unattainability of normative masculinity, but instead expressions of ‘othered’, maligned masculinities. The show thus reinforces normative masculinity through the othering and villainisation of queer masculinities.
  • The Communal Violence Bill: Women’s Bodies as Repositories of Communal Honour

    Ismail, Zara (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-05-11)
    This article examines the measures taken under the various iterations of India’s Communal Violence Bill to tackle sexual violence in communally charged areas. It focuses on the 2002 violence in Gujarat to illustrate ‘sexual impunity’ in India, the workings of izzat (honour) within the discourse around communal violence, and to argue that citizens of India are not always equal before the law. Using decolonial, feminist and postcolonial theory, the author builds on a rich history of activism and scholarship to argue that not only are the measures proposed under the government’s draft of the Communal Violence Bill inadequate, but also that they buy into problematic oversimplifications reliant on ideas of communal honour, thus neatly sidestepping institutional complicity in communal violence and foreclosing any potential for efficacy. When women are reduced to keepers of communal honour—their bodies the battlefields upon which party and communal politics play out—justice is put out of reach. The author argues that the policing of communal lines through the logic of izzat also results in a very peculiar construct of the concept of ‘rapist’ in times of communal violence, resulting in a distinction between ‘men who rape’ and ‘men who are rapists’. Rape is very much a politico-legal issue in India. It has a history and a context. The sexual impunity that runs rampant in the country today is a result of both. The author argues that there is a need to deeply interrogate who matters in Indian politics—and, more importantly, who does not. Justice, in cases of sexual violence is heavily influenced by the rapist’s position vis-à-vis the victim/survivor, and Gujarat has shown us that to be sidelined in Indian politics can often mean a denial of justice. This article seeks to trouble the divide between state and society, calling for a recognition and interrogation of state complicity and for the decentering of honour as the central paradigm of communal violence. It is only through the deconstruction of this façade that the underlying causes and contributors can be addressed, allowing us to move towards a more equitable and just system.
  • Liminal Space and Minority Communities in Kate O’Brien’s Mary Lavelle (1936)

    Finlay-Jeffrey, Amy (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-05-11)
    Despite blatant references to homoerotic desire in Kate O’Brien’s oeuvre — two of her novels Mary Lavelle (1936) and As Music and Splendour (1958) contain lesbian characters, whilst gay male characters appear in Without my Cloak (1931) and The Land of Spices (1941) — it is only in recent years that scholarship has considered O’Brien as a writer of homosexual themes. There are obvious reasons as to why the lesbianism in O’Brien’s work and others who wrote about it during the mid-twentieth century has suffered from such neglect. It is only since second-wave feminism that an academic critique of sexuality has seemed appropriate to the academy. Tom Inglis notes that in comparison to British cultural history ‘the lack of research into the history of Irish sexuality is puzzling, although it corresponds to a general lack of interest in sexuality in Irish academia’ (10). Before 1990, there were few references to lesbianism in criticisms of O’Brien’s novels. Emma Donoghue explains this as ‘not so much by covering up her bonds with other women, as by denying those partnerships were of any relevance to her work … most of those who have written on Kate O’Brien have simply avoided the lesbian issues in her work’ (Out of Order 37). Drawing on anthropological ideas pertaining to liminal space, this article seeks to discover how twentieth century Irish author Kate O’Brien’s construction of queer communities in novel Mary Lavelle (1936) can be understood as liminal spaces that exist in opposition to governing heteronormative ideologies. I propose that Ireland is configured as a closeted space in Mary Lavelle, and upon leaving Ireland, O’Brien’s lesbian characters can experience and experiment with different facets of their gender identity and sexuality and enter into what I define as a space of queer liminality.
  • The Pussyhat Project: Texturing the Struggle for Feminist Solidarity

    May, Katja (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-05-11)
    This article moves beyond binary conceptions of the Pussyhat Project as “good or bad activism”, or indeed as good or bad feminism (Zouggarri, 2018, p. 1). Instead, I use the concept of texture as a lens through which to trace the different threads that have shaped and continue to shape the Pussyhat Project and its reception, while simultaneously paying attention to the entangled nature of these threads. Attending to the different textures of the process of making as well as the finished object serves to question or, at least, complicate dominant narratives and concepts of feminist solidarity, protest and craft. As such, my analysis gives texture to the Pussyhat Project and the Women’s March, while, at the same time, making visible the unevenness in the feminist struggle for liberation and affective solidarity. In addition, it gestures towards how this texture can become a means to position people closer towards a grounding of feminist practice in affective solidarity based on dissonance rather than an overcoming of difference that silences the experiences of queer and transwomen, women of colour and women from the Global South.
  • Borderless A Study of Violence against Women in Universities: Brazil, Portugal, and the U.K.

    Costa, Fafate (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-04-16)
    Brazilian university students report cases of rape on campus. In Portugal, young women experience humiliation and sexism when they enter university. In the UK, protests in an academic context put to the test policies for women. These narratives are present in a postdoctoral research project that will discuss violence against women in universities. One of the products resulting from this work will be a documentary that attempts to deal with the subjective perceptions of teachers, technicians, and students about gender violence in the Academy. Focusing on feminist epistemology that values experience as a way of knowing, this research has women as protagonists in both the denunciations and the execution of a video-activism on the subject.
  • Voicing Their Stories: A Discourse on the Relationship Between Education and the Social Position of Indian Women in the Mid-twentieth Century

    Singh, Shivani (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-04-16)
    Indian women in the early twentieth century stood at the threshold of changing times. A social reform movement for women’s education came into focus at this time. However, despite efforts to promote higher education by Christian missionaries, the Indian intelligentsia, social reformers, and the British colonial government, there were disparities in its spread. It was still beyond the reach of women in general. Women’s education was not pervasive but reserved mainly for those coming from educationally enlightened families, where their parents and other relatives supported the reforms, offering them access to higher education. Feminist researchers, writing about this period, hold multiple views regarding Indian reformers and their efforts in women’s education. This paper attempts to draw attention to the social status of Indian women through the self-narratives of two accomplished women educationists from North India, Swarup Kumari Bakshi and Begum Hamida Habibullah, both of whom were witness to pre- and post-independence social and political dynamics. They represent two different religious cultures; however, their social background was quite similar. This paper, an oral history, is based on their independent perspectives, personal experiences and self-narratives shared with the author during interviews conducted in 2009. A comparison between the two narratives offers insights into the contemporary social position of women. It also offers reflections on the elitist approach of the social reforms, and the different viewpoints proffered by feminist writers regarding the relationship between the social position of women and promotion of their education by social reformers. The article concludes with reflection on late twentieth century attempts to transform women’s socio-educational status-quo.
  • #Me Too in Bangladesh: Can You Change?

    Iftakhar, Shampa (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-04-16)
    With the global rise of the #Me Too movement and hashtag, sexual harassment has become a buzzword. The term “sexual harassment” was initially used to refer to a workplace phenomenon (Farley 1978, Mackinnon 1989). However, since the pioneering work on the issue, it has become clear that sexual harassment is inclusive of public space, educational institutions, and the home. It has been defined as “unwanted sexual advances, request for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1980). Two types of harassment are identified: the first is a “quid pro quo” and the second, a hostile work environment. Though both of these refer to workplace sexual harassment, these are different in nature. The first one occurs when a supervisor demands sex, sexual favors or sexual contact from a subordinate or from a job applicant. It is inclusive of employment related decisions such as a favorable recommendation letter or promotion. A quid pro quo can occur if there is a threat of negative work consequences for refusing to confer sexual favors. For example, the target of harassment might lose a job or be relegated to unfavorable work. In such situations, targets are punished for stepping outside of patriarchal norms regarding the gendered division of labor, job benefits, titled positions, and so on. Thus, the quid pro quo is a form of sexual harassment that is regarded by some misogynists as the price women must pay for stepping into male dominated workplace worlds. This “price” includes humiliating and inappropriate verbal language and/or actual physical violations of women. It is well-known by many that #Me Too was initiated by Tarana Burke in 2017, an African American woman who herself had been the victim of sexual violence becoming a widespread platform overnight to share previously unreleased stories of pain, insults, and injustices caused by sexual harassment both within the workplace and beyond. #Me Too hit Bangladesh in 2018 when survivors began to express their own experiences to show the solidarity with the worldwide, viral #Me Too movement. Despite the growing success in women’s empowerment, Bangladesh fails to ensure safety for women and girls, and they are prone to sexual assault and harassment almost everywhere, including within their own homes, workplaces, public transport, educational institutions, and holy places. This article focuses on an overview of sexual harassment in Bangladesh followed by #Me Too survivors’ stories, analyzing them from multiple theoretical perspectives including patriarchy, women as a second sex, child sexual abuse, and male-domination specifically in the work-setting. An additional objective of the paper is to explore how Bangladeshi socio-cultural norms deeply rooted in a patriarchal mindset, condone malicious practices that jeopardize women. The findings indicate that even though #Me Too shone only a temporary light in Bangladesh, it nonetheless served to raise awareness of the problem, and focused attention on rethinking and revising both existing law and education. Thus, the Bangladeshi version of the movement joined in global solidarity and sisterhood.
  • Nepali Women in Politics: Success and Challenges

    Upreti, Bishnu R; Upreti, Drishti; Ghale, Yamuna (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-04-16)
    This paper is based on an extensive three-year research project employing qualitative methods. In this paper we will discuss women's struggle for equality in Nepal, their current successes in the political process, and remaining underlying challenges. The aim of this paper is to share with a wider audience that establishing equality and equity is hard but not impossible if and when constant efforts are made in a concerted way by bringing all likeminded people (men and women, politicians and parliamentarians), together. Nepal has been undergoing tremendous socio-political transformations over the past two decades, from civil war to negotiated peace, unitary to federal and monarchical government, and ultimately to the current republican political system, where the role of women is eminent. Historically, despite unfavourable circumstances, Nepali women have established themselves as key actors of socio-political changes. Under the leadership of Yogmaya Neupane (1860-1941), Nepali women began their struggle during the Rana Regime and advanced since the 1950s, by engaging both in popular peaceful political movements to armed insurgency and parliamentary competition with their male political counterparts. As a result, the new constitution of Nepal in 2015, ensured 33 % of seats, guaranteed to the parliaments and all other government positions as well as provision of male-female alternate seat provisions in the highest positions such as President and Vice President, Chief and Deputy Chief of Parliament (in both upper and lower houses), Mayor and Deputy Mayor where two of one must be female. Further, it has ensured inclusive provisions in all state structures. As a result, from the national and local elections of 2017-18, women have come to occupy 41.8% of political positions across the country. One of the key factors to ensure higher and meaningful participation of women in politics were these favourable electoral provisions. We found that despite numerous challenges that women face in political and electoral processes, they have demonstrated success in achieving higher participation in political positions. However, what has been achieved so far is not enough and continued concerted action among all actors is essential.
  • Waking Up the Dissident: Transforming Lives (and Society) with Feminist Counseling

    Johnson, Donna F. (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-04-16)
    When I was a student in the 70’s I took a year off to travel the world with a friend. Despite taking every precaution, I was sexually assaulted twice. The incidents changed the course of my life. I completed my studies and began working in a refuge for battered women. There I bore witness, not only to unimaginable cruelty, but to widespread institutional indifference to women’s suffering. Decades later, police, judicial and child welfare responses remain inadequate in Canada (as everywhere), and mental health practitioners continue to routinely blame and pathologize women. As a counselor, first at the shelter, later in a police crisis unit, I struggled to know how to respond when women sought my guidance. Should they report being beaten, raped, threatened with death? Should they seek treatment for depression? Could they lose their children? Could they be charged for defending themselves against their batterers? Women were looking for reassurances that I couldn’t give. What I could give them was tools to understand the forces acting upon their lives. I began to incorporate a feminist analysis into my work, including a sociology lesson and consciousness-raising in every session. I started bringing women together in groups, where many problems considered personal and psychological were recognized as common and social, requiring political solutions. For many women, reflecting on their problems from a feminist perspective was truly liberating and empowering.
  • In Perennial Oppression: Internalized Ideologies of the Devadasis

    Geetha, K A (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-04-16)
    The Madras Anti-Devadasi Act was passed in 1947 with the primary objective of liberating women from the oppressive norms of the Devadasi system. Sanctioned by religion, the institutionalization of the Devadasi system within the Hindu community legitimated women from certain caste groups to become ‘servants of god’. Through ritualistic norms, the Devadasis were wedded to God and the caste Hindu patriarchs were authorized to control the sexuality of the Devadasis. Given their vulnerable status in terms of caste, class, and gender, women from the castes lower in hierarchy were forced into the system. Despite the legislative intervention of the Anti-Devdasi Act seven decades ago, there are newspaper reports, which substantiate the continuation of the Devadasi systems in some villages in Tamil Nadu, reiterating the power of caste and sexist ideologies within Hindu society. In contemporary times, the Devadasis are mainly drawn from the Scheduled castes, otherwise referred to as Dalits. Literatures by historically marginalized communities play a pivotal role in their liberation. On the contrary an analysis of the literatures by (or on) the Devadasis reveal the internalization of societal ideologies which impedes their empowerment and emancipation. Drawing on Simone de Beauvoir’s conceptualizations of the gendered body and Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of “habitus”, which underlines the embodied nature of social positions, this paper discusses the physical and psychological conditioning of the Devadasis within the caste Hindu society. Through an analysis of two Tamil novels, Moovalur Ramamirtham’s Dasigalin Mosavalai allathu Mathi Petra Minor and Imayam’s Sedal, this paper argues that the Devadasis depicted in the novels are embedded in caste and gender norms that denigrate and oppress them. Hence, as a paradox, their resistance to the system results in perpetuating the oppressive and discriminative social system rather than enabling liberation.
  • The Impact of Non-Government Organizations on Women’s Mobility in Public Life: An Empirical Study in Rural Bangladesh

    Nawaz, Faraha (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-04-16)
    The article aims to analyse the impact of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) on Bangladeshi rural women’s mobility in the public domain, since this is an area that is generally only frequented by men whilst women are confined to their own home and neighbourhood. In other words, the author explored how and to what extent, NGOs have brought changes to women’s freedom of movement in the public sphere. The author was influenced by the existing literature that portrays Bangladesh as a country that is characterized by poverty, patriarchy and inequality, where there is no tradition of rural women participating in the labour force, and where women’s mobility is severely restricted. In this study, the indicators of women’s mobility were explored that include women’s movement in various public places such as market, medical centre, children’s schools, and cinema. By conducting series of in-depth interviews and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), the author collected primary data from rural women and their husbands through purposive network sampling. Secondary data was collected from the contemporary literature regarding women’s freedom of movement globally in general and Bangladesh in particular. By analysing empirical data, the article confirms that rural women’s participation in microfinance program of NGOs have enhanced their mobility in different ways. However, the women who had education and training had more mobility in public life since those women utilized the benefits of NGO programs more effectively. Surprisingly husband’s education, occupation and exposure have no positive impact on women’s mobility.
  • Moroccan Women’s Writings: Rethinking their Female Body and Sexuality

    Aissi, Hanane El (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-04-16)
    The nineteen eighties and nineties marked a turning point in Moroccan women’s campaign against gender discrimination and patriarchal hegemony. During this period, Moroccan women’s writings moved beyond the archaic subjects that had been dominating the literary scene during the sixties, such as the call for women’s education, women’s work in the public sphere and women’s domesticity issues, having as a goal to start addressing some of what was considered taboo issues such as the question of the female body, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy. The emergence of such writings heralded an awakening of a feminist consciousness that reflected new and revolutionary feminist perceptions. They provided a feminist definition of the question of the female body and sexuality, beyond common patriarchal views. From the 1980s on, women’s literature unmasked women’s unique feminist approach to writing their bodies and celebrate female subjectivity against what was considered to be unmovable norms. In this context, the very concept of a woman’s body and sexuality remained a taboo that resisted critique. The female body remains submerged in patriarchal discourse that not only neglects it but renders it a passive entity that finds its meaning only within the boundaries of male language and desire. The female body was always represented through the system of patriarchy as a source of temptation and pleasure; hence the view that it should be controlled, protected, and veiled. However, the development of women’s feminist consciousness entails in its tenets, new perceptions of the female body and sexuality. Within this context, this paper examines Moroccan women’s new feminist consciousness of their bodies and sexuality by providing an analytical study of some feminist works by Fatima Mernissi, Soumaya Naamane Guessous, and Ghita El Khayat. Through their feminist writings, such writers attempted to transgress this taboo subject and go beyond the patriarchal assumptions about the female body and sexuality.
  • Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa Rose: An American Sisterhood in Black and White

    Bensedik, Ahmed N (Virtual Commons - Bridgewater State University, 2020-04-16)
    In light of the theme of the 5th World Conference on Women's Studies 2019, 'Activism, Solidarity and Diversity: Feminist Movements Toward Global Sisterhood', this article contends that Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa Rose (1986) is an appeal for an American bond of sisterhood between feminists and womanists. In the process, it examines the relationship between the novel's two Black and White heroines, Dessa Rose and Ruth Sutton respectively, through the lens of Bonnie Thornton Dill's definition of sisterhood in her seminal work, Race, Class, and Gender: Prospects for an All-Inclusive Sisterhood. While discomfort and distrust encircle their first encounter in the Sutton's Glen, equality, reciprocation, and trust adorn their sisterhood in their last encounter in jail. Such a sisterhood is the aftermath of both women's realization that they are both subjects to White men's patriarchy. Williams's use of both heroines as microcosms for Black and White women addresses the widening gap in the 1980s and today between feminists and womanists for an American sisterhood in black and white.

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