MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Program in Women's Studies


The Program in Women's Studies offered eighteen subjects during the academic year 1994-95, with approximately 320 students enrolled. It also participated in sponsoring two graduate level courses through the Boston-area Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies at Radcliffe College, in which one MIT student enrolled.

Three new topics were offered under traditional rubrics this year. Associate Professor Henry Jenkins (Literature) taught a new topic, Myths of Gender: Masculinity, under the rubric SP440 Studies in Film and Media. Lecturer Tara McPherson (Literature) organized SP439 Problems in Cultural Interpretation around the theme of Technobodies, and designed a section entitled Rewriting Western Identities under the SP441 Contemporary Literature rubric. SP420J American Women's History was revived this year, and is slated to be taught next year. SP421J The World of Suzy Wong and M. Butterfly: Race and Gender in Asian America will be revived during spring 1996. Visiting Professor Mary Brown Parlee designed Women's Studies' first course offered for credit during IAP. The subject, SP408 Gender Outlaws: Beyond Male and Female, was very popular with students, and has generated an ongoing study group on the topic.

The Women's Studies Research Room (WSRR), part of the Humanities Library and funded in part by the Women's Studies Program, continues to be a valuable resource to Women's Studies students and faculty alike. We have been working closely with the library staff to renovate the room and provide more shelving in order to maintain the collection. Acquisition of a computer terminal for the room was approved, and the Library staff has installed the system in time for the fall semester.


One student who received her Physics degree in May 1995 declared a second major in Women's Studies during the spring semester of her senior year, and is scheduled to complete her Women's Studies degree by December 1995. Five minors graduated this year, and there is one underclasser who has declared her intention to complete a Women's Studies minor. Twenty 1995 graduates concentrated in Women's Studies. There are currently nine underclassers who have declared Women's Studies concentrations.

The Women's Oral History Project continues to involve a number of new students with the Women's Studies Program. These students work with Associate Professor Margery Resnick (Foreign Languages and Literatures) collecting oral history interviews of MIT's women graduates. Students working on this project have been thrilled to meet women who studied at MIT 30 or 40 years ago, and seem to approach their experience at MIT with more determination. Working on the oral history project provides these undergraduate interviewers with an academic framework within which to evaluate their experiences as both observers of and participants in MIT's unique culture.


Programming special events continues to be vital to both the health and growth of the women's studies community at MIT. Because we have little control over our curriculum, but operate at the mercy of departments in more traditional disciplines, programming is the arena through which we are most able to reach new students and faculty, build ties to other programs and departments, and bring recent scholarship on gender to the attention of the MIT community.

To conclude our celebration of the tenth anniversary of Women's Studies at MIT, we hosted (with the help of the Office of the Arts and the Program in Theatre Arts) a public appearance in Kresge Auditorium by comedian and actor Lily Tomlin and writer Jane Wagner. Representative video clips of their work were shown, and the two stars participated in a lively interview with MIT faculty members representing the Literature, Music and Theater Arts, and Women's Studies programs. Tickets for this event sold out in one day, and the response of the audience was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about their visit. Conversations are ongoing between Lily, Jane, and Theatre Arts about possible future collaborations.

The Program in Women's Studies again coordinated the annual speaker series, Women and Politics, co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science and the Center for International Studies. The five lectures offered during AY1994-95 addressed a range of timely topics, and drew diverse audiences. In response to the intensifying national focus on welfare reform, the Seminar featured two events which examined the gendered underpinnings of welfare politics: in November, 1994, Frances Fox Piven (Political Science Dept., CUNY Graduate Center) and Diane Du John (Massachusetts welfare rights activist) discussed the historical foundations of the 'new' welfare agenda, and its implications for poor women in this country, and in April, 1995, Lucie White (Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School) explored strategies for reclaiming welfare discourse in a talk entitled, "Weapons Against Poverty/Fabrics of Care: Gendered Imagery, Welfare Policy, Refiguring Power." In December 1994, Carmen Barroso (director of Population Programs at the MacArthur Foundation) reported on the unprecedented role played by international feminist organizations in the planning and proceedings of the U.N. Conference on Population and Development held earlier that fall in Cairo. In February, 1995, Cynthia Enloe (Prof. of Government, Clark University) picked up on the theme of cross-national women's organizing efforts in a lively talk entitled "Women and the International Politics of Sneakers." Also in February, Ahn Il Soon (feminist author) and Kim Yon Ja (activist and former bar woman), both from South Korea, discussed the economic and social implications of the militarized sex industry in their country.

The popularity of last year's symposium on Women in Cyberspace led the Women's Studies Program to coordinate a series of cyberspace events during AY94-95. With generous funding from the Deans of the Schools of Engineering and of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Program was able to sponsor three public lectures and a mini-conference on the subject. In November, author Dale Spender explored the social implications for women of the move from print to electronic media. In December, Lecturer McPherson (Literature) spoke on gender assumptions embedded in the marketing of infomation technologies developed for home use, and in February, Stacy Horn, founder of a thriving electronic network in New York, discussed "Gender Issues in Electronic Community." In April, Sandy Stone, a leading scholar on cyberspace culture, was the featured speaker at the "Doing Gender on the Net" mini-conference. The series attracted a large number of faculty, students and staff from the Media Lab, and continues to bring increased visibility to the Women's Studies Program.

The Program also brought to campus with the help of other academic departments and projects at MIT, Professors Helene Moglen (Professor of English Literature, UC Santa Cruz) and Cathy Gallagher (Professor of English, UC Berkeley) who delivered talks in conjunction with the Literature Faculty and the History and Literature Seminar, respectively. Internationally known feminist author Hanan al-Shaykh spoke on "Women, War and Literature in Contemporary Lebanon" at an event co-sponsored with the Emile Bustani Middle East Seminar.


Our publication, Women's Studies Around Boston, is sent quarterly to our mailing list of over 2,500 individuals. Every mailing of the newsletter elicits a rash of calls and letters from people requesting to be added to our mailing list. This publication provides vital links between the Program at MIT and women's studies scholars at other institutions and in the community.

This year, Women's Studies was pleased to have two visiting scholars, Petra Lucht and Heike Wiesner, from the University of Bremen in Germany. Both women chose to conduct their research on theories of gender in the natural sciences here at MIT. These scholars initiated a working group on gender and science comprised of graduate students and post-docs interested in the constellation of issues related to gender and science. Their fields include History of Science, Social Sciences, Science, Women's Studies, and Medicine. There was an open discussion covering the following topics: places of feminist discourse in science, crossing the divide between Women's Studies and Science, being a feminist in the "postmodern world": a contradiction?, and responding to the backlash. WoGGS (as this group is nicknamed) will continue meeting over the next year. This group has attracted various scholars from outside universities and serves as a catalyst for new analysis of gender and science. Ms. Lucht has received a fellowship to remain at MIT as a Visiting Scholar during AY95-96, and she will be joined next year by Dr. Poonam Pillai, a specialist in feminist postcolonial theory. Dr. Pillai is on the faculty of Ohio State University.

The Women's Studies Faculty continued their active contributions to their individual fields. Most of these accomplishments are listed in the reports of their home departments, so special attention is given here to achievements relating to work on gender. Within the field of Women's Studies, Professor Ruth Perry (Literature, on leave) delivered plenary lectures on feminist topics at the Jane Austen Society of America, Syracuse University, New England MLA, and York University. She lectured at Radcliffe and Columbia/Barnard. At Northeastern American Society for 18th Century Studies, the American Society for 18th Century Studies, and the annual national MLA conference in NYC, she presented papers and chaired separate sessions. Professor Emeritus/Senior Lecturer Louis Kampf (Literature, on leave) served as the Managing Editor of Radical Teacher. He gave 8 lectures at 8 universities and colleges and served on the Program Committee of the Modern Language Association. Professor David Halperin (Literature, on leave) served as a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Homosexuality in addition to teaching at the University of Queensland and the University of Sydney. Professor Jenkins (Literature) organized a series focused on masculinity in conjunction with the List Visual Arts Center.

Professor Evelyn Fox Keller (STS) presented papers across the globe and delivered the keynote address for the conference on Women, Gender, and Science held in Minnesota. This past May, she received the Doctorate of Humane Letters from RPI and the Doctor of Humane Science from Simmons College. Her book, Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth Century Biology, was published in May by Columbia University Press. She has the following volumes in press: Reflecting on Science: Feminist Contributions to the Philosophy of Science (co-edited with Helen Longino), and the 10th anniversary edition of Reflections on Gender and Science. Additionally, she was a member of the Gulbenkian Commission to Restructure the Social Sciences and the organizer of two sessions at the July ISHPSSB conference in Belgium. Professor Jean Jackson (Anthropology) participated in a day of celebration for Professor Annemarie Shimony entitled "Native Americans, Social Justice, and the Practice of Anthropology." This event recognized Professor Shimony's 35 years of teaching at Wellesley College. Professor Jackson's talk, "Indianness and the Politics of Culture in the Northwest Amazon," was part of the panel of "Students of Annemarie Shimony in the Practice of Anthropology."

Professor Isabelle de Courtivron (Foreign Languages) published "La Politique éditoriale des éditions des femmes in `Regards sur la France des Anneés 1980'." Professor Resnick (Foreign Languages) remains active in the Executive Committee of the International Institute in Spain, where she annually helps coordinate their international conference on Spanish women. This year she chaired the colloquium held in June 1995 and presented a paper on women and politics. In addition, Professor Resnick spoke at Technology Day on the impact of World War II on women's lives in the 1950s and 1960s. She also received the Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow Award.

Beginning with the summer of 1995, Michèle Oshima will assume the position of Coordinator of Women's Studies. During Academic Year 1995-96, directorship of the Program will be coordinated by the Women's Studies Steering Committee in association with the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science.

Evelyn Fox Keller

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95