Libby Nutt Williams
Dr. Libby Williams has been elected the 2013 Woman of the Year for the Section for the Advancement of Women (SAW) of the Society of Counseling Psychology at the American Psychological Association. Congratulations, Libby!
Past St. Mary's Projects in
Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Johanna Thale Galat
Abortion: The Comic
Queering the Comfort of Your Couch: Hetero and Cis Normativity as a Marketing Tactic in Television Advertising
Our society is bombarded by a constant stream of visual media, from which we have established a distinct visual ideology in our culture. Advertisers pull from this visual language in order to market products toward a specific demographic, using imagery that will resonate with a target audience and convince them to participate in consumerism. This project is an analysis of the ways in which advertisers utilize Western ideologies of gender and sexuality in as marketing tactics, reinscribing societally-imposed normalities and convincing consumers that they can achieve normalcy in these areas by purchasing a product. The written portion of this product closely analyzes a series of contemporary television advertisements for various products and the ways in which these ads contribute to and reinforce heteronormativity and ciscentrism. The visual portion of the product contains 3 original advertisements with narratives that stray from the expected path, destroying the assumptions of normalcy and alienating the viewer who is usually expected to be the 'target audience.'
Clothing the Colonies : A Comparison of Textiles and Related Objects from the Historical and Archaeological Record in the Colonial Chesapeake
In this paper, I examine textiles recovered from archaeological sites occupied from the late 17th- through the mid-18th-century in Maryland and Williamsburg, Virginia. While some artifacts relating to textile manufacture show up on archaeological sites, textiles finds themselves are rare. This is due to poor preservation conditions and the historic disposal practices of fabric. Nonetheless, textiles have been recovered at a number of colonial sites in Maryland, providing the opportunity to examine dress and personal adornment as a part of every day life in the colonial period. I also draw on documentary evidence to interpret these textile finds. Included in my paper is a lexicon of terms that appear in probate records, as well as databases for a sample of inventory transcriptions at Historic St. Mary’s City Archaeology Laboratory.
This research study attempts to investigate the relationship between spectator and spectacle in the context of window prostitution in the Red Light District and the function of the window in this relationship. Research data was obtained by way of qualitative methods including focused interviews and unstructured observation. The data was analyzed with a sex-positive feminist and pro-prostitute perspective and within various theoretical frameworks, including gaze theory and semiotic-performance theory. It is concluded that the female window sex-worker is not destined to occupy the object-position of the gaze but has the ability to play with, entertain, exploit, resist, and ignore the gaze due to her autonomous prerogative to manipulate her performance, her gaze, and the window space. Recommendations for further research include investigating the effects of the re-zoning efforts currently underway in the Red Light District that have already eliminated approximated sixty windows.
Women Who Love Women: Towards a New Paradigm of Cross-cultural Gender Theory
The subtitle of this project is Towards a New Paradigm of Cross-Cultural Gender Theory. I have attempted to not only outline a transcultural way of looking at gender in a global context but to then apply my theories to specific examples of cross-cultural comparison – namely toms and dees in Thailand and butches and femmes in America. The foundation of my theorizations regarding gender is an attention to matters of linguistic accuracy. Words, like identities, are not static but dynamic, fluid, and are undergoing a constant negotiation of meaning. Thus words can never once and for all be defined, nor can meanings be assumed to be consistent within the culture of any particular word’s origination. In exploring terms used to describe women engaged in same-sex sexual practices (s3p) I will be discussing many terms; however, my primary focus is on the two perceived female couplings of butch/femme in an American context and tom/dee in a Thai context. There is persistence among Westerners and urban Thais not only in equating the two sets of terms - seeing them as essentially the same - but also in positing toms and dees as the Thai versions of the Western/American butch and femme, somehow secondary to or imitative of this more familiar binary. However, in this project I outline the numerous problems with this overly simplistic interpretation of Thai expressions of gender and sexual orientations/preferences. In chapter one, I outline a transculturated theory of a cross-cultural understanding of gender, combining Judith Butler’s theory of performativity and Buddhist cosmology. I sketch the outline of a larger picture we can use to make sense of the differences in gender/sex or sex/gender systems, using an underlying commonality that links different expressions of those identities. Therein I assert Western and Thai discourses on gender/sex can be understood within one theoretical frame. In chapter two, I emphasize the risks involved in transculturating theory and how I have endeavored to circumnavigate those risks, detailing both the compromises with and challenges to hegemony. Further, I undertake a reconciliation of the Foucauldian gaze and the Thai notion of face in an effort to account for the internalizing effects of divergent mechanisms of institutional controls. In chapter three, in furthering my own theoretical mechanisms of institutional controls. In chapter three, in furthering my own theoretical paradigm, I turn from the global to the specific by examining the societal place of toms and dees and butches and femmes, the meanings of the words themselves, my hypothesis regarding genus-level signifiers of identity, and finally what to do with gender anyway. Subsequently, as part of my agenda of contextualization and as a self-identifying Hispanic, lesbian, American academic, I have chosen to foreground the “I” throughout theses pages; I also attempt to avoid a positing of Truth. This project represents my observations and theories, influenced by the philosophers and writers I have read during my travels and studies. I am trying to raise and answer questions, explore connections, and work through theories. In doing so I hope to meaningfully contribute to the growing body of work in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
Writing from a Body: Exercises in Translating Philosophy to Creative Writing
In Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldua plays with the genre and synthesizes fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, philosophy, history, and myths to discuss the borders between cultures, races, religion, genders, and classes. After having read her book, I was inspired to explore different feminisms in several ways. I wrote four papers about feminist philosophers:Noddings, Held, Hooks, and Butler. Then, I tried to integrate or challenge issues that they raised in creative writing pieces: poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. I chose to write issues of care, gender and identity, and social institutions like racism and capitalism, because I wanted the focus to be on the transformation of philosophical ideas into another medium. My goal was to make more abstract philosophical ideas more accessible. In feminist theory, Bell Hooks writes, "Concentration of feminist educators in universities encourages habitual use of academic style that may make it impossible for teachers to communicate effectively with individuals who are not familiar with either academic style or jargon." My project was my attempt to communicate feminist ideas to a larger audience in a more accessible format.
Sexual Assault at St. Mary's College: A Campaign to Reform Response and Prevention Policies
My SMP was devoted to reforming the programs, policies, and resources about sexual assault at St. Mary's College of Maryland. Sexual assault by an acquaintance is pervasive and largely ignored problem on many college campuses, including SMCM's, where more than four percent of students experience attempted or completed sexual penetration against their will in a given school year. While my project was done in service to St. Mary's and its students, it also offered me first-hand experience in lobbying and policy change. I produced two significant publications as a part of my project: a report on the status of sexual assault resources at the college, which was distributed to concerned students, faculty, and administrators, and a web resource for campus survivors of sexual assault, their friends, and sexual assault activists.
Because this project was political, rather than strictly academic, another focus of my work was organizing the college community to respond to the issues that I was concerned about and to effect the changes that I was working toward. Organizing involved meeting with administrators, students, sexual assault survivors, and sexual assault activists: writing and responding to articles published in the school newspaper, The Point News; giving presentations to the Student Government Association (SGA), the Faculty Senate, my peers and the Sexual Assault Task Force that was created in response to the work of my SMP; and recommending and pushing forward a resolution through the SGA.
My SMP concentrated on the current ethical and personal dilemmas surrounding sexual assault and rape, and I researched the psychological trauma they cause as well as the social implications surrounding the notion that we, as Americans, live in a Rape Culture. To support this theory, I looked specifically at the media through the fashion industry as an example of the prevalence of violent and/or disturbing images in our lives. My SMP consisted of a 90+-page story, with footnotes from my research. I reflected upon my own experiences as a survivor of date rape, and the problems my friends and community have faced as well. My initial goal was to educate myself and others regarding our current situation within a culture that supports and/or does not condemn the ideologies and beliefs that lead people to rape and commit sexual crimes, and I attempted this with my presentation, an "anti-fashion fashion show," called "Sex, Drugs, Fashion, and False Advertising." That Was really fun because I had 30+ students helping me to put on a multi-media presentation that would use visual language to support my claims. Over 100 students attended, and several plan to continue the efforts of my friends to change related policies on our campus.
From Storm to Sea: How Water Imagery is Connected to the Transformational Journeys of the Female Protagonists in the Works of Eudora Welty, Teresa de la Parra, Kate Chopin, and María Luisa Bombal
Catherine Greene, Chinese Studies
After spending a semester in Yunnan province, China, living and working with the women of the minority Nakhi culture, Greene researched the ways in which certain women-centered cultures might require a shift in perspective for aid organizations. Nakhi women run the businesses and control much of the economic system of their cultural sphere. Examining both the Nakhi culture of China and the Igbo culture of southeastern Nigeria, Greene argues that rather than thinking of these cultures as matriarchal, we should re-frame them as women-centered, allowing for the role of both men and women within the various aspects of the society. Acknowledging the women-centered facets of these societies allows us to see the ways in which women can play a primary role in development-economic, political, social, and agricultural. Greene used her own translations of interviews while conducted in China to complete her project.
Gender Sexuality Cyberspace
Cyberspace is a unique discursive site, potentially accessible to a diverse population (simultaneously, the capacity seems unlimited), where desire for recognition and the fulfillment of the dream of subjecthood are juxtaposed with a unique ability to remain anonymous and private if one so chooses. This space is inhabited by author-subjects appropriating, reinscribing, and sometimes subverting discourses of power that surround gender and sexuality by performing textually multiple (created) identities. This vast new virtual universe is always already defined as new and open-it is our next frontier (to be conquered?)-and yet there exist pre-codified systems of being and communicating online. I examine this culturally constructed space as contingent on, and not separate from, our everyday realities and everyday places, taking extra care to investigate issues of embodiment and identity formation as tied to and affected by the technology that supports cyberspace from reality. The format of the project, a website, attempts to employ and extend the same randomizing, webbing, and hypertexting possibilities that inform my consideration of cyber reality as a site imbued with subversive potential.
Autobiography as Bricolage
This project evolved out of an interest in women-centered self-identification, and developed into a theoretically informed examination of issues surrounding identity, text, and authority. Using the writings of unconventional autobiographers Maxine Hong Kingston, Sandra Cisneros, and bell hooks as a basis for discussion, Mercure wrote an essay that challenged traditional definitions of autobiography as a genre, discussing questions such as "who gets to write (and publish) autobiographies?" "what kinds of lives, and kinds of events, get written about?" "how important is 'truth' to autobiography" "what form(s) can autobiographical narrative take?" "what is the relationship between living a life and (re)creating it in textual form?" "why do people write, and read, autobiographies?" and above all, "what power can the disempowered through gaining control of of their lives on the page?"