March 2001

  • The Women’s Times

    A joint publication of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Women’s Studies Program

    Indiana, Pennsylvania 15705

    Volume 9

    March 2001

    It’s Women’s History Month!

    By Jill Vivirito 

    Blessing the boats (at St. Mary’s) 

    may the tide
    that is entering even now
    the lip of our understanding
    carry you out
    beyond the face of fear
    may you kiss
    the wind then turn from it
    certain that it will
    love your back may you
    open your eyes to water
    water waving forever
    and may you in your innocence
    sail through this to that.
    —Lucille Clifton 

    Lucille Clifton is one of my favorite poets, and “blessing the boats” one of her best pieces of poetry. Although I am mindful not to “translate” poetry, thereby reducing it to some one-dimensional and simple meaning, Clifton’s poem, like any poem, does hold certain truths. To me, “blessing the boats” at St. Mary’s speaks of transformation, of braving the unknown in order to move beyond to a place previously only dreamed of. It speaks of courage and trust to live and embrace life fully.

    “[T]he tide that is entering even now” can represent so many things—in a collective and historical sense, it might represent the civil rights movement or the women’s movement. I think of the many African American women, for example, who rode those tides, deeply committed to both movements, women who ultimately faced exclusion, their voices silenced by an era that deemed their rights as less of a priority. As cultural critic bell hooks explains, “Many black nationalists will eagerly…struggle against white supremacy, but suddenly lose [interest in]…analyzing sexism and sexist oppression in the particular and specific ways it is manifest in black experience.” As a black woman actively engaged in the struggle for women’s liberation, she experienced further exclusion: “I was desperately seeking to belong to this family community that never seemed to accept or want me” (bell hooks, “Theory as Liberatory Practice,” 1994). hook’s words confront a problem that endures even now, the problem of both sexism and racism within liberatory movements. And Clifton’s words, like a balmy healing wind, speak to this very struggle. Her wish is that “the tide…carry you out/beyond the face of fear.” It’s less about historical progress and more about having the courage to trust that through our efforts and convictions we will move in the direction of our dreams. It’s about trusting life enough to “kiss/the wind then turn from it/certain that it will love your back.” hook’s latest book, Feminism is for Everybody (2000), is a testament to the reality of dreams realized. The underlying premise that “a genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom” is rooted in a feminist vision of inclusion and community. Feminism, simply defined, “is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” This vision, as hook’s title affirms, is for everybody, for all women—including women of color, white women, old women, young women, lesbian women, straight women—and men who care about the quality of our world. This continued struggle, not about a beginning point or an ending point, is forever about the process, the “water waving forever.” To quote Gerda Lerner, “The feminist revolution will not be an overthrow, but a transformation,” a transformation of culture that depends on shifts in perception and small acts of courage on the part of ordinary people. This is the legacy of the next wave of feminism; yes, the tide is entering even now.

    Jill Vivirito is a Teaching Associate and Doctoral Candidate in IUP’s English Department 

    Myra Sadker

    By: Danielle Biconik – adapted from the Myra Sadker Advocates Website

    March 5th is a day to honor and remember a noteworthy woman – Myra Sadker. In 1973, this woman was the first person to research and document that there are, indeed, strong gender inequities in our schools. These inequities are there regardless of whether a school is rural, suburban, or urban; and are present from pre-school to grad school. Gender biases occur in every aspect of the educational experience. Through textbooks and teachers’attention, sports and extracurricular activities – educational systems favor and cater to males, resulting in the girls being shortchanged. These biases do not stop in the classroom. They later go on to dominate boardrooms and social aspects of an adult’s life.

    This blatant sexism is not just a female problem. The implications of oppressing females affect everyone in the culture. They have been linked to divorce, child negligence and abandonment, violence, teenage pregnancy – just to name a few!

    Ms. Sadker wrote books for teachers on this matter in the 70’s and coauthored the first popular book on the costs of sexism, Failing at Fairness, in 1994. She wrote many articles for publications teaching how to minimize sexism in the classroom.

    Along with her husband David, she gave hundreds of presentations and workshops for those who were concerned with sexism and its negative consequences. She has appeared on programs such as Oprah, Dateline, and The Today Show.
    Myra Sadker died in 1995 at the age of 42. As her biography on her memorial website states, “Even in the face of political oppression, Myra Sadker never wavered in her efforts on the behalf of youth.”

    Myra Saker Day

    March 5th , 1998 was first annual celebration of Myra Sadker Day. This year, in honor of Sadker and her efforts, we ask that you do something on this month to promote gender equity! Be sure to check out our case display in Stapleton Library in honor of Myra and Women’s History Month! For more information about Myra, the day, and things you can do to promote gender equity, please visit the Myra Sadker site at!

    She Said What???!!!

    Women throughout history have said some pretty gutsy things. Here’s your chance to find out what you really want to know. All you have to do is match the quote with the woman.

    1. "Just think - guns have a constitutional amendment protecting them and women don’t."
    2. "The biggest sin is sitting on your ass."
    3. "The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball - the further I am rolled the more I gain."
    4. "I simply ache from smiling. Why are women expected to beam all the time? It’s unfair. If a man looks solemn, its automatically assumed he’s a serious person, not a miserable one."
    5. "What I am is a humanist before anything - before I’m a Jew, before I’m black, before I’m a woman. But somehow you are supposed to be credits to our race. The mere fact that I am still around makes me a credit to my race, which is the human race."
    6. "Love is everything its cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it."
    7. ’Fear not those who argue, but those who dodge."
    8. "My lesbianism is an act of Christian Charity. All those women out there are praying for a man, and I’m giving them my share."

    A. Marie Von Ebner Eschenbach from Austria - an activist with attitude

    B. Eleanor Smeal - president of NOW from 1977-1987

    C. Rita Mae Brown - writer

    D. Whoopi Goldberg - actress

    E. Susan B. Anthony - founding mother of 19th century American Feminism

    F. Queen Elizabeth II of England

    G. Florynce Kennedy, Ur-activist of the sixites and seventies

    H. Erica Jon – novelist

    Answers at the bottom!

    Connections to the Past

    by Rachel Goss

    Women’s Studies is not just about Women’s Issues. It includes many other social dynamics that are ingrained in Western Culture, such as gender and sexuality. People have been faced with these particular issues throughout history, be it personal, internal struggle or an active role in political and social freedom. We often look to past experience and cultures for hope or inspiration.

    In modern America, one can clearly see the influence of religious values on our society. While the Bible may condemn homosexual activity and relationships, recent archeological finds may not coincide with this viewpoint. Of course, both are open to interpretation and we will never know really know what past cultures thought about these current issues, but scholars attempt to understand and reconstruct history nonetheless.

    In 1964, an ancient Egyptian tomb was discovered at the necropolis of Saqqara. There, two men, Niankhkhnum and Khunmhotep, were found by archeologist Mounir Basta. It was only recently that the relationship between the inhabitants of the tomb, which dates back to 2400BC, was interpreted as something more than "brotherhood." Greg Reeder makes a well-respected argument for what he calls "same-sex desire" (it is probably not homosexuality in the modern sense of the word). These men were close to King Niuserre during the fifth dynasty, for the share identical titles as "royal confidantes" and were among the very few who could actually touch the pharoah. In such times, it was quite remarkable to have a tomb built in one’s honor because it was extremely expensive. Therefore, these men must have not only been important, but must also have been respected, since they obviously lead a public life together.

    Reeder traces the level of intimacy in their relationship through the iconography appearing in their tomb and compares it to other tombs of the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. Husband and wife couples are often depicted in specific positions with specific themes. Likewise, Niankhkhum and Khumhotep’s tomb follows these same patterns of detail. Scenes inside show them in various intimate embraces, often holding hands or standing nose to nose. Over a door, their names are joined as one, indicating some type of ancient pun. In other scenes, they are shown feasting, being entertained, and even sitting surrounded by children. In the deepest, most private part of the tomb is a depiction called "the eternal embrace" which in Egyptian art indicates the most intimate embrace possible.

    While some scholars think the men are brothers or best friends, others, like Reeder, maintain they were lovers. Reeder defends his interpretation well, although he states "A reasoned argument can be made defending any and all of these positions." His perspective is insightful and impacting.

    For more information related to this essay, please visit

    Answers for "She Said What"

    1. B
    2. G
    3. E
    4. F
    5. D
    6. H
    7. A
    8. C