Femininities, Masculinities, and the Politics of Sexual Difference(s)

Marla Brettschneider, University of New Hampshire, Durham
"Queer Encounters of the Jewish Kind: Feminist Essays on Theory and Practice"

My project is a book length work of interconnected political philosophy essays intended to advance the discourse regarding the mutual constitution of our multiple identity signifiers by incorporating the much under theorized contribution of Jewish life experiences.  The project draws upon and develops the notion that not only are identities multiple, and multiply situated with respect to power, but that each politically salient aspect of our identity is mutually constituted through the development of the others.  The project addresses a combination of concrete issues of state policy and power, religious expression, family formation, and Jewish and transgendered challenges to normative social constructs each/all in a historical context of shifting sexual differences.  Thus, this work brings together and challenges principally feminist, queer, class-based, and critical race theories by informing the discourse with Jewishly grounded theorizing as well as bringing the variety of these critical theories to bare on an analysis of Jewish history and thought.

Deborah Hertz, Sarah Lawrence College, Tel Aviv University
"Jewish Masculinity in the Era of Heine and Marx"

I intend to use my time at the IRW to complete the chapters of my book Conversion, Paris or Suicide: Jewish Berlin in the Age of Heine and Marx devoted to analyzing the complex connections between Jewishness and masculinity in early nineteenth century Berlin. During the Napoleonic wars, Jews had won considerable rights across the towns and small states of the German lands.  But after Napoleon was defeated and the diplomats at the Vienna Congress reconstructed the map of central Europe, much that had been granted was taken away. Pamphlets poking hostile fun at assimilated Jews flooded the bookshops.  Characters in popular plays and novels mocked the way emancipated Jews spoke German as well as the shapes of their bodies. As the title of my book suggests, one of the foremost challenges these men faced was whether or not to convert, for few felt they could remain Jewish in the Berlin of the eighteen twenties and thirties and achieve fulfillment in career, family, or society.
One of my aims in the book is to use private experiences so as to better understand public behavior.  This I examine how these men felt and acted towards their families and each other, and pay special attention to whether and whom they married.  Their psychological and physical ailments are also of interest, for we come upon episodes of depression, migraines, hemorrhoids, overeating, suicide and other varieties of misery.

Leslie Heywood, SUNY-Binghamton
"Bodies, Babes and the WNBA: Representation, Public Health, and Female Athletes"

I am interested in women's sports as an important form of what I call "stealth feminism," a cultural site where feminist ideals are carried out on a daily basis, and bodies and sexual difference can be studied in highly concrete ways.  Women's athletic participation has increased 847% since the passage of Title IX, with many implications for gender theory.  Part of what I want to develop is how the recent acceptance of female athletes enables more cultural validation of and space for female masculinity, and why this is not, as some argue, a reactionary form of male identification and continuation of "male" values and dominance.  I argue that the female athlete, rather than being peripheral to or even antithetical to feminist values and concerns, is a central site for feminist inquiry.
This project is critical of feminist arguments that rely on a gender binary that doesn't see values like aggression and nurturance on a continuum but rather essentializes them as belonging to one sex or the other.  It also tries to engage with the current cultural context of anti-feminism, specifically the attack of women's groups like the Independent Women's Forum and women scholars like Patricia Hausman in evolutionary psychology, who have recently argued regarding the reconsideration of Title IX that women are "naturally" less interested in sports (and math and science) because they have less testosterone, and therefore deserve fewer athletic (and academic) opportunities.

Caroline Keating Psychology; Colgate University
"Is Physiognomy Destiny?  The Interplay of Physiognomy and Nonverbal Behavior in the Expression of Female and Male Social Influence and Leadership"

Male and female faces and bodies present distinctly different venues on which dynamic, verbal and nonverbal behavioral messages of social status and power are expressed.  For example, female faces are characterized by static, morphological features that, all by themselves, send very different status messages than do the features of male faces.  The youthful appearance of female faces, exemplified by relatively large eyes, full lips, rounded jaws, and thin, arched brows, reflect a tendency in biology generally known as neoteny--the mimicry of prepubescent characteristics.  Although facial cues for  submissiveness and immaturity make most people appear more honest and warm, they tend to diminish impressions of power.  Dominance cues promote images of strength and competence, but they project interpersonal chilliness and aloofness, as well.  Consider the dilemma for women; their neotenous facial traits may constrain their ability to be perceived as leaders.
I plan to focus on two major aspects related to my studies of gender and leadership while at Rutgers.  The first emphasizes the role physiognomy plays in constraining and shaping the nature of women's social influence.  The second project examines the degree to which the influence strategies women develop in response to their physiognomy "cross over" in different gender contexts.  That is, once developed, how effective are women's influence strategies when applied to female and male audiences?

Yong-Hyun Kwon, Policy Coordination Division, Ministry of Gender Equality, Seoul Korea
"A Comparative Study on Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies of Korea and the United States"

Sexual harassment in the workplace has emerged as a key policy agenda partly because it violates a victim's human rights and partly because it impedes workplace productivity.  In the United States, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The Korean government has begun to pay attention to this issue with the enactment of the 1999 Gender Discrimination Prevention and Relief Act (GDPR Act), which also defines sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination.  In the United States, the jurisdiction of Title VII pertains to employment relations in the workplace, while in Korea the GDPR Act covers almost all kinds of human relations--including, for example, relations between teachers and students, citizens and civil servants.
I selected the United States as a comparative model because it has enforced anti-sexual harassment policies for 38 years, accumulating sufficient experience and expertise.  This expertise and experience could serve as a valuable reference to Korea.  For example, the GDPR Act of Korea stipulates that, when a complaint is filed, the GEPC should resolve it within 90 days.  However, because of the backlog, many complaints fail to be processed within the time limit.  Likewise, the EEOC has long been criticized for its backlog, and as an effort to speed up its procedures, the EEOC has implemented the Priority Charge Handling Procedure, under which all charges are classified into three categories in accordance with the severity of the harassment.  With this procedure in place, the EEOC has been able to substantially reduce its backlog.

Eléonore Lépinard, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, Fulbright Fellow
"Gendered Identities, Gendered Politics?  Discourses and Policies Concerning Gender Quotas in Contemporary France"

The French Parliament voted the Parity Law in June 2000 after a long political, philosophical and public debate of more than eight years, from 1992 to 2000.  This major political change offers a fascinating case for analyzing cultural repertoires on sexual difference, political representation and more generally on gender and politics.  Indeed, the implementation of an affirmative action for women in politics breaks several rules of the French political system which has tried to ban any form of identity politics.  In fact, those claims are perceived as a threat to the republican universalism which enhances French political history since the French Revolution.  In a country which often describes itself as America's counter model in matters of identity politics, it is quite a paradox that such a law, which openly formulates the category of gender as an accurate one in the political sphere, would be implemented.

Nandita Prasad Sahai, University of Delhi, Hindu College, AAUW Fellow
"Retrieving Her-Story: Craftswomen in the World of Early Modern Rajasthani Artisanate"

Virki, a woman from the caste of potters in 18th century Jodhpur (or Marwar), the Princely State in the western part of modern-day Rajasthan in India, alleged that her husband was impotent, and decided to dissolve the marriage.  Her husband's kin complained to the Potters' Caste Council, and approached the Court with a petition seeking divorce.  There ensued then a prolonged engagement between the Jodhpur State, the Potters' Caste Council, Virki's natal and marital kin, and Virki herself.  Finally, she was allowed to dissolve her first marriage and enter marriage with another potter from her neighboring village.
Was Virki an exception or were there other women in her community and in those of other artisanal castes who struggled for space and resisted suppression, circumscribed as they were by contemporary structures of patriarchal dominance?  I propose to study the interface between artisanal women and institutions, organizations and structures that sought discipline her agency in early modern Rajasthan.  The history of women of subaltern groups, particularly for the pre-colonial period, has remained shrouded in obscurity since scholarship on South Asian history has privileged the study of gender relations in elite contexts.  In an attempt to shift away from the study of patriarchy of socially superior groups, I would like to explore how gender hierarchies were constructed, legitimated, challenged and maintained within the artisanal world of early modern Rajasthan.