July 20, 2018 | ° F

'Feminist In/Security' lecture series at Rutgers explores nuances of gender roles

Photo by Rutgers.edu |

Each year, the Rutgers Institute for Research on Women (IRW) hosts three themed programs to encourage conversations on the intersectionality of feminism and the prevalence of gender in everyday life.

Rutgers' Institute for Research on Women (IRW) is working to stimulate and expand feminist scholarship and activism beyond the Department of Women's and Gender Studies.

The organization has been working with feminist and queer theory scholars across the nation to compose its annual interdisciplinary Distinguished Lecture Series, under a new theme — "Feminist In/Security: Vulnerability, Securitization and States of Crises," according to the website.

In addition to the Distinguished Lecture Series, IRW holds three themed programs annually, said Sarah Tobias, assistant director and event coordinator of IRW. 

“We are talking about feminist insecurity in various different ways," she said. "We are an interdisciplinary institute, which means we have folks from different disciplinary perspectives who come to talk to us, and also people who integrate lots of perspectives within their work."

The series has proven popular in the past, Tobias said. Audience members varied between graduate students, staff members and New Brunswick residents, but most of the attendees were undergraduate students. 

“I think intersectional feminism is really critical in many ways because everyone comes from different overlapping communities, and therefore everyone is a complex individual who experiences the world in unique and distinctive ways,” she said.

Jennifer Doyle, a professor at the University of California, Riverside and a Rutgers graduate, will present a lecture in the series to discuss workplace and college campus harassment and discrimination. Her speech will take place on April 13, and is entitled “Paranoia, Sex and the Workplace.” 

“One of the challenges that is very particular to the issue of sexual harassment and sex and gender based discrimination is that we tend to think of the workplace as a space that is separate from our sexual lives ... that it's always distributive, that it's somehow the opposite of work,” Doyle said. ”So I am confronting those sets of assumptions about the workplace community.”

With the growing decay of traditionally-represented feminism, the movement has transformed into various smaller, intersectional ones, she said. 

“Each feminist at Rutgers has her own story and struggle, I would ask them to listen to each other and look around the room and see who’s missing and who should be there and work towards making that space more dynamic, more generous and more welcoming,” Doyle said. 

The Distinguished Lecture Series will be concluded with Doyle's lecture, as she examines how paranoia over protecting college students will often lead to a rise of insecurity among the students as well as law enforcement, she said.

“In one space (college campuses) we’re confronting the problem of sexual assault and intimate partner violence as an aspect of campus life, and the University as an institution responds with an increase in a policing dynamic which actually does not make the campus safer and in fact, makes the campus more violent,” Doyle said. 

One of the most daunting insecurities that women on college campuses face are sexual assault and natural social subordination in relationships, where “rejected gender roles are forced upon them,” she said.

Aylin Uncu, a School of Arts and Science sophomore and member of the IRW, said realizing the prominence of gender in everything greatly altered her perspective.

"You can always look at anything from a gendered perspective. That goes to say everything from negotiation, to architecture, to queerness and everything in between,” she said. 

The lecture series embodies these various forms and intersections of feminism and sees the insecurities and securities of various social circumstances by using different academic and analytic skills, Uncu said. 

The main insecurity facing feminism as a whole is not just popular misunderstandings by the public, she said, but also a lack of communication within the movement itself. 

Uncu said one of the best lectures was Carol Cohn’s "Playing on Insecurities," because it discussed the important role of women in government and their role as international peacekeepers. Lack of female representation in the government and international community creates an insecurity where men are expected to represent women.

“Take an hour and a half out of your normal day-to-day and just really listen to someone completely associated with something you’ve never heard about before,” she said. “It’s going to change how you view things in the best way possible."

Abdallah Mohamed Ewis is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Abdallah Mohamed Ewis

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