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Women's Studies, Gender, and Sexuality

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Authority and Female Authorship in Colonial America

William J. Scheick

Should women concern themselves with reading other than the Bible? Should women attempt to write at all? Did these activities violate the hierarchy of the universe and men's and women's places in it? Colonial American women relied on the same authorities and traditions as did colonial men, but they encountered special difficulties validating themselves in writing. William Scheick explores logonomic conflict in the works of northeastern colonial women, whose writings often register anxiety not typical of their male contemporaries. This study features the poetry of Mary English and Anne Bradstreet, the letter-journals of Esther Edwards Burr and Sarah Prince, the autobiographical prose of Elizabeth Hanson and Elizabeth Ashbridge, and the political verse of Phyllis Wheatley. These works, along with the writings of other colonial women, provide especially noteworthy instances of bifurcations emanating from American colonial women's conflicted confiscation of male authority. Scheick reveals subtle authorial uneasiness and subtextual tensions caused by the attempt to draw legitimacy from male authorities and traditions.

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Autism and Gender

From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks

Jordynn Jack

The reasons behind the increase in autism diagnoses have become hotly contested in the media as well as within the medical, scholarly, and autistic communities. Jordynn Jack suggests the proliferating number of discussions point to autism as a rhetorical phenomenon that engenders attempts to persuade through arguments, appeals to emotions, and representational strategies. In Autism and Gender: From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks, Jack focuses on the ways gender influences popular discussion and understanding of autism's causes and effects. She identifies gendered theories like the refrigerator mother theory, for example, which blames emotionally distant mothers for autism, and the extreme male brain theory, which links autism to the modes of systematic thinking found in male computer geeks. Jack's analysis reveals how people employ such highly gendered theories to craft rhetorical narratives around stock characters--fix-it dads, heroic mother warriors rescuing children from autism--that advocate for ends beyond the story itself while also allowing the storyteller to gain authority, understand the disorder, and take part in debates.Autism and Gender reveals the ways we build narratives around controversial topics while offering new insights into the ways rhetorical inquiry can and does contribute to conversations about gender and disability.

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Autobiography of My Hungers

Rigoberto González

Rigoberto González, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa, takes a second piercing look at his past through a startling new lens: hunger.
            The need for sustenance originating in childhood poverty, the adolescent emotional need for solace and comfort, the adult desire for a larger world, another lover, a different body—all are explored by González in a series of heartbreaking and poetic vignettes.
            Each vignette is a defining moment of self-awareness, every moment an important step in a lifelong journey toward clarity, knowledge, and the nourishment that comes in various forms—even "the smallest biggest joys" help piece together a complex portrait of a gay man of color who at last defines himself by what he learns, not by what he yearns for.

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Ava Helen Pauling

Partner, Activist, Visionary

Mina Carson

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The B Word

Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television

Maria San Filippo

Often disguised in public discourse by terms like "gay," "homoerotic," "homosocial," or "queer," bisexuality is strangely absent from queer studies and virtually untreated in film and media criticism. Maria San Filippo aims to explore the central role bisexuality plays in contemporary screen culture, establishing its importance in representation, marketing, and spectatorship. By examining a variety of media genres including art cinema, sexploitation cinema and vampire films, "bromances," and series television, San Filippo discovers "missed moments" where bisexual readings of these texts reveal a more malleable notion of subjectivity and eroticism. San Filippo's work moves beyond the subject of heteronormativity and responds to "compulsory monosexuality," where it's not necessarily a couple's gender that is at issue, but rather that an individual chooses one or the other. The B Word transcends dominant relational formation (gay, straight, or otherwise) and brings a discursive voice to the field of queer and film studies.

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Baad Bitches and Sassy Supermamas

Black Power Action Films

Stephane Dunn

This lively study unpacks the intersecting racial, sexual, and gender politics underlying the representations of racialized bodies, masculinities, and femininities in early 1970s black action films, with particular focus on black femininity. While low-budget blaxploitation films typically portrayed black women as trifling "bitches" compared to the supermacho black male heroes, the terms "baad bitches" and "sassy supermamas" signal the emergence of films featuring self-assured, empowered, and tough (or "baad") black female protagonists: Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, and Foxy Brown. Stephane Dunn closely examines a distinct moment in the history of African American representation in popular cinema, tracing its influences from the Black Power movement and feminism.

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The “Baby Dolls”

Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition

Kim Marie Vaz

One of the first women’s organizations to mask and perform during Mardi Gras, the Million Dollar Baby Dolls redefined the New Orleans carnival tradition. Tracing their origins from Storyville-era brothels and dance halls to their re-emergence in post-Katrina New Orleans, author Kim Marie Vaz uncovers the fascinating history of the “raddy-walking, shake-dancing, cigar-smoking, money-flinging” ladies who strutted their way into a predominantly male establishment. The Baby Dolls formed around 1912 as an organization of African American women who used their profits from working in New Orleans’s red-light district to compete with other Black prostitutes on Mardi Gras. Part of this event involved the tradition of masking, in which carnival groups create a collective identity through costuming. Their baby doll costumes—short satin dresses, stockings with garters, and bonnets—set against a bold and provocative public behavior not only exploited stereotypes but also empowered and made visible an otherwise marginalized female demographic. Over time, different neighborhoods adopted the Baby Doll tradition, stirring the creative imagination of Black women and men across New Orleans, from the downtown Tremé area to the uptown community of Mahalia Jackson. Vaz follows the Baby Doll phenomenon through one hundred years with photos, articles, and interviews and concludes with the birth of contemporary groups, emphasizing these organizations’ crucial contribution to Louisiana’s cultural history.

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Bad Girls

Young Women, Sex, and Rebellion before the Sixties

Amanda H. Littauer

In this innovative and revealing study of midcentury American sex and culture, Amanda Littauer traces the origins of the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s. She argues that sexual liberation was much more than a reaction to 1950s repression because it largely involved the mainstreaming of a counterculture already on the rise among girls and young women decades earlier. From World War II–era "victory girls" to teen lesbians in the 1940s and 1950s, these nonconforming women and girls navigated and resisted intense social and interpersonal pressures to fit existing mores, using the upheavals of the era to pursue new sexual freedoms.

Building on a new generation of research on postwar society, Littauer tells the history of diverse young women who stood at the center of major cultural change and helped transform a society bound by conservative sexual morality into one more open to individualism, plurality, and pleasure in modern sexual life.

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The Bad Wife Handbook

Rachel Zucker

Rachel Zucker's third book of poems is a darkly comic collection that looks unsparingly at the difficulties and compromises of married life. Formally innovative and blazingly direct, The Bad Wife Handbook cross-examines marriage, motherhood, monogamy, and writing itself. Rachel Zucker's upending of grammatical and syntactic expectations lends these poems an urgent richness and aesthetic complexity that mirrors the puzzles of real life. Candid, subversive, and genuinely moving, The Bad Wife Handbook is an important portrait of contemporary marriage and the writing life, of emotional connection and disconnection, of togetherness and aloneness.

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A Band of Noble Women

Racial Politics in the Women's Peace Movement

Melinda Plastas

A Band of Noble Women brings together the histories of the women’s peace movement and the black women’s club and social reform movement in a story of community and consciousness building between the world wars. Believing that achievement of improved race relations was a central step in establishing world peace, African American and white women initiated new political alliances that challenged the practices of Jim Crow segregation and promoted the leadership of women in transnational politics. Under the auspices of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), they united the artistic agenda of the Harlem Renaissance, suffrage-era organizing tactics, and contemporary debates on race in their efforts to expand women’s influence on the politics of war and peace. Plastas shows how WILPF espoused middle-class values and employed gendered forms of organization building, educating thousands of people on issues ranging from U.S. policies in Haiti and Liberia to the need for global disarmament. Highlighting WILPF chapters in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Baltimore, the author examines the successes of this interracial movement as well as its failures. A Band of Noble Women enables us to examine more fully the history of race in U.S. women’s movements and illuminates the role of the women’s peace movement in setting the foundation for the civil rights movement

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