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Women's Studies, Gender, and Sexuality

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Bike Lust Cover

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Bike Lust

Harleys, Women, And American Society

Barbara Joans

Bike Lust roars straight into the world of women bikers and offers us a ride. In this adventure story that is also an insider’s study of an American subculture, Barbara Joans enters as a passenger on the back of a bike, but soon learns to ride her own. As an anthropologist she untangles the rules, rituals, and rites of passage of the biker culture. As a new member of that culture, she struggles to overcome fear, physical weakness, and a tendency to shoot her mouth off—a tendency that very nearly gets her killed.
    Bike Lust travels a landscape of contradictions. Outlaws still chase freedom on the highway, but so do thousands of riders of all classes, races, and colors. Joans introduces us to the women who ride the rear—the biker chick, the calendar slut straddling the hot engine, the back-seat Betty at the latest rally, or the underage groupie at the local run. But she also gives us the first close look at women who ride in their own right, on their own bikes, as well as a new understanding of changing world of male bikers. These are ordinary women’s lives made extraordinary, adding a dimension of courage to the sport not experienced by males, risking life and limb for a glimpse of the very edge of existence. This community of riders exists as a primal tribute to humanity's lust for freedom.

Biographical Dictionary of Women’s Movements and Feminisms Cover

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Biographical Dictionary of Women’s Movements and Feminisms

Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe, 19th and 20th Centuries

Edited francisca DeHaan, Anna Loutfi

Contains 150 expertly-researched biographical portraits (with pictures) of women and men who were active in, or part of, women's movements and feminisms in 22 countries in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thus it challenges the widely-held belief that there was no feminism in this part of Europe. The biographical portraits not only show that feminists existed here, but also that they were widespread and diverse, and included Romanian princesses, Serbian philosophers and peasants, Latvian and Slovakian novelists, Albanian teachers, Hungarian Catholic social workers, Austrian factory workers, Bulgarian feminist scientists and socialist feminists, Russian radicals and philanthropists, Turkish republican leftist political activists and nationalists, internationally recognized Greek feminist leaders, and so on-women, and some men, from all walks of life. Their stories together constitute a rich tapestry of feminist activity, rejecting the notion that either there was no feminism here, or that it was 'imported from the West.' Women in every society and in every generation protest gender injustice, and any suggestion to the contrary is a denial of the intelligence and human agency of countless women and men, including those featured in this Biographical Dictionary. The biographies not only provide a window onto the historical background of contemporary feminism (thus giving present-day women's movements the 'historical support' that they need and are entitled to), in some cases they demonstrate explicitly the historical continuities between feminisms past and present.

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Biology at Work

Rethinking Sexual Equality

Kingsley R. Browne

Does biology help explain why women, on average, earn less money than men? Is there any evolutionary basis for the scarcity of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies? According to Kingsley Browne, the answer may be yes.

Biology at Work brings an evolutionary perspective to bear on issues of women in the workplace: the "glass ceiling," the "gender gap" in pay, sexual harassment, and occupational segregation. While acknowledging the role of discrimination and sexist socialization, Browne suggests that until we factor real biological differences between men and women into the equation, the explanation remains incomplete.

Browne looks at behavioral differences between men and women as products of different evolutionary pressures facing them throughout human history. Womens biological investment in their offspring has led them to be on average more nurturing and risk averse, and to value relationships over competition. Men have been biologically rewarded, over human history, for displays of strength and skill, risk taking, and status acquisition. These behavioral differences have numerous workplace consequences. Not surprisingly, sex differences in the drive for status lead to sex differences in the achievement of status.

Browne argues that decision makers should recognize that policies based on the assumption of a single androgynous human nature are unlikely to be successful. Simply removing barriers to inequality will not achieve equality, as women and men typically value different things in the workplace and will make different workplace choices based on their different preferences.

Rather than simply putting forward the "nature" side of the debate, Browne suggests that dichotomies such as nature/nurture have impeded our understanding of the origins of human behavior. Through evolutionary biology we can understand not only how natural selection has created predispositions toward certain types of behavior but also how the social environment interacts with these predispositions to produce observed behavioral patterns.

 

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Birth Chairs, Midwives, and Medicine

Amanda Carson Banks

There was a time when birth was treated as a natural process rather than a medical condition. Before 1800, women gave birth seated in birth chairs or on stools and were helped along by midwives. Then societal changes in attitudes toward women and the practice of medicine made birthing a province of the male-dominated medical profession.

In Birth Chairs, Midwives, and Medicine, Amanda Carson Banks examines the history of the birth chair and tells how this birthing device changed over time. Through photographs, artists' renditions of births, interviews, and texts from midwives and early obstetricians, she creates an evolutionary picture of birthing practices and highlights the radical redefinition of birth that has occurred in the last two centuries.

During the 1800s the change from a natural philosophy of birth to a medical one was partly a result of heightened understandings of anatomy and physiology. The medical profession was growing, and with it grew the awareness of the economic rewards of making delivery a specialized practice. In the background of the medical profession's rise was the prevailing perception of women as fragile invalids. Gradually, midwives and birth chairs were relegated to rural and isolated settings.

The popularity of birth chairs has seen a revival in the late twentieth century as the struggle between medical obstetrics and the alternative birth movement has grown. As Banks shows through her careful examination of the chairs themselves, these questions have been answered and reconsidered many times in human history. Using the artifacts from the home and medical office, Banks traces sweeping societal changes in the philosophy of how to bring life into the world.

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Bisexuality and the Challenge to Lesbian Politics

Sex, Loyalty, and Revolution

Paula Rust

The subject of bisexuality continues to divide the lesbian and gay community. At pride marches, in films such as Go Fish, at academic conferences, the role and status of bisexuals is hotly contested.

Within lesbian communities, formed to support lesbians in a patriarchal and heterosexist society, bisexual women are often perceived as a threat or as a political weakness. Bisexual women feel that they are regarded with suspicion and distrust, if not openly scorned. Drawing on her research with over 400 bisexual and lesbian women, surveying the treatment of bisexuality in the lesbian and gay press, and examining the recent growth of a self-consciously political bisexual movement, Paula Rust addresses a range of questions pertaining to the political and social relationships between lesbians and bisexual women.

By tracing the roots of the controversy over bisexuality among lesbians back to the early lesbian feminist debates of the 1970s, Rust argues that those debates created the circumstances in which bisexuality became an inevitable challenge to lesbian politics. She also traces it forward, predicting the future of sexual politics.

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Biting the Moon

A Memoir of Motherhood and Feminism

by Joanne Frye

Joanne Frye reflects on her experience as a literary scholar and single mother, seeing her life as the convergence of "three strands of contemporary culture; feminism, literature and changing ideas of motherhood."

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Black Dogs and Blue Words

Depression and Gender in the Age of Self-Care

Kimberly K. Emmons

Winston Churchill called his own depression his "black dog." Black Dogs and Blue Words analyzes contemporary rhetoric surrounding depression and maintains that the techniques and language of depression marketing strategies target women and young girls, encoding a series of gendered messages about health and illness and encouraging self-diagnosis and self-medication. As depression and other forms of mental illness move from the medical-professional sphere to the consumer-public, the boundary at which distress becomes disease grows ever-more encompassing, the need for remediation and treatment increasingly warranted.

Black Eye Cover

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Black Eye

Escaping a Marriage, Writing a Life

Judith Strasser

    Seventeen years after she married, Judith Strasser escaped her emotionally and physically abusive husband and sought a better way to live. In the process, Strasser rediscovered what she had suppressed through that long span of time: exceptional strength and a passion for writing.
    Black Eye includes excerpts from a journal Strasser kept from 1985 to1986, the year she made the decision to leave her marriage, and present-day commentary on the journal passages and her family history. Strasser works like a detective investigating her own life, drawing clarity and power from journal passages, dreams, and memories that originally emerged from confusion and despair. With language that is both insightful and poetic, she reveals the psychological and social circumstances that led a "strong" woman, an intelligent and politically active feminist, to become an emotionally dependent, abused wife.
    Not coincidentally, the same year that Strasser finally found the courage to leave her husband, she also reclaimed her creative voice. Newly empowered and energized by this enormous life change, Strasser began writing again after twenty-five silent years dominated by her mother’s illness and death, her own cancer, and her painful, fearful marriage. Black Eye is one of the fruits of this creative reawakening. Strasser’s writing is refreshingly honest and instantly engrossing. Not shy of wretchedness or beauty, Strasser’s story is bitterly personal, ultimately triumphant, and inspiring to all who deal with the adversity that is part of human life.

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Black Female Playwrights

An Anthology of Plays before 1950

Edited with an Introduction by Kathy A. Perkins

"Fine reading and a superb resource." -- Ms.

"Highly recommended." -- Library Journal

"Perkins has chosen the plays well, and her issue-oriented introduction places the women and their works in a literary and historical context." -- Choice

"As well as being centered on the black experience, the plays in Black Female Playwrights are centered on the female experience." -- Voice Literary Supplement

"Perkins' anthology is valuable for a number of reasons... Perkins' book (which includes a bibliography of plays and pageants by black women before 1950 as well as a selected bibliography of critical works) is a major help in providing access to [the world of black drama]." -- Theatre Journal

The need to acknowledge these works was the impetus behind this volume. Perkins has selected nineteen plays from seven writers who were among the major dramatizers of the black experience during this early period. As forerunners to the activist black theater of the 1950s and 1960s, these plays represent a critical stage in the development of black drama in the United States.

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Black Feminist Voices in Politics

In Black Feminist Voices in Politics, Evelyn M. Simien charts a course for black women’s studies in political science. Examining the simultaneous effects of race and gender on political behavior, Simien uses a national telephone survey sample of the adult African American population to discover the extent to which black women and men support black feminist tenets. At the heart of this book are answers to such questions as: How does the absence of black feminist voices impair our understanding of group consciousness? What factors make individuals more or less likely to adopt black feminist views? Are men just as likely as women to support black feminist tenets? Simien analyzes the survey data, responds to limitations of existing research, and addresses critical questions that many black academics, intellectuals, and activists have devoted significant energy to debating without much empirical evidence.

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