In June 2011, the Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians featured “The Down & Dirty Show,” a drag and burlesque show, on the official conference program. After the show, Stephanie Gilmore and Leigh Ann Wheeler heard provocative comments about it, some enthusiastically supportive and others highly critical. Eager to explore these responses and the politics of staging such a show at an academic conference, we invited several people to participate in an email conversation for publication. Our goal was to reproduce what Joan Scott observed in an earlier JWH email conversation about teaching—a discussion in which email technology encouraged “participants to be tentative, exploratory, and open.” We thank our contributors, Carolyn Bronstein, Kathleen Brown, Andrea Friedman, Matt Richardson, Heather Spear, Susan Stryker, and Heather Wilson, for their honest, engaged, and searching posts. Together, they have produced a conversation that casts a bright light on some of the personal, political, historical, and contemporary meanings of sexual performance to women’s historians. We hope readers will continue this conversation on the JWH website.


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pp. 171-197
Launched on MUSE
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