- Editors' NoteContesting the Structures of Power and Exclusion
Feminist critiques of transformations, movements, and hierarchies in different social contexts have truly enhanced many aspects of humanities and social science research over the past forty years. Gender scholars have offered both nuanced and complex insights into the mechanisms that maintain and police social stratification. We anticipate that the writings featured in this issue will further allow us to ascertain how these mechanisms affect the individual lives of women and gender others. The intersectional, decolonial, and interdisciplinary lenses that our authors use signal exciting new developments in the field of women's, gender, and sexuality studies.
Deconstructing the social and scientific technologies of modernity designed to regulate physical and discursive bodies in patriarchal settings is an important intellectual mission for a number of our contributors to this issue. Nicole Sanders in "Gender and Consumption in Porfirian Mexico" explores how new consumer technologies in turn-of-the-century Mexico encouraged middle-and upper-class women to uphold traditional gender roles and racial exclusions. Also interested in how technologies inform body politics, Emily Johnston in "Poisoned Subjects" documents the life narratives of the women who used the fertility drug diethylstilbestrol (des) and developed vaginal and cervical cancer as a result. The technologies of war and women's bodies are the center of the short story "Soldier Girl" by Marjorie Maddox, which provides a semi-fictionalized account of Lynndie England, the woman at the center of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. While addressing the critical role that technologies of modernity play on the physical body, our contributors were also attentive to constructions of discursive bodies through the technologies of language and culture. The article "Fleshing Out the Ambiguous Body" by Sara Cohen Shabot rummages through the writings of South African novelist J. M. Coetzee, who in his various narratives proposes non-binary ways to regard bodies within the culturally hybrid geographies of Africa. [End Page vii]
Technology not only informs our physical and figurative embodiments; it also affects our capacity for knowledge production and for literacy acquisition. The gendered discourses of science and progress that it generates, ones that privilege male whiteness, are challenged by some of our authors in this issue. Engineering scholar Kacey Beddoes writes in her essay titled "Institutional Influences that Promote Studying Down in Engineering Diversity Research" that the underrepresentation of women and minorities in that field persist because attempts at diversification ignore structural inequalities within the discipline. Sara Giordano in "Feminists Increasing Public Understandings of Science" urges scholars and students in the sciences to challenge assumptions of objectivity and absolute truth in order to make way for feminist and critical thinking skills in those areas of study. Both of these texts call for a profound transformation of educational institutions, a struggle that feminist educators have been waging for over a century. Some of the origins of the present-day struggles that both Beddoes and Giordano address can be appreciated in Patricia Carter's essay "Guiding the Working-Class Girl," where the author discusses the important work educator Henrietta Rodman carried out on behalf of working-class women during the early twentieth century in New York City.
While the structures of inequality that Beddoes, Giordano, and Carter document in their articles are firmly situated within the United States, those addressed in the contributions by Sandra Mizumoto Posey, Sirpa Salenius, Gregory D. Smithers, and Janey Lew in this issue are transnational in nature. The personal narrative "Made in Occupied Japan" by Mizumoto Posey tells of the author's experiences with her transnational family whose history spanned the territories of the United States, Japan, and other parts of Asia, having been subject to gender oppression in all those locales. But empowerment and feminist resistance too are transnational. Salenius in "Transatlantic Interracial Sisterhoods" tells us about the U.S.–European transatlantic dialogues among women that animated social justice causes during the nineteenth century. Likewise, the artwork by Trinh Mai also featured here underscores the strength the artist gains by establishing connections between herself in the United States and her ancestors in Vietnam. By contrast though, Smithers's essay does not look beyond the...