Volume 24, May 2011
This special edition of Outskirts comes out of The Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Association (AWGSA) Conference held in Adelaide in June-July 2010 (see the Conference Report).
A call for papers went out directly after the conference and we are pleased to say that we have ten papers in this edition. Therefore, rather than follow a theme, this special edition reflects the diversity, complexity, and richness of Women’s Studies/Gender Studies scholars. The contributions that make up this edition are from both senior academics, who have an established research profile, and postgraduate students, some of who are publishing their work for the first time.
Following some of the themes of the conference the papers in this edition focus on gender as it intersects with health, technologies, multimedia and popular culture.
Clare Bartholomaeus and Angella Duvnjak highlight the relevance of feminism today. Bartholomaeus explores perceptions of young people, specifically primary school aged children, and how they position sports as a critical factor in the construction of masculinities. Duvnjak’s paper is both personal and political. She explores the intersections between veganism and feminism, arguing for a need to ‘join the dots’ between the two philosophies.
Debra Miles engages with contemporary debates about women’s participation in feminist organisations. Miles’ paper is a welcome re-visiting of a topic on which little has been written about in recent years. Her research identifies women as active and innovative participants, but also acknowledges the potential difficulties women face in the negotiation of power, the identification of unrealistic expectations, and the expression of negative emotions within feminist organisations.
The papers by Gabriella Zizzo, Roslyn Donnellan-Fernandez, and Toni Delany provide case studies of women’s engagement with technologies to assist them in their work, health, childbirth, mothering, and childrearing. Zizzo examines one of Australia’s fully functional breast milk banks and looks at how the exchange of breast milk in the hospital environment affects mothers who have given birth to premature or ill babies. Donnellan-Fernandez questions the impact of existing maternity service arrangements for women when “having a baby” and the economic factors, among others, that are at play. Delany shifts focus from women/mothers to men/fathers with regards to children’s health. She explores the ways in which contemporary medical and social discourse work to construct narratives of pregnancy, maternity, and child health from which men are absent. Her paper argues for the acknowledgement of male responsibility for the health of a pregnancy – beyond the contribution of sperm – as well as the health of the subsequent child. Despite these different contexts, Zizzo, Donnellan-Fernandez, and Delany use a feminist lens to interrogate practices that influence women’s lives, arguing that gender is invisible in these productions and so pose the question of whether these experiences are potentially exploitative or empowering for women.
In their papers Rowntree, Bryant and Moulding as well as Cefai and Indelicato contribute to the growing number of feminist writings that investigate the implications of emotional responses to popular culture texts. Rowntree et al challenge the prevalent thinking in current research findings concerning ‘chick lit’ and ‘chick flicks’ that perceives the appeal of this genre to be located in a “mirroring” of lived reality. The authors investigate the complexities of ambivalent emotional responses that spring from engagements with feminist thinking. Cefai and Indelicato’s paper explores connections between performances of race, class and gender. Their discussion of race and representation investigates the ways in which the models participating in America’s Next Top Model inhabit a ‘double bind’ of embracing as well as masking racial, ethnic and class difference.
Frances Shaw and Yvonne Corcoran-Nantes highlight new and emerging contexts for feminism. Shaw discusses feminist activism in emerging online political communities or ‘the blogosphere’. Yvonne Corcoran-Nantes raises questions about women and agency. Corcoran-Nantes uses examples of women’s engagement in social revolutionary movements and nationalist separatist movements, and their escalating profile as female suicide bombers to investigate the complex social and political realities, which frame the participation of women in ‘terrorist’ activity.
This Special Edition presents emerging issues for Women’s Studies/Gender Studies, as well as traditional issues that remain relevant today.