In 2007, I was invited to speak at an event for graduate sociology students at Texas Woman’s University (TWU). A new faculty member in the department, I accepted the invitation. I had no idea what I would talk about.
I had just moved to Texas and felt pretty uneasy about my place. In addition to the heat (100 degree days and 90 degree nights), I was an east coast woman sociologist in a small academic department with no gender focus, in a southern state known for religiosity and gun-toting individualism. I had only been to Texas for my job interview, and I had no shortage of preconceived biases about the lone star state. The gun-toting individualism turned out to be true, relatively. But as we know, sweeping stereotypes misrepresent the nuance of any social context. As a newbie, I had no real sense of context. I just did my best to get along while staying true to myself.
I decided to talk about something safe, the name of the university—Texas WOMAN’s University. What did it mean to use the singular term woman to describe this co-ed university? The Chancellor explained the name by saying that every Texas woman has a place at TWU. It reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own… which addresses the spaces women have a right to occupy, the paths women are allowed to take. Having a University of one’s own suggested the right to occupy intellectual space, to learn and to create knowledge. I liked the idea. It seemed like an acceptable subject for my talk so down the path of womanism I went.
What is a woman sociologist? What do woman sociologists want? more...