‘Feminist Awakenings’ exhibit reveals realizations of feminism, gender roles

Wonder Woman, Tampax and a pink My Little People van.

The Women's Studies program collaborated with Lovejoy Library to create "Feminist Awakenings: Artifacts of Impact," an exhibit featuring 20 pieces that symbolize a first realization of feminism and gender roles. Students, staff and faculty contributed to the exhibit, which will be on display through the end of the month. Photo by Kari Williams

These items, among others, portray the initial awareness of feminism and gender constructs for students, staff and faculty as part of the “Feminist Awakenings: Artifacts of Impact” exhibit put on by the Women’s Studies department in Lovejoy Library.

Women’s studies program chair Catherine Seltzer said the program collaborated with Lovejoy last year, but wanted this year’s exhibit, which is part of women’s history month, to “think about history a little bit more immediately.”

“We thought about the idea of personal history, collective history and oral history…,” Seltzer said.

Seltzer and Mary Rose, liaison for the Women’s Studies program, selected students, staff and faculty, including Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe, to provide an object representing each person’s “earliest understanding of gender constructs or feminism” and a 150-word explanation to accompany the piece.

“People came up with such diverse stories and objects…,” Seltzer said. “The objects and the narratives complement each other really perfectly in some ways. And some of the stories are really funny and some of them are very poignant and some of them I find to be very emotionally affecting.”

Seltzer, who also has an object in the exhibit, said each story, object and narrative is “really fascinating.”

“Taken collectively, it’s a really compelling and diverse narrative about what gender means to each of us,” Seltzer said.

Seltzer’s introduction to feminism was through the 1970s show “Wonder Woman” with Linda Carter. She was re-introduced to the show roughly one year ago when she showed it to her daughter.

“I really wanted her to have some other role model [other than Disney princesses] that would appeal to her deeply in some way…,” Seltzer said. “[So I] got these old Linda Carter Wonder Womans, and I was surprised by how overtly feminist it was, and all of a sudden it clicked for me.”

Other “awakenings” in the exhibit included an androgynous guest character on an episode of the TV show “Bones,” one’s mother and children’s books.

Rose said Seltzer and she came up with the idea for the exhibit, which consists of 20 pieces, and collaborated to bring it to life. A lot of people have stopped to view the exhibit, according to Rose.

“It’s kind of eye catching when you first walk in,” Rose said. “[We’ve] got some unusual things you don’t normally see in a library case… It’s just quite a variety of items and stories and so I think it’s made people stop and take a minute…”

Though she said she tries not to have an agenda, she hopes the exhibit makes people think about women’s history month and “maybe reflect on their own experiences with feminism and their life and encounters that they’ve had.”

The exhibit will remain on display through the end of the month.

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