Gender Amplified: A Project by Alumnae Fellow Ebonie Smith ’07

BCRW is thrilled to announce our second annual Alumnae Fellow, Ebonie Smith ’07. Ebonie will spend this year on her Gender Amplified Project to support women’s participation in music production and to encourage girls towards STEM fields through experience with music technology, leading up to an all day music festival in the Fall of 2013.

Headphones on sound board

The Gender Amplified movement started in my dorm room. Six years ago, I found myself sitting in my cramped room, nearly crowded out by all of the music production equipment I’d accumulated during college. I would make noise for hours silently in my headphones. I was just another bedroom music producer with big dreams of becoming the next world-known, Top 40 “hit-maker”. Those were the days. But there was something very different about my goals. I realized it every time I went to Guitar Center to buy gear. I certainly noticed it every time I went to a local beat battle. It seemed that I was one of few women aspiring to be a professional music producer. This fact intrigued me. There was no shortage of women aspiring to become singers and songwriters, so it seemed unusual that there would be so few on the production path. I often felt alone on my journey toward my passion, so I wanted to know: Where were all the women producers? I did what any inquisitive, college-educated person would do to get an answer.

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Challenging Race as a Genetic Category: A Response to Dorothy Roberts

Race, Gender, and the New Biocitizen video is now available on the BCRW website.

“We’re going to start by defining some of the terms that Roberts uses in her book,” I said to a class of my peers last week, “let’s begin with ‘biological race’.”

My Critical Race Theory class was discussing Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-first Century by Dorothy Roberts, the BCRW’s guest lecturer during that same week. Everyone was eager to chime in – jumping over one another to speak about all the points they had learned from the book and from her lecture the night before about everything from Tay-Sach’s disease to reproductive tourism.

Image of Dorothy Roberts

In the book, Dorothy Roberts knits these examples together to argue that race has not only been created by science in the past, but re-engineered and abused by the same system. She makes the claim that scientific objectivity with regards to race actually masks a fundamentally social issue: if race is a social construction, how can scientists use self-reported race as an independent variable when assessing differences between groups? The question, answered through a combination of critiques on genetic/genomic science and an examination of the political usefulness of race, gave us the underlying structure for our own discussion in class. At that point, summaries failed me.

At the lecture, Roberts talked about how hard it is to challenge our notions of science and to distill it all into an hour-long talk. Her argument is clear-cut and illustrated well by the points she makes about genetic testing, ancestry, and the essentialization of race. The challenge for the reader, however, is to wrap their head around the idea that race isn’t biological – that it’s component parts as laid out by scientific study do not make up the whole. This is not on the part of the author; rather, it is the struggle of challenging a worldview that has been so deeply ingrained into our understanding of race as a categorization, that even those who study it are forced to look critically at their own assumptions.

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NQA Journal Launch & Reception

Released this past spring, The Scholar and Feminist Online: A New Queer Agenda has already reached over 23,000 visits in over 100 different countries, record-breaking numbers for the publication. After working at BCRW as a Student Research Assistant this summer, I can attest to the fact that these figures served as validating, motivating reminders of the scope of our work. But they always remained abstract statistics linked together by intangible digital connections and metrics.  


Not until I was sitting among an overflowing crowd last month at the NYU Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for the New Queer Agenda (NQA) Journal Launch & Reception did I begin to fully grasp the impact and breath of the publication – how it was helping to shape a larger national and international dialogue. A collaboration between the BCRW and Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), the journal grapples with the work of academics, activists, and community organizations to promote a vision of LGBTQ organizing that moves beyond the platform of marriage equality toward an intersectional, more encompassing understanding of social and economic justice. 

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Trans Zines: Highlights from the Barnard Library

Next week, BCRW is teaming up with the Barnard Library and Topside Press for an evening of short fiction and conversation. Staking Our Claim: Trans Women’s Literature in the 21st Century will feature writers Imogen Binnie, Ryka Aoki, Donna Ostrowsky, and Red Durkin, with moderator Tim Trace Peterson. The event is free and open to the public. Topside Press will also be there, selling freshly printed copies of The Collection: Short Fiction From the Transgender Vanguard (2012).

In anticipation of this exciting event, here’s a list of zines by trans writers, featured in the Barnard Zine Library’s collections. This list features a mix of perzines, political zines, and comp zines. You’ll also find links to their catalog records—stop by the library if you’d like to check these out!

Zine cover, drawing of two people dancing with subtitle "Special Summer Camp Issue"

A handbook on discussing the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for trans activists and allies
by Emi Koyama

In this political zine, Emi Koyama, author of the zine Instigations from the Whore Revolution, writes and compiles articles about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s exclusion of trans people and the surrounding debate. This zine “is an attempt to bring newcomers to the debate up to speed on what the issues and arguments are and to present baseline factual information” about trans politics and what trans activists and allies can do to aid the situation. See also Emi’s political zine, The transfeminist manifesto and other essays on transfeminism, call number: Zines K693t
Call number: Zines E693h 2002

How to Kill Queer Scum
by Sybil Lamb

33-year-old “trannypunk” artist Sybil Lamb writes about nearly being killed in a trans/queer bashing and the following months of her life, as she struggles to regain her memory and ability to communicate. This dark, compellingly illustrated zine describes the hazards and hardships of trans identity, from verbal and physical assaults, messy relationships, and the physical hardship of sex reassignment surgery. Pulling no punches, this zine describes the mental illness and self-destructive behavior that Sybil sees as often accompanying trans identity, as she writes about being essentially homeless, broke, and unable to communicate with those around her. Sybil also writes about her queer family and collective house, and describes the intersection between punk and trans culture.
Call number: Zines L363t no. 8

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Gender, Justice, and Neoliberal Transformations

We understand neoliberalism as an economic, political, and cultural shift that has produced a global activist response. As a set of macroeconomic policies, neoliberalism prioritizes a free-market model of growth that rests on deregulation, free trade, privatization, and retrenchment of state-provided social services … They have intensified the struggles for daily survival in which the poor are engaged and generated increased insecurity for the majority of the world’s population.

New Feminist Solutions Volume 4, “Toward a Vision of Social and Economic Justice,” p.5

A few weeks ago, a transnational group of academics came together at BCRW for a workshop concisely titled, “Gender, Justice, and Neoliberal Transformations,” organized by BCRW Director Janet Jakobsen and Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Sociology Elizabeth Bernstein. This convening provided an opportunity for scholars in a variety of fields – sociology, anthropology, history, religion, law, women’s studies, and more – to exchange ideas about the impact and legacy of neoliberalism and its discontents.

The workshop was held in segments, breaking off into small discussion groups twice during the day. The initial groups worked on topics such as: ‘What is neoliberalism?’, ‘How is it lived?’, ‘Connecting Locations and Domains’, and ‘Justice’. The participants then reconvened to share the conversations they each participated in, which led to the formation of new topics of discussion for the afternoon. Conversations in the afternoon revolved around broad ideas, including: construction of narratives about neoliberalism, what those narratives represent and what disappears, how sex and gender are affected by neoliberalism, and whether hope is necessary to social change.

White woman crying, with meme text top:"I hope that in a near future" bottom: "We will not missneoliberalism"

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Dana Goldstein, Renina Jarmon & Courtney Martin on Sites of Digital Community

In preparation for tomorrow’s Digital Community Roundtable, a few of our panelists share their favorite sites of digital community below.

Dana (@DanaGoldstein):

My favorite digital community is Twitter. I know that is broad, but when I think of digital community, that’s what I think of. Of the various publications I write for, I think Slate does the best job of maintaining a civil and intelligent comments section, which I enjoy reading and engaging with. I’ve also been impressed with the “Comment is Free” forum for opinion journalism on the website of The Guardian, the British newspaper.

Renina (@ReninaCortez):

I find tumblr to be a really interesting space where women across race address race, class, gender and sexuality. For example:

Demand Fair Justice for Cece McDonald

Courtney (@courtwrites):

Sites I love:

  • SPARK – creating a real, proactive conversation where girls are the subjects not the objects
  • Crunk Feminist Collective – the writing is consistently complex, clear, and often profound; I always learn something
  • Brain Pickings – I don’t know how much of a community has really been created here, but I love Maria’s totally fresh and unique take on the literary life

What are your favorite sites of digital community?


Here and Queer: The Short List

At the heart of just about any agenda is a to-do list. In honor of S&F Online’s New Queer Agenda issue, here’s a “to-read-and-watch” list of just a few sources that document contemporary queer political perspectives. The titles draw on archives of the past, experiences of the present, and anticipations of the future. You can explore many of these online, or by visiting the Barnard Library and its world-renowned Zine Collection.

Of course, we’re always eager to get recommendations for new materials. Where else do you look for signs of a new queer agenda?

Person reading from a notebook, other people listening, rainbow flag in the background


The Queer Politics of Migration: Reflections on ‘Illegality’ and Incorrigibility
by Nicholas De Genova

Tracing anti-assimilationist narratives in queer and migrant led movements, this essay examines resistance to state power, the pitfalls of assimilationism, the critique of rights-based discourse, and the possibility of a “robust politics of anti-identity.”

Gay Rights with a Side of Apartheid
by Nada Elia

Drawing parallels between settler colonial histories of both the United States and Israel, this article examines the deployment of purportedly gay-friendly rhetoric by colonial powers eager to justify apartheid and occupation, in counterpoint to the anti-imperialist politics of contemporary queer Palestinian activism.


Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist and Queer Activism in the 21st Century
eds. Lyz Bly and Kelly Wooten

Librarians, activists, and scholars whose work engages the history of feminist and queer social movements all feature in this collection. Contributors address the unique qualities inherent in
documenting contemporary activism, which is no longer fixed to stable “headquarters,” but instead finds expression in a wide range of digital and print media sources. Topics visit the theoretical alongside the material: online communities, “third wave” feminism/youth and queer cultures/subcultures; zines; activists as cultural workers; and digital archives, among others. Continue reading

Around Town: Upcoming Events this Friday, October 5th

In addition to BCRW’s Fall events, there are a number of exciting symposiums coming up that intersect strongly with BCRW’s interest areas, and some that include chances to see BCRW staff in action. Check out a few of these great events happening on Friday below, and let us know if you’re interested in blogging about any of them! All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise stated.

Religious Exemptions, Sexual Freedom & the Biopoltics of U.S. Healthcare

Religious Exemptions, Sexual Freedom, and the Biopolitics of U.S. Healthcare

In the immediate aftermath of Roe v Wade and the legalization of abortion nation-wide, in 1973, the US Congress passed the first of what would become an expanding series of “religious exemptions” or “conscience clauses.” These exemptions allow providers of healthcare to refuse to permit otherwise legal medical services or procedures, because they violate the religious beliefs or “conscience” of the medical provider. […] The frame for this one-day symposium is the broad array of constitutional, public policy, political, and ethical issues implicated in the practice of religious exemptions in both federal law and US states.

More information:

With BCRW Director Janet Jakobsen and former BCRW Acting Director Elizabeth Castelli

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Paternity Testing and Its Implications

How many of us have ever watched an episode of daytime talk show Maury where host Maury Povich brings on two men and a woman who has sexually transgressed, and conducts DNA tests to determine which man is “the real father” of her baby? How many of us have watched a young man celebrate on camera his newfound legal and social freedom from obligation of parenthood? And how many of us have ever questioned the history and meaning of a mere cheek swab having such vast social, legal and medical implications?

On Thursday, September 27th, as part of the BCRW Lunchtime Lecture Series, Associate Professor of History at Barnard Nara Milanich gave a presentation called “A Global History of the Paternity Test.” Milanich traced the concept of questioning and determining paternity from Roman laws all the way up to Maury, perhaps not globally, but in multiple contexts around the world. According to Milanich, paternity testing is very much tied into discourses on immigration and eugenics, and is itself an important intersection of socially constructed ideologies of race, gender and identity.  It is, as she stated, a scientific, legal and social phenomenon. Paternity testing has historically and continues to determine who can receive certain benefits or welfare, who can be allowed into the country, who is of what race, who is considered “family,” etc…

It’s a simple procedure, and yet it can have profound effects on the lives involved. What, then, was done to determine paternity before the invention of the “infallible” DNA test? According to Milanich, once marriage was institutionalized, many legal structures around the world determined that the father was simply the husband of the mother of the baby. However, with the rise of various paternity determining technologies (some were more legitimate than others, such as dental morphology, finger prints and foot prints, paternal resemblance, blood type), different legal jurisdictions reacted differently to this new access to “true” paternity. Such technological developments undermined the once-considered fixed nature of the marriage union as determining parenthood, and also create and perpetuate ideas of women as untrustworthy or deceitful.

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