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Staging Women's Lives in Academia: Gendered Life Stages in Language and Literature Workplaces

reviewed by aretha marbley - March 08, 2019

coverTitle: Staging Women's Lives in Academia: Gendered Life Stages in Language and Literature Workplaces
Author(s): Michelle A. Massť & Nan Bauer-Maglin (Eds.)
Publisher: State University of New York Press, Albany
ISBN: 1438464207, Pages: 380, Year: 2018
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Staging Women's Lives in Academia: Gendered Life Stages in Language and Literature Workplaces takes us on a journey through women’s lives in higher education, specifically women in language and literature. By combining the academic and professional lives with the lived experiences of these women authors, this book has the power to weave together a living and breathing composite portrait of women’s life cycles in academia.

Navigating this book gives women in academia authentic glimpses of the hidden thorns, minefields, highs, lows, and treasures that await women in academia. It also sheds light on the male-dominated enclaves that are often hidden from women. It offers an array of emotional, psychological, and intellectual responses to the institutional racism, sexism, gender inequalities, and other forms of oppression existing in our nation’s colleges and universities.

A book about the life cycle and stages of women’s lives in academia that truly embraces diversity is a rare gift. The collection of essays from women who are more alike than different is inclusive, holistic, and a contemporary embodiment of the diversity of women in academia. It is also important that the essays by women of color are grounded in their historical struggles and their multiple, intersecting identities. Especially salient is the dominance of their oppressed status over their privileged status; these educated and credentialed women faculty of color are often not valued for their academic pedigree, but instead are evaluated on the basis of their gender and color, a circumstance that limits their success both within and outside of the academy. The essays included in this volume together provide a realistic snapshot of differences in age, gender, immigrant status, nuptial status, language, and other cultural differences within our personal and professional lifecycle.

The essays are strategically situated within everyday life in academia and are infused with real life colors. Together, they paint a genuine portrait of women’s experiences in higher education along the lifespan, from graduate school to retirement. They also showcase and validate the unique experiences, abilities, disabilities, spiritualities, strengths, personal differences, and individual and familial journeys of women from academically and culturally diverse backgrounds. They tackle issues of hegemony and social justice that are germane to women who are marginalized, including racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism. They also address issues of everyday life, including finances, childbirth, divorce, mothering, single parenting, health, supporting aging parents, and the myth of the superwoman.

The voices of these women are candid, brave, determined, vulnerable, and angry at some level at every developmental stage and in every essay. That is to say, these women, in particular the women of color, appear to be more openly responding to anger. The chapter by Martha Pitts entitled “Uses of My Anger” captures this sentiment in Audre Lorde’s words, “Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being” (p. 41). That is, anger caused from being silenced and excluded, from being exposed to racism and sexism, and from microaggressions, those commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities. Pitts describes how women breathe the anger in, live with it, ignore it, and feed upon it until they learn to use it.

The women in this book include icons, scholars, feminists, and activists such as bell hooks, Betty Friedman, Carol Gilligan, and Nancy Chodorow. Because it collects the tips, roadmaps, rest stations, road signs, roadblocks, and survival kits provided by these women, this book can serve as a handbook for women seeking to effectively navigate the higher education terrain, especially those spaces and places that have been traditionally reserved for White men. This book is not an attack on men or academia; it is not about racism, sexism, oppression, discrimination, pay inequities. It is about women, about us, about our development and our lifecycle in academia.

In sum, this book is a classic and an unfinished masterpiece. It is unfinished, but not incomplete, because it reflects our development, which continues. For that reason, Staging Women’s Lives in Academia will inspire both women and men. It will generate much academic discourse, carving out room for further dialogue among the constituencies of and stakeholders in academia as well as among gendered and silenced voices, those of the younger generations, and women from other academic disciplines. Most importantly, this book and the power of its collection of essays leave room for our continued evolution, growth, and development as women in the academy.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 08, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22701, Date Accessed: 5/26/2022 4:35:02 PM

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About the Author
  • aretha marbley
    Texas Tech University
    E-mail Author
    aretha faye marbley is a Professor and Director of Community Counseling in Counselor Education at Texas Tech University. She received her doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision and is a National Holmes Scholar alumna from the University of Arkansas. She is a critical social justice womanist and community activist scholar, storyteller, educator, and servant with a research focus on global multicultural-social justice counseling and education; womanist activism; human, social, and cultural rights; and oppressive social institutions.
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