Page 1

The Isom Report 2018-2019


Embracing the Difficult and youth community centers.

Dr. Jaime Harker (R) Director and Professor of English


ender Studies first germinated outside the university. In book clubs and self-published newsletters and consciousness-raising groups, women analyzed their own experiences, discovered famous writers, artists, politicians, activists, and athletes, and began to create new methodologies and new modes of teaching and learning. Look through some of the earliest feminist periodicals, like Amazon Quarterly or Sinister Wisdom, and you find biographies of famous women, debates about politics, strategy, and theory that still resonate, and articles written by women who would later lay the foundations of Gender Studies from within the university. These early periodicals—often mimeographed and hand-stapled—were fearless, brash, and urgent. The writers weren’t thinking about impressing an outside evaluator or neutralizing their opinions for upperlevel administrators. They felt a sense of urgency to help women make sense of their own experience, through new paradigms and a new body of knowledge. As lawyer Flo Kennedy explained to Gloria Steinem, “Look, if you’re lying in the ditch with a truck on your ankle, you don’t send somebody to the library to

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

find out how much the truck weighs. You get it off” (Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions 10). Gender Studies now has decades of gender theory, interdisciplinary inquiry, peer-reviewed articles, academic journals, and monographs to demonstrate its academic street cred. As an academic, I value this emphasis on creating new knowledge and building on the genealogy of what came before. But something even more fundamental

Today, it has perhaps never been more challenging to have difficult conversations. In the United States, we seem more divided than ever, and rather than engaging in important civic debate, folks retreat into silos of like-minded individuals and vilify their opponents as traitors or fools or animals. Even among academics, who value careful inquiry, compelling evidence, and incisive analysis, “gotcha” culture sometimes leads to embarrassing twitter wars and damaging “soundbite” oversimplification of important cultural issues. Universities are essential to flourishing democratic culture, embodying free inquiry, skeptical testing of theories, and the fearless pursuit of new knowledge. Too often, in today’s climate, universities are riskaverse, shying away from anything that might lead outside groups to target them and embarrass them through social media. Bland messages about “diversity” and “civic engagement” and “excellence,” carefully tested by university communications departments, predominate. In such an environment, Gender Studies has never been more important. The conversations we foster, the questions we encourage, the programs we organize, the inclusive spaces we enable;—all this stems from our embrace of the difficult. Our students, our colleagues, our community, inspire us and challenge us, and we work every day to make a world that nurtures all its citizens. We will continue to ask the hard questions, propose what is essential, not simply expedient, and meet the challenges of our time with moxie and audacity and humor, just as our feminist and queer predecessors met theirs. This year, our programs, conferences, programs, and community events place the feminist and queer South at the center of our praxis. Please join us. Together, we can inspire and transform our community.

Universities are essential to flourishing democratic culture, embodying free inquiry, skeptical testing of theories, and the fearless pursuit of new knowledge. has always drawn me to gender studies, which those early gender studies pioneers had in abundance: moxie. They never shied away from difficult conversations, even though they knew that they would be vilified as “bra-burners” and “manhaters” for naming things that have since become part of the national conversation: spousal abuse, rape culture, the gender wage gap, and toxic masculinity, just to name a few. The practical consequences of these conversations include battered women’s shelters, gay and lesbian community centers, rape crisis centers,

And the Beat Goes On...


his is the Isom Center’s fourth year to host Sarahfest, and we’re so excited about our fall schedule. We’ve been busy collaborating with campus and community partners to program events that showcase women and other marginalized groups in the arts. We’re especially proud because many of our performers are from Mississippi, our UM campus, and larger Oxford community. This festival season you have the opportunity to hear local artists perform that you may not be familiar with and hear ones that you’ve been missing and wanting to see. Sarahfest evolves each year out of conversations I get to have with students, faculty affiliates, and community supporters. It is a great experience, because I am able to renew and strengthen past partnerships and form new ones with people who value the arts, humanities, and the work being done by the Sarah Isom Center. The spirit of Sarahfest is a part of the Center’s history and its genesis is located in the vision and creativity of former gender studies minors and faculty who worked together to make it a reality years before my arrival. I see myself and my Isom Center colleagues as torchbearers who get to carry that spirit forward. Our task is to build upon their legacy, to build community. We strengthen community when we celebrate and embrace its diversity in all its variations. I want to encourage you to come out and celebrate and enjoy the arts and our humanity this

About the Isom Center: The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies was established in 1981 to address the changing roles and expectations of women students, faculty, and staff. Our Mission is to educate about issues of gender and sexuality, promote interdisciplinary research, and advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Sarahfest. We kick things off in September with a month long art exhibit at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center. The Krewe of Armenius from New Orleans has donated Mardi Gras costumes which will be on display for your enjoyment. We are very excited to announce performances by local favorites, Effie Burt, and the amazing Nancy Maria Balach from the Department of Music. UM OutGrads and the LOU Pride Collective have two incredible events scheduled at Proud Larry’s that celebrate LGBTQ History Month and Sarahfest. The collective has assembled an awesome line-up with Mattie Thrasher and And the Echo. What a pairing! OutGrads and the Collective invite you to share your voice and read your favorite queer writer in a fierce Iconoclasts contest called BattleVerse: Icons OUTLoud. It's creative, it’s cerebral, and it is on! Time to start practicing for this epic event. If you need down time after the Auburn game on Sunday, October 21st, bring a blanket or a foldable lawn chair with you to Rowan Oak, and enjoy good music and literary readings on the lawn for a very special Sarahfest edition of Thacker Mountain Radio. The show starts at 6:00 p.m.. To learn more about Sarahfest artists, showtimes, and locations visit

Dr. Theresa Starkey Associate Director and Instructional Associate Prof. of Gender Studies There you can read about our artists, listen to a sample of their music, and see our partners list and learn about who we’ve been working with to make this fall festival a reality. It is an example of creative collaboration in action, and what can happen when you have a shared belief that together we are a more dynamic force when we twine the arts and humanities. As we begin to look ahead to next fall I want to ask our diverse UM Departments, students, faculty, and larger Oxford family to bring your ideas to the planning table. We welcome you. Together, let’s make the fifth year a stellar one!

About the newsletter:

Contact Us:

Articles were written by Isom Center staff, Sarah Heying, Christina Steube, or from biographies supplied by guest speakers, artists, or their representatives. Images supplied by Univ. Imaging Services, Ole Miss Athletics, Megan Wolfe, performers, and Isom Center staff.

The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies Suite D, 3rd Floor, Lamar Hall Post Office Box 1848 University, MS 38677 662.915.5916

Layout and graphic design work by Kevin Cozart.


Sarahfest Kicks-off with Art of Mardi Gras Community Arts Center. Admission is free. Tuesday, September 25th 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Art Crawl & screening of The Sons of Tennessee Williams, a documentary about the Krewe of Armeinius directed by Tim Wolff. The screening is sponsored by the Oxford Film Festival, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, and the Sarah Isom Center.

About Armenius:


he Sarah Isom Center is proud to partner with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and Oxford Film Fest for a month long exhibit that celebrates the costume creations of the New Orleans’ gay Krewe of Armeinius. In support of Sarahfest, the Krewe has generously loaned pieces from this year’s carnival for us to share with our UM students and larger Oxford community. “The Krewe of Armeinius - The Queer Art of Mardi Gras” will be on display for the month of September at the Powerhouse

Riots and the beginning of the gay rights movement were just a few months away. For decades the safety of the Krewe and its members depended on its secrecy and exclusivity. With the push for equality comes visibility, and in the last decade the Krewe has expanded its mission to include education and historical preservation. The organization is committed to sharing the traditional art of gay Mardi Gras costume creation and history with others. The social club has collected and archived its history with the State of Louisiana, which has become one of the largest gay historical archives of its sort in the country.

In the fall of 1968, four friends formed the gay carnival Krewe of Armeinius in New Orleans. Wendell Stipelcovich, Don Stratton, Jerry Loner, and Scott Morvant, chose the name Armeinius, because of its connection to Greek mythology and queer history. Costumes were designed and built in four months thanks to the group’s devoted friends. The first Armeinius ball in 1969 was themed "Year of the Queen" - a prophetic mantle, as the Stonewall

Bibler to Discuss RuPaul Before Supermodel


ichael Bibler is a renowned Southern studies and queer studies scholar, whose book Cotton’s Queer Relations has become essential in the study of the queer South. Dr. Bibler visited UM during the first Sarahfest in 2015, discussing Athens, Georgia’s the B-52s. This year, he returns to Sarahfest to discuss “RuPaul Before Supermodel: Starrbooty and the Politics of Racial Drag.” In RuPaul’s early career, she created the personas Starrbooty and Miss Rachel Tensions, who both inhabited spaces that took white constructions of black respectability literally. Through ironic, campy performance, RuPaul troubled these notions of black respectability and opened up a difference, more complicated en-

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

gagement with race. Dr. Bibler ties early controversy about whether Ru's drag was "black enough" to contemporary controversies about trans identity. Please join us on October 12 at Noon in the Tupelo Room of Barnard Observatory for what is sure to be a challenging and enjoyable lecture.

About Michael Bibler: Michael P. Bibler is an associate professor at Louisiana State University. His research and

teaching focus on representations of sexuality, race, and gender in 19th and 20th century American literature and culture, particularly the literature and culture of the U.S. South. His current book project, tentatively entitled Possessive Intimacy: Property, Sexuality, and Southern U.S. Slavery, looks back to the biracial literary archives of the antebellum South to understand how queer forms of desire and eroticism are connected to issues of property and the property relations of both slavery and “traditional” marriage.


BattleVerse: Icons OUTLoud

ords climb off the page and into the cage match in this literary smackdown for the ages! In one corner, we might have a talented, well-respected poet who has published widely, and in the other corner, an unknown, aspiring sci-fi novelist. The audience helps decide who will take home the crown in this competitive circus of hilarious events inspired by some of our favorite LGBTQ+ literary icons.


LOU Pride Collective Hosts Concert

n Friday, October 12, we partner with the LOU Pride Collective to bring Mattie Thrasher & And the Echo together for one night only at Proud Larry’s. The LOU Pride Collective is comprised of LGBTQ student organizations at UM and the community LGBTQ organization OutOxford. The special Sarahfest performance is in honor of LGBTQ History Month. Thrasher is currently writing about growing up in Mississippi as a queer individual and her experiences with family, religion, and first love. She uses poetic tones in both her writing and music as way to express her ideas, which allows her to reach audiences on multiple levels.


BattleVerse is sponsored by the LOU Pride Collective and is in conjunction with LGBTQ History Month and Sarahfest. Battle begins at 9 PM on October 3rd at Proud Larry’s.

And the Echo has been a fixture in the Oxford music scene since its formation in 2014. The duo, Morgan Pennington and Winn McElroy, write, record, and produce their music to create a unique sound that is blend of 80s synth-pop, ethereal vocals with a distinct spacetime continuum-bend. We invite you to join us for a night of beautiful people performing powerful music.

Stardust in 2017.

About And the Echo: And The Echo is an indie synth band delivering heavy beats, pure pop, and true 80s nostalgia. The duo is known for their dynamic live performances. They’ve shared stages with the likes of Moon Taxi, The Weeks, Future Elevators, and Zoogma. They’re currently touring the South promoting Made For You, their first new single since February 2017.

About Mattie Thrasher: Mattie Thrasher is a Mississippi native, musician, writer, and an environmentalist. She graduated from the University of Mississippi this spring, where she studied Psychology, English, and Environmental Studies. She released her first LP We Are Miscommunication and

“Eventually We’re All Queer”

hris Freeman wraps up LGBTQ History month with his Sarahtalk Brown Bag: “‘Eventually we’re all Queer’: Isherwood, Identities, Legacies” on Friday, October 26th at Noon in the Tupelo Room of Barnard Observatory. He will use Isherwood as a case study to consider issues connected to mentorship, queer relationships, “mainstream” and marginal literary success, and queer studies into the twenty-first century.

About Chris Freeman: Chris Freeman teaches English and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. He earned a PhD in

English and Gay Studies from Vanderbilt University. His first book, The Isherwood Century: Essays on the Life and Work of Christopher Isherwood, which he co-edited with James Berg, won the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Studies in 2001. They followed that collection up with Conversations with Christopher Isherwood and a collection about queer Los Angeles called Love, West Hollywood. More recently, they published The American Isherwood and are in the process of

finishing an edited volume called Isherwood in Transit.

About Christopher Isherwood: The Anglo-American writer Christopher Isherwood’s life spanned the twentieth century—1904 to 1986— and its reach was even longer. He lived through and recorded his reactions to the gay liberation movement and also saw the advent of the AIDS crisis. The second half of his life is an “American” life but his whole life is a “queer” life.



Isom Center and Living Music Resource Partner for Two Concerts (and More)

he first of the concerts for Sarahfest 2018 feature singer Nancy Maria Balach with a concert entitled, “EMPOWER: more music • more empathy,” and an LMR LIVE interview. On October 5th at 7:30 PM in Nutt Auditorium, she will perform a recital that is focused on women’s stories and experiences. The self-reflective program will incorporate various genres of music by established and up-and-coming composers that will appeal to the audience’s sensibilities. Nancy Maria will share the stage with pianist Amanda Johnston and other outstanding musicians. Nancy Ma-

ria says, “(I) always enjoy partnering with the Sarah Isom Center on projects and is thrilled to have this amazing opportunity.” Normally the host for LMR LIVE, Nancy Maria will shift roles and become the guest on this talk show series. Join us on October 2nd at 7:30 PM in Nutt Auditorium or via the web for an evening of “Edutainment” as Nancy Maria discusses her career (on and off the stage) and her belief in the power of music to improve the human condition, and increase global ethics, and answers questions in

About Living Music Resource (LMR): LMR focuses on “Edutainment” and is impacting a universal audience through its inclusive and ground breaking approach to music, community outreach, and education. LMR’s events connect any member of the Oxford/Lafayette community with acclaimed professionals both in person and via the web for arts and culture, intellectual growth, human connection, and understanding. LMR programs have involved Oxford/Lafayette public schools, local organizations, and many departments on the UM campus; while also including a regional and national pool of public school children, university students, and professionals. LMR has raised the visibility of Oxford through its international viewing audience via the web, while also attracting top students to UM’s Music Department.

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

real-time from the studio audience and LMR’s international viewing audience. The second concert and interview paring with be with singer Effie Burt. Effie will set down for an interview with LMR Live on Tuesday, October 23rd. The Jazzy Diva’s concert will be on Friday, October 26th at 7:30 PM in Nutt Auditorium. Audience members can expect a mixture of jazz, soul, and gospel as Effie joins with other local musicians. A reception will follow both performances.

About Nancy Maria Balach Nancy Maria Balach is a versatile soprano who has appeared throughout the United States and Europe performing opera, operetta, musical theatre, concert works, cabaret, song recitals, and chamber music. Born in Pittsburgh, PA, she has lived in many parts of the United States, but finally found her “home” in the great state of Mississippi with her husband and three children. Nancy Maria has been on the music faculty at the University of Mississippi since 2000 teaching applied voice, pedagogy, diction, vocal methods, as well as freshman seminar for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She has achieved recognition with her many research projects presenting on the international level at the Phenomenon of Singing Symposium in Newfoundland and the Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, and numerous national conferences of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, National Opera Association, and the College Music Society.

About Effie Burt A lifelong vocalist, Effie Burt was born and raised in Oxford, Mississippi as one of twelve musically gifted siblings. Effie has been performing since the age of 13 with her family at churches and local mu-

Nancy Maria utilizes her experience as a performer and educator as creator/artistic director of the University of Mississippi’s Living Music Resource™. She is making Oxford a center for music research through interactive and innovative events. Current UM music students work closely with Nancy Maria learning skills that enhance their programs of study and make them more marketable in today’s world of music. LMR focuses on the Integration and Exploration of Musical Styles, Community Connections, Arts/ Culture Impact on Economy, Unexpected Collaborations, Music Entrepreneurship, and the Involvement of Ole Miss Alumni. She is dedicated to bringing acclaimed professionals to MS (including Grammy Award recipients Pulitzer Prize winners, and performers from Broadway to The Metropolitan Opera), as well as showcasing Mississippi artists for Innovative Programming.

sical events in Mississippi and Tennessee. An international artist, Ms. Burt has performed on stages from Beale Street to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Although jazz is her first love, Effie is just as engaging belting R & B, soothing with the Blues and bringing it home with gospel.

Her range is illustrated by her experience from a featured vocalist with the Cedar Falls/Waterloo Symphony Orchestra’s “Annual Christmas Pop’s Concerts” to a headlining performer at the International Jazz Festival in Jamaica. Effie has also performed at the Annual Jefferson Jackson Democratic Dinner, which was aired on C-SPAN as well as at a number of high profile events for political dignitaries such as Senator Tom Harkin, Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver, Former-President Bill Clinton and President-Elect Barack Obama. A composer as well, Ms. Burt wrote the theme song, “I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa” for the 2000 statewide “Make Me a World in Iowa festival”. IOn Feb 27, 2006 this song was named Iowa’s 2nd official state song. Other songs composed by Ms. Burt are; “Let the Blues Walk on By” and “Tell Me”, which both appeared on Bob Dorr’s Blues Compilation Album. In 1999, Effie released her first original gospel song “Written Amongst the Tears” to accompany the novel of the same name by author, Beverly Johnson.


Sarahfest and Rowan


hacker Mountain Radio Hour has been pleased to partner with the Sarah Isom Center on Sarahfest, an annual arts and music festival. This October represents our third collaboration. We look forward to hosting another very special edition of Thacker Mountain Center on the grounds of the historic Rowan Oak. In the past, we have showcased many female talents including Amy Ray, Kelly Hogan, Marcella Simien, and Maggie Koerner.

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

To have a Thacker Mountain Radio Hour show solely dedicated to honoring women artists has been invigorating for our program and for me on a personal level. There is a plethora of amazing female talent right now, and thankfully we are living in a time where those voices are given the praise and attention that they deserve. This special Sarahfest edition of Thacker provides our community the opportunity to celebrate these voices, and will inevitably show just how big of an impact women are currently making in the arts.

d TMR return to n Oak

We look forward to seeing you at Rowan Oak on Sunday, October 21st! The show kicks off at 6:00 p.m.. Remember to bring a friend, a blanket or lawn chair with you. This event is free and open to the public. -- Kate Teague, Executive Director/Producer, Thacker Mountain Radio Hour



Deirdre Cooper Owens presents 2018 Lucy Somerville Howorth Lecture

his year, former UM professor Dr. Deidre Cooper Owen will deliver this year’s Lucy Somerville Howorth Lecturer. Join us for Dr. Cooper’s talk entitled "Medical Bondage and the Birth of American Gynecology," where she will discuss how the institution of slavery aided early Southern gynecological surgeons to advance the field based on their experimental work on enslaved women. Her lecture will be October 4th at 4 PM in Lamar 126.

About Deirdre Cooper Owens: Deirdre Cooper Owens is an Associate Professor of History at Queens College, CUNY. She holds an M.A. in African American Studies from Clark Atlanta University and a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles where she also received a certificate in Women’s Studies. Cooper Owens has received numerous awards and fellowships including a residential postdoctoral fellowship at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia and an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Fellowship to explore medicine, gender and the historical influence of race on each of these categories.

Her book, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology​, was released in 2017 by The University of Georgia Press.

Hilary Zaid to deliver Queer Studies Lecture


very year, as part of LGBT History Month, the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies hosts a Queer Studies lecture. Past presenters have included trans novelist T Cooper and science fiction writer Charlie Jane Anders. This year, we are pleased to feature Hilary Zaid. Zaid’s novel, Paper is White, is a beautiful rumination on loss, commemoration, and the queering of history, set in 1990s San Francisco. Ellen Margolis, the protagonist, is an assistant curator at the Foundation for the Preservation of Memory; she gathers narratives from Holocaust survivors as she plans her own wedding and remakes Jewish tradition to establish her own

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

queer family. Ms. Zaid will read from her novel, and then she and Isom Director Jaime Harker will start a conversation about queer life in the 1990s, activism, and the roots of marriage equality, which will then broaden to include the audience. Please join us for a lively exploration of queer pasts and queer futures. Her lecture is October 25th at 4 PM in Lamar 126.

About Hilary Zaid:

A 2017 Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Conference, Hilary Zaid is also an alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Tin House Writers' Workshop. Her short

fiction has appeared in print and online venues including Lilith Magazine, The Southwest Review, The Utne Reader, CALYX, The Santa Monica Review, and The Tahoma Literary Review and has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. An alumna of Harvard and Radcliffe, she holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and works as a freelance editor. Paper is White is her first novel.

Looking Forward: the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference Coming to Oxford

March 7-9, 2019 11


n March 7-9, 2019, he Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies will host the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association’s Annual Conference for the first time. Our theme, “Envisioning a Feminist and Queer South,” considers the distinctive role of gender studies programs in the South in fostering interdisciplinary scholarship, social change, and the creation of inclusive spaces. The conference offers students and faculty University of Mississippi the opportunity to participate in important, timely conversations. In support of the University’s “Flagship Forward” strategic plan, bringing SEWSA to the University of Mississippi

will help increase the research and creative achievement for both our students and faculty while fostering an intellectual and engaging environment for all. The conference will also build inclusiveness and strengthen partnerships for community involvement between the attendees and Oxford. As we say in our call for papers, “Gender studies has always challenged the status quo, questioned conventional wisdom, and combined theory and practice. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the first women’s studies program, we must

remember that women’s studies, from its inception, ranged across the disciplines, moving from theory to practice to theory, and insisting on truly interdisciplinary inquiry that allows questions of gender and sexuality to disrupt our assumptions. Gender studies, at its best, has always queered the boundaries—of region, of discipline, of identity, of nation. Gender studies’ distinctive integration of teaching, scholarship, programs, and advocacy has never been more essential, particularly in the South in the current historical moment. Unprecedented interest in feminism and a resurgence

E. Patrick Johnson Returns with Tea and Honey for SEWSA Keynote Dr. E. Patrick Johnson’s keynote will be on Thursday, March 7 at 1 PM and performance at 7 PM.

About E. Patrick Johnson A native of North Carolina, E. Patrick Johnson has published widely in the areas of race, class, gender, sexuality, and performance. Johnson is a prolific performer and scholar, and an inspiring teacher, whose research and artistry has greatly impacted African American studies, performance studies, and sexuality studies. He is the author of two award-winning books, Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity, and Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South—An Oral History. He is the editor of Cultural Struggles: Performance, Ethnography, Praxis by Dwight Conquergood (Michigan

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

UP, 2013) and co-editor (with Mae G. Henderson) of Black Queer Studies—A Critical Anthology and (with Ramon Rivera-Servera) of solo/black/woman: scripts, interviews, and essays and Blacktino Queer Performance (Duke UP, forthcoming). He is currently at work on the companion text to Sweet Tea, entitled, Honeypot: Southern Black Women Who Love Women and an edited collection of new writings in black queer studies tentatively titled, No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies. His staged reading, “Pouring Tea: Black Gay Men of the South Tell Their Tales” is based on his book, Sweet Tea, and has toured to over 100 college campuses from 2006 to the present. His performance in Oxford, “Put A Little Honey In My Sweet Tea,” combines narratives from Sweet Tea and Honeypot.

of activism exists in the same space as increased anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and anti-choice legislation. In such a climate, this year’s SEWSA takes the opportunity to draw insight and inspiration from the past and chart a course for a South that is more equitable, more feminist, and more queer.” We invite you to submit proposals and attend the conference next spring. For full details, visit ole-miss-2019/


s feminist scholars, activists, artists, and allies, we are concerned about the current climate in which we find ourselves. We are aware that leading change is neither easy nor without danger and usually entails transgressing perceived limits, disrupting assumptions, questioning the status quo, and being unafraid to misspeak, misstep, or even fail. To this end, we hold space for difference, create coalition, and collaborate to forge new narratives of local, national, and global belonging. It is in the embrace of these newly forged and always resistant narratives that change becomes transformative, a path to resilience and a practice of freedom. As an organization, SEWSA has been advancing feminist thought and promoting feminist action in the South for over 40 years by supporting and promoting all aspects of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and by providing a venue where faculty and students, organizers and activists can gather. This brings us to our next theme: Envisioning a Feminist and Queer South, which celebrates the distinctive role of gender studies programs in the South in fostering interdisciplinary

scholarship, social change, and the creation of inclusive spaces. Many thanks to conference co-chairs Dr. Jaime Harker and Kevin Cozart who are busily making plans for what promises to be an exciting conference at Ole Miss. Please consider submitting a proposal to present at our upcoming conference either for the general conference or one of our three caucuses: the LGBTQ Caucus, the People of Color Caucus, or the Student Caucus. We welcome you to join us in teaching, leading, learning, debating, protesting, resisting, celebrating, networking, breaking ground, sharing ideas, soliciting feedback, or soaking in the vibrant feminist energy of the region with its high concentration and caliber of Women’s Studies programs and departments. Insofar as it promotes the collaborative investigation of timely and vital issues and supports crucial Women’s and Gender Studies work in the region, I encourage you to stay involved or get involved in keeping SEWSA as diverse and well-supported as it can be. Phyllis Thompson SEWSA President 2018-2020

SEWSA Foremother Minnie Bruce Pratt Comes Home for Reflection and Fellowship Ms. Pratt’s keynote will be on Friday, March 8 at Noon.

About Minnie Bruce Pratt Originally from Centreville, Alabama, Minnie Bruce Pratt received a B.A. from the University of Alabama and a Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Writing & Rhetoric at Syracuse University, where she also serves as faculty for a developing Lesbian/Gay/ Bisexual/ Transgender Studies Program. For five years she was a member of the editorial collective of Feminary: A Feminist Journal for the South, Emphasizing Lesbian Visions. She has published six books of poetry, The Sound of One Fork, We Say We Love Each Other, Crime Against Nature, Walking Back Up Depot Street, The Money Machine, and The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems.

Pratt's relationship to her two sons as a lesbian mother, was chosen as the Lamont Poetry Selection by the Academy of American Poets, an annual award given for the best second full-length book of poetry by a U.S. author. In 1992 her book of autobiographical and political essays, Rebellion: Essays 1980-1991, was a Finalist in Non-Fiction for the Lambda Literary Awards. Her book of prose stories about gender-boundary-crossing, S/HE, was one of the five finalists in Non-Fiction for the 1995 American Library Association Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Book Award. Pratt has been active in organizing that intersects women’s and gender issues, LGBT issues, anti-racist work, and antiimperialist initiatives. She is a member of the National Writers Union-UAW Local 1981, and works with the International Action Center and its Women's Fightback Network.

In 1989, Crime Against Nature, on


2018-2020 Isom Fellow’s Cohort Announced


he Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Mississippi has chosen eight faculty members for its twoyear fellowship program. The program is designed to support research projects conducted by faculty in the areas of gender and sexuality. The support includes grant-writing support, research assistance and the organizing of conferences or symposia. “We believe this program will continue to grow and engage diverse faculty,” said Jaime Harker, Isom Center director. “We are so grateful the provost has assisted us in the implementation of this program, which will build a network across campus and serve as a catalyst to promote interdisciplinary work.” Harker said she was overwhelmed by the initial support of the program and hopes to continue offering fellowships in the future. The fellowships are made possible through funding from the Office of the Provost. “Research on many of the issues facing society today requires perspectives from multiple disciplines and varied expertise,” Provost Noel Wilkin said. “Interdisciplinary collaborations stand to develop more robust solutions and advance perspectives that will benefit society more broadly.” “This approach is critically important to advancing the academic excellence called for in the Flagship Forward strategic plan. I appreciate the leadership that Dr. Harker and the Isom Center are exerting to facilitate this important work.” The program’s fellows are Alysia Steele, assistant professor of multiplatform journalism; Rhona Justice-Malloy, professor of theatre arts; Susan Allen, associate professor of political science; Peter Wood, instructional assistant professor of theatre arts; Catherine Kilgore, adjunct instructor of law; Johnoson Crutchfield, assistant professor of educational leadership; Amanda Winburn, assistant professor of counselor

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

education; and Kenya Wolff, assistant professor of early childhood education. Steele’s project involves having students record interviews with and photograph elderly women in Oxford for a documentary examining their lives in the Great Depression, civil rights movement and women’s liberation movement. Students will create multimedia pieces to improve their digital literacy through podcasts, videography, photography and print stories while archiving local history. She plans to begin the project in spring 2019. Justice-Malloy plans to create a women’s playwright summer residency to support emerging artists. She also will develop classes on contemporary women playwrights, all of which will be in conjunction with a national movement to increase the number of plays created by women, called “50/50 by 2020.” The long-term goal is to create a theater festival producing selected plays developed in the summer residencies. Allen is completing a book detailing the diverse experiences of women through civil conflict. The project will be framed within the literatures of both gender studies and political science, and she is developing further research regarding how armed conflict and economic sanctions influence the position of women in local economies, as well as the participation of women in the labor force.

been traditionally excluded from the battlefield – are affected by the changing nature of conflict and its ever-expanding consequences,” Allen said. Wood will focus on avant-garde female artists, including symbolist playwrights

Prof. Alysia Steele (l) and futurist and surrealist artists, as well as performance artists in the 1970s and ’80s. While the focus is on theater and live performance, this research also will explore women working in multiple genres, including painting, sculpture, poetry and cinema. The goal is to enhance instruction through new courses and possible art exhibits and film series at Ole Miss.

“This approach is critically important to advancing the academic excellence called for in the Flagship Forward strategic plan. I appreciate the leadership that Dr. Harker and the Isom Center are exerting to facilitate this important work.”

“As more civilians have been caught in the crossfire or armed conflict, it is important that we study and understand how women – who have

“I’ve always been fascinated with avantgarde and experimental theater forms and the more I study them, the more I realized that many of the women involved have been marginalized in the histories of these movements,” Wood said. He hopes to bring the stories of those women back into the conversation.

“The work that many feminist performance artists created between the 1960s and 1980s has had a profound impact on solo performance and experimental theaters but is often relegated to a side conversation rather than being examined as foundational to contemporary forms of performance art. This work is meant to demonstrate just how important these women performance artists were and, in many cases, still are.”

Winburn will study the role of school counselors, particularly in vulnerable and at-risk populations in Mississippi. She plans to conduct case studies of schools and investigations of teacher attitudes while also analyzing the distress students suffer from lack of advocacy.

Kilgore is interested in the history of women in the development of legal aid and civil rights lawsuits in Mississippi. She is exploring the possibility of developing an undergraduate pre-law course on women and the law.

“This research should provide an understanding of barriers that school counselors face and allow them to develop advocacy competencies to better serve students,” she said.

“I am interested in better understanding how advocacy on behalf of the school counselor impacts student outcomes,” Winburn said.

Crutchfield will examine teacher perceptions of gender’s influence on leadership effectiveness by surveying teachers. He will use the results to create a professional development seminar addressing gender bias.

Dr. Kenya Wolff (standing)

“I believe this line of research aligns with gender studies as we continue to fully evaluate and build a more equitable and accepting K-12 learning environment,” she said. “Educators who increase their own self-awareness and better understand their ability and competencies toward advocacy will more fully align and operate within a social justice perspective.” Wolff plans to investigate the role of gender and identify formation in early childhood education as the notions of gender continue to evolve. She also will examine approaches for working with preservice teachers to increase their knowledge base surrounding issues of gender

and anti-bias curriculum. These participants will join Carrie Smith, instructional associate professor of psychology, who was named an Isom Fellow earlier. She is working on the problem of sexual assault and teaching an introductory gender theory course this fall. “All of these projects are exciting, innovative and will invigorate our curriculum and our research focus,” Harker said. “They also meet the larger goals of the Flagship Forward strategic plan by enhancing the quality of academic programs, supporting faculty excellence, increasing research and creative achievement, increasing entrepreneurship, and fostering an intellectual and engaged community.” The participants will contribute to the center through research topics, teaching and service. Each fellow is to develop a new cross-listed class with the gender studies program. “Although the Isom Center is within the College of Liberal Arts, our mission is much broader than that,” Harker said. “These projects show what you can do practically with what is learned, and these partnerships show why the lens of gender can illuminate things you wouldn’t see otherwise.” Any faculty interested in collaborating with the Isom Center through gender and sexuality research is encouraged to contact Harker at For more information about the center and its programs, visit -- Christina Steube, Communications Specialist, School of Law

Isom Fellow’s Reception

Join our Isom Fellows as they give brief presenations on their research plans. Reception to follow. Wednesday, September 12th 4 PM Student Union Ballroom 15

Remembering Dr. Joanne Hawks’ Legacy of Feminist Leadership


his past July marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of Joanne Varner Hawks, the founding director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and the last Dean of Women. The Isom Center honors her legacy of leadership and mentorship for women. We plan to release a short film about her life and legacy this fall, but here are two of Jan’s mentees who later became leaders of the University.


“To most she was a role model. She was a champion of women and women’s’ rights. She really helped create a good environment for women here on campus. She was the epitome of loyalty, commitment, and service--a truly wonderful person.” -- Provost Emerita Carolyn Ellis Staton, JD as quoted by the Southern Register in an article about Hawk’s passing “Jan was the head person there and really kept us going. Once the group caught on, it lasted ten or fifteen years. Out of that group

came multiple people who later went into administration at the university. Caroline Staton was one, and myself, and others. Brenda West was there and she went into administration and the alumni association. Many of us ended up really being responsible for the future of the university and taking on leadership roles. I don’t think we would have done that had we not had Jan as our mentor, but as our model of a person who could be calm and cool and collected, but vigilantly persistent. But to be persistent in a way that helped other people understand what you were interested in.” -- Dr. Gloria Kellum,Vice Chancellor Emerita of University Relations

Women in Campus Leadership

s the Isom Center staff reflected on the example set by Dr. Joanne Hawks as a woman in leadership, we realized that there are many women leaders right now at the University of Mississippi who make our community a better place to work, live, and learn. I reached out to several women in leadership positions at the university to talk about their experiences as women in leadership, especially in the South and on this campus. Drs. Brandi Hephner Labanc, Katrina Caldwell, Lynnette Johnson, and Kirsten Dellinger talked to be about their careers, challenges

Brandi Hephner Labanc Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs First woman to ever inhabit the role

Coming to Campus: When I first arrived at the University of Mississippi, I had a lot of folks come visit with me, which was wonderful, to get to know the community. There was a lot of “We’re happy you’re here” comments, and as I started to string those together, I realized there’s a lot of underrepresented folks, communities, that I was connecting. So that’s when I started to realize the responsibility, on some level, and maybe the advantages of being able to use my voice in a different way, or advocate for others, or to open doors.

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

they’ve faced and responsibilities they’ve taken on, as well as the lasting impacts they hope to leave. I also spoke with Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill about her GIRL emPOWERment Program (see back page). While the full extent of these interviews were too long to include here, I have collected the highlights from my conversations regarding mentors, thoughts on leadership, and the women who came before them. We will have full interviews online this fall. -- Ellis Starkey, Isom Center 360 Degree Mentor Mentality: I’ve encouraged other women in the field - I encourage anyone in the field - to get a mentor, but, particularly ones that are really motivated and I know have the capacity to move up, to be thoughtful and diversify your mentor circles. I talk about that when I teach class. And it’s not about having mentors that are in positions you want to be in, but having mentors that are peers, having mentors that are in positions that might report up to you. I’ve done that, I’ve tried to really make sure that I’ve got people - you know, you can mentor from any position - I make sure I’ve got that 360 degree mentor mentality. The Non-Mentor Mentor: It’s funny, but I don’t see myself as a mentor, but I’m happy to call others mentors. I suffer from that. That word is filled with a lot of responsibility. I do mentor people, I do feel like I am a mentor to people.

Dr. Katrina Caldwell

Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Community Engagement First person to head the newly-created university division Not Quite a Mentor: “[My first graduate assistantship supervisor, Assistant Dean Karen Williams,] had been the only one in the graduate school who was fighting and had consistently been fighting for diversity, equity and inclusion issues. Even though she had made some progress, it was not as much progress as she had dreamed of making in that job. She was not necessarily a mentor to me, except for the fact that she gave me the job. A lot of the advice she gave me was out of her frustration and anger, and it didn’t really make sense to me at the time. However, it planted a seed in me and now that I’ve matured in this profession, that seed has deepened my understanding of the need to have resilience and grit in this profession. It has also given me a level of empathy and compassion that I did not have for her as a young emerging practitioner. I understand that she was experiencing racial battle fatigue. I hear what she was saying, what she said to me and why she said it to me. But at the time I couldn’t.” Lifting as You Climb: “So, [my high school mentor, Minnie Cook] lifted me - talk about lifting as you climb - I wasn’t climbing, she was just lifting. She made a way. She pushed me and made me uncomfortable, and she saw something in me that I didn’t, I couldn’t see. Without her, I wouldn’t have done any of the things, wouldn’t have been in the position to do any of the things that I’ve been able to do.”

Dr. Lynnette Johnson

Deputy Athletics Director for Sports and Administration First female head athletic trainer in the SEC Just Ask!: I always say the answer is no if you don’t ask for it to be a yes sometimes. If somebody doesn’t know you want something. It’s kinda like applying for a job….I have a stronger personality and don’t mind speaking up and saying, but I tell that to a lot of people. Sometimes you just have to ask. The Women Before Me: “All of them watched me cry in their offices and gave me great advice on how to work through, maybe how to have

a conversation, maybe not knowing athletics but very strong women in leadership positions on this campus. I met them when they were probably my age now. So I kinda joke with everybody and say when I got here - I’ve been here twenty-nine years, so I look where they were now, they were in their early fifties, being those executive women, and so it comes full circle…. I’m going tell you something - to listen. Because as I introduce my friend Dr. Connell, I would not be where I am today, had she not been willing to talk to me, and at moments whether I wanted her to or not. I absorbed enough of that, so I understand that. Yeah, so only because I had great leaders like that can I understand that moment. How to Make an Impact: The human factor is big with me. People can make more money, but there’s a sense that I cared about the people that I worked with, that I worked for, which I work for the student athletes, that I was a support staff person in their role, and that I cared about what I did and that resonated with them. That would probably be my biggest mission statement.

Dr. Kirsten Dellinger

Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion, College of Liberal Arts First known female chair in the Social Sciences at UM A Balanced Leadership: In other words, I viewed leadership as “this is not a role apart from faculty, this is faculty governance’ and that the Chair role is a part of being a faculty member…. I think trying to approach this job as one where it’s about listening to what the group is wanting to do and trying to move forward on that, trying to support other people’s work. To me, you can’t go wrong if you’re doing the job that way. Because that’s what you want in a leader, usually, you want someone who’s attentive to the dynamics of the group, who’s thinking about where the department is going as a whole, but also trying to support people’s work individually. Home Base: The Isom Center has always been a home base for me. From the moment I stepped onto this campus... I was invited to be on the steering committee and was so excited about that. I’ve seen several different directors doing amazing things with the center. The Isom Center’s always been an outlet for me to think about how to make the campus a better place…. But that space, the Isom Center space has always been one where you can seek advice about and help from other feminists leaders. That’s been really important to me over the years. -- Editor’s Note: We think it is important to note that Dean Dellinger joined the faculty in the fall of 1998, immediately following the passing of Dr. Hawks.


Queering Oxford: From Pride Camp to Pride Weekend


etween the founding of the queer feminist bookstore Violet Valley and the formation of the LOU Pride Collective, North Mississippi saw a boom in LGBTQ+ spaces and programming this past year. On the Square, staple events like Code Pink and Oxford Pride continued to draw in crowds, and the inaugural Mardi Gras Ball at the Lyric proved that Oxford has become a hot spot for queer-friendly social events. On campus, the revival of student organization OUTGrads offered LGBTQ+ graduate and professional access to a community of their peers, and OUTGrads joined OUTLaw, UM Pride Network, Queer People of Color, and OutOxford in forming the LOU Pride Collective to provide unified support to the Starkville Pride organizers when their city’s Board of Aldermen nearly rejected their parade permit. The LOU Pride Collective also hosted Oxford’s first Awards “Gayla” to honor community members who work tirelessly to increase visibility and support for LGBTQ+ people in North Mississippi; one of this years awardees was Dr. Jessie Wilkerson, whose graduate seminar collected oral histories from LGBTQ+ community members to store in the University archives. The excitement extends into this coming

Photo credit: Megan Wolfe Photography

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

year, starting with the return of Pride Camp in August, a day-long orientation for LGBTQ+ undergraduate, graduate, and professional students hosted by the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and co-sponsored by the Isom Center and several other campus organizations. October will bring lectures, film screenings, readings, and concerts for LGBTQ+ History Month, including a performances by local musicians And The Echo and Mattie Thrasher. In March, the University of Mississippi will also welcome scholars from when the Isom Center hosts the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association conference. This year’s theme is “Envisioning a Feminist and Queer South,” and performer and oral historian E. Patrick Johnson and activist and poet Minnie Bruce Pratt will give keynote speeches. Finally, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and Oxford will join Pride celebrations around the country to commemorate this catalyst to the gay liberation movement. In Oxford, it’s clear that the community not only envisions a feminist and queer South-it exemplifies it. -- Sarah Heying President, OUTGrads, and Ph.D. Student in English


Scen P R I

Photo essay by

The Isom Report • 2018-2019

nes of D E 18

y Megan Wolfe


See more at

The Isom Report • 2018-2019


Big Plans and Tiny Houses


the strength of our course offerings in gender, sexuality, and media with insights from scholarship on horror, and the movies themselves.

ello! I’m Elizabeth Venell.

Before joining the faculty at University of Mississippi, I taught Film Studies, Gender Studies, and Writing courses at universities around Atlanta. Most recently, I taught classes in sexuality studies for the Interdisciplinary Department at Kennesaw State University. I am happy to have found such a welcoming and exciting home as The Sarah Isom Center. I am writing to you from the second summer session, a few weeks into my new Topics in Gender and Culture course: Women, Bodies, and Horror. We are using horror films as a lens for studying bodies, identity, representation, subjectivity, and society. Horror can be polarizing, so I want to explain how a nice person comes to assign The Babadook to hard-working summer students. I have a PhD in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Emory University, and a BA in Gender Studies and Psychology from Northwestern University. During both degrees, I completed concentrations in Film and Media Studies, bringing together my interests in gender and sexuality, feminism, and film in as many configurations as I could manage. My

Dr. Elizabeth Vennell Instructional Assistant Professor of Gender Studies

dissertation research was on queer cinema, particularly experimental film and video work, so I spent several years pursuing an interest in obscure and unconventional films. As that project was coming to a close, it gave way to a longsimmering interest in horror. Like queer cinema, horror often explores issues relating to gender, sexuality, and the body, performs incisive cultural criticism, and comes with the added bonus of featuring more women protagonists. Given the opportunity to develop a topic for our 300-level Gender and Culture course, I wanted to bring together

I teach online, but I balance all that screen time with a lot of time outside. I run, occasionally in marathons, and on school breaks for the past few years I have been working on a unique construction project. I am building a tiny house. It measures about 150 square feet, and it is constructed on a utility trailer intended to be towed behind a vehicle, or parked long-term. I currently live in Atlanta, a city I love, but tiny house parking is challenging in city limits. One of the benefits of online coursework is that it offers faculty as well as students the opportunity to travel or live away from the university, but eventually I hope to settle down in an area convenient to Oxford. In the meantime, I plan to travel wherever the WiFi takes me!

Mayor Robyn Tannehill Launches GIRL emPOWERment Program Who’s the Boss?: I call it a leadership program, but to me everyone has leadership ability. It’s not something you’re born with or you’re not. My goal is that they will be empowered and have the self-confidence, after going through that program, to see somebody being picked on and walk up and go “Hey, don’t do that” or see somebody sitting by themselves in the lunchroom and have the self-confidence to go over and invite them to sit

with them. Or walk up in a group where everyone is talking about somebody and say “that’s not cool. Don’t talk about her.” That to me is leadership. Who Run the World? Girls!: It is so important to me that girls see themselves as people who can take leadership roles and who have the power to make changes….All of these girls will have spheres of influence for the rest of their lives, whether that’s their individual family or a team they’re on, or whether they run for class president, and I wanted them

to understand what a responsibility they have with their leadership roles. Set Up for Success: I hope that I have set them up to prop each other up. Not necessarily to look to older mentors, but to in fact be that for each other. I told them it gets harder from here, people. I know you don’t realize that in the fifth grade, but it gets worse before it gets better, and you’re going to need each other. You’re gonna need someone to prop you up every once in a while, not to even say anything, but just to know somebody’s got your back. I hope that’s what you are for each other. I do hope we’ve provided that framework and planted that seed, anyway.

Profile for Sarah Isom

2018-19 Isom Report  

The Isom Report is the official newsletter of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at The University of Mississippi.

2018-19 Isom Report  

The Isom Report is the official newsletter of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at The University of Mississippi.