Speak Out! Writings About Women

In 1985, the Women’s Studies Program (now known as the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Department) sponsored and published a booklet called Speaking Out: Writings about Women.Speaking Out (1985), Cover

This collection of essays ranges in topics from healthcare to harassment that relate to the struggle of women, including queer women and women of color) on Washington University’s campus. The particular oppression women experience in sexism. Sexism tells women that we are second class citizens, that we are powerless and worthless, that we are destined to do the dirty work. Many of the women at Washington University – the women who are reading this now—may not feel particularly oppressed, they are pacified by their white, upper middle class environments of privilege and protection.

Below are some excerpts that in my experience still ring true on campus for me as a student thirty years later.

If you are cynical about feminism, that is your right. But do not try to tell me that women are not oppressed. When you do this, you are eradicating my existence and that of many other women, you are robbing me of reality.  — page 7


Because those in control of education have chosen not to study and teach about women, our history and our lives are considered non-data. Viewed as lacking data and being purely subjective, women’s studies programs are considered unscientific and, therefore, are not highly valued in today’s male-dominated academic world. This can discourage us from taking these courses. But we must remember that men created the value system without consulting us. If we choose to value ourselves—our history, our ideas, our feelings, and our uncultivated power—then we will be happy with ourselves and will more easily find power to fight for our rights. To become ourselves, we must first know ourselves. Men’s studies, known simply as “knowledge”, does not provide us with the necessary means for doing this. It is a necessary part of the academic curriculum, because it is a path to becoming free women. — page 42


The “everything’s okay as long as it doesn’t affect me”- type hypocrisy is too prevalent to ignore. Professors as well as my fellow students have no sense of how heterosexually-biased they are in their daily environments. — page 57


Gay & Lesbian Community Alliance, from Hatchet Yearbook 1988, page 94

To access the original copy of the booklet, Speaking Out: Writings about Women, visit Special Collections (http://catalog.wustl.edu/record=b1171220~S2)

To learn more about the history of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program (now Department), see: http://ampersand.wustl.edu/beyond-womens-studies

To learn about the history of the Women’s Resource Center: http://archon.wulib.wustl.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=171

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.