group of five women faculty against green background

Five on the Women Who Moved Them

The Center for the Study of Women in Society supports inspiring faculty members. But who inspires them?

By Alice Tallmadge Photo Illustrations by Kyla Tom and Nic Walcott, University Communications January 17, 2024

5 min read 

For fifty years, faculty in the University of Oregon Center for the Study of Women in Society have researched the complexity of women’s lives and the intersecting nature of gender identities and inequalities. In celebration of the center’s fiftieth anniversary, Oregon Quarterly—which celebrates “the Mighty Women of Mighty Oregon” in the winter issue—asked five faculty members of the center for research project takeaways and the “mighty woman” who inspired them.

Joyce Cheng

Joyce Chen

Associate Professor Department of the History of Art and Architecture

Faculty Research Grant “Hello Kitty’s Kunstwollen: Style, Ornament, Allegory”

CSWS Project Takeaway The project is left field to my expertise as a scholar of modern and avant-garde art. My project takeaway is that most students respond more enthusiastically to objects of folklore or popular culture than those of “high” art. This is not necessarily bad. I believe culture and aesthetics are vital necessities rather than luxury.

Her Mighty Woman “Mighty Woman” reminds me of superheroes as well as commercial products; I hesitate to apply it to nonfiction women. Sangita Gopal, CSWS director, is a formidable scholar, valued friend, and mentor. Humans have always invented mythological “Mighty Women,” like the sea goddess Mazu in my native Taiwan, or the Virgin Mary. In her film Barbie, Greta Gerwig tried to make the figure of Barbie into a kind of “Mighty Woman” that trumps all dolls. I believe Hello Kitty is a mythic and transcultural “Mighty Woman.” Like CSWS, Hello Kitty turns fifty this year!

Sangita Gopal

Sangita Gopal photo Jack Liu

Director Center for the Study of Women in Society
Associate Professor Cinema studies and English; faculty in comparative literature

Faculty Research Grant “Feminism, Television and Gendered Media Work in India”

CSWS Project Takeaway My key takeaway from my research project on women filmmakers in India was that we need to see women’s contributions and innovations not only through the framework of their identity as women, but in terms of how they transform the cultures of work by insisting on equity, diversity, and access.

Her Mighty Woman My “Mighty Woman” is every woman who labors and cares each day for their family and community, every woman who strives each day to make this unequal world more just, every woman who makes time they do not have to bring laughter and beauty into our lives. I am so fortunate that I meet such Mighty Women every day and that they inspire me by example.

Dyana Mason

Associate Professor School of Planning, Public Policy and Management

Faculty Research Grant “Institutional Logics, Hybridity and Women’s Empowerment in an International Development Program”

CSWS Project Takeaway That project was my first experience doing research across borders. My biggest takeaway was that working with nonprofit organizations internationally requires flexibility on all sides. The nonprofit leader needs to be adaptable regarding how their work will be implemented in a different culture, and the partner group needs to understand the expectations of the funding organization.

Her Mighty Woman I immediately think of a woman I worked with when I was executive director of a Virginia nonprofit. She was the best policy attorney I have ever worked with. She could see the big picture, but also what was needed in the moment, and helped build my knowledge and expertise. Last year she spoke via Zoom to one of my classes about her career in policy advocacy, including for underrepresented groups.

Dyana Mason

Theresa May

Theresa May credit Dale Dudeck

Professor Theater arts

Faculty Research Grant “WaterWays: Native Women’s Story Circle”

CSWS Project Takeaway My most important takeaway from my CSWS-supported creative work and research: relationship. Ongoing, sustained, evolving. My creative relationship with Marta Lu Clifford (Chinook, Cree, Grand Ronde) has inspired and educated me, and from that many projects have been created. But it’s the relationship, not the project, that is central. Research without relationship is hollow; within relationship it is transformative.

Her Mighty Woman This question begs for fierce fighters and great minds like RBG, Jane Goodall, or bell hooks. But I’m gonna go with my mother—because she did not give up: she was deeply intellectual but did not have the opportunities, until late in life, to pursue that aspect of herself. My mother’s experience has led me to demand that my women graduate students be given the platforms to speak and write. I don't give up—not on them, not on myself.

Lesley Jo Weaver

Associate Professor Global studies

Faculty Research Grant “A Multi-Stakeholder Analysis of Women’s Houselessness in Eugene”

CSWS Project Takeaway The project illustrated to me how the problem of housing insecurity contributes to and pulls from every segment of society—from our health care system to parks, parking, business, policies, policing, and more. We consider those systems the building blocks of our society, but in varied ways, they have failed people with housing insecurity. Housing insecurity is a deeper, broader, and more complex issue than I realized when I began the project.

Her Mighty Woman I would say, number one, the women I worked with on this project who are actively experiencing houselessness and are feeling levels of deprivation and trauma that are unimaginable to most of the people I interact with daily in the US. These women’s ability to persevere under such conditions is inspiring, and humbling.

Jo Weaver

Alice Tallmadge, MA ’87 (journalism), is an editor for Oregon Quarterly


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