Cynthia Enloe told the audience last Thursday night that, “As you become a feminist – and most of you will – you become smart.” Enloe entertained and informed with jokes amidst her lecture on the interactions of women, war, globalized economics and her own experiences.
Enloe, a women’s studies professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., has acquired attention from lecturing all around the world and from authoring over a dozen books that have been translated into six languages. Her books and articles focus on women’s politics, and how women’s emotional and physical labor has been used to support government’s war-waging policies.
Sponsored by the Albert Schweitzer Institute, the event filled Alumni Hall with students, faculty, and many from around the area.
“I wanted to bring somebody here who’s done a lot of research on wars in terms of their effects on women, and educate the general populous about some of the problems that women face in war zones,” said David Ives, executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute.
Enloe was introduced by Assistant Professor of Political Science Jennifer Sacco, who had heard Enloe lecture when she was in college.
“You never really know the impact something makes on you when it happens until you find yourself thinking back and reflecting on it years later,” Sacco said. “This was a real significant thing in my development as a young scholar, and ever since I came to Quinnipiac in 2006, I’ve wanted to bring her to campus. So when David [Ives] asked me to introduce her I was through the roof I was just so excited.”
In her opening address, Sacco described Enloe as “a path breaker in the field of feminine politics,” and said she “views her as a role model for the scholar I want to be and the professor I want to be.”
A teacher for 35 years, Enloe was first interested in racism in the military. But it wasn’t until she was pushed by her students and feminist friends that she realized that war cannot be fully understood without taking women seriously.
“I think in the U.S. and a lot of countries, feminism is portrayed in the media as a cartoon, and nobody wants to be a cartoon,” Enloe said. “So the thing is to push the cartoon aside and say, ‘Who are feminists? What do they do?’ And if you find people who have become feminists, ‘How do they live their life? Why are they so joyful? What do they take on?’ Then somehow you get out of the cartoon and think, ‘Oh well I don’t have to agree with everything she thinks, but that sound pretty reasonable.
“I care about justice, I care about fairness, and I want to have a good sense of humor,'” she said. “Feminists have a great sense of humor. That’s how you break through that. I don’t blame people who have this cartoon version because I think the media really portrays it that way but that’s not how most of us are.”
Enloe’s focus term for the lecture was “post war” and how American society views the current war in Iraq.
“Because Iraq is no longer front page news, many people believe it has disappeared, that is not true,” Enloe said.
Enloe believes the war should still be on the forefront of American foreign policy. However, the actual war is not the only thing that needs to be addressed. As a feminist, Enloe feels that the social aftermath is perhaps more important.
After discussing how she got into feminism, Enloe then went on to tell the audience two stories – one was about a widow and mother of four from Baghdad, and the other about a mother who was the sole earner for a three generation household.
Danielle Susi, a freshman political science major and international studies minor, found this part of the lecture particularly important.
“I thought the dichotomy between the two women and the way that they reacted to the war and the way their children were affected by the war was really interesting,” she said. “I thought it was really important to be able to see both sides of the story and not just one that is usually played in the media.”
After her lecture, Enloe opened the floor to stories, comments and questions for about 15 minutes, and left the audience with a last piece of advice: “Stay attentive even when people don’t think you should.you need to be humble, and let yourself be taught by others.”