I think my interest in gender grew out of my time at Wellesley. Attending a women’s college naturally raises questions about gender norms and relations in society. It was a really special space that freed us up from—but that also laid bare—the status quo. It encouraged us to explore the many different ways to be a modern woman in America. I remember, after graduation, encountering some sort of gendered treatment, and it just didn’t compute. Spending my formative years at Wellesley pushed me to question this dynamic. It defamiliarized the familiar.
What is the most interesting thing, to you, about the research area you're pursuing?
I think the most interesting thing about my forthcoming book, Unlawful Advances: How Feminists Transformed Title IX (Princeton UP), is that it shows how people claiming rights under a law can fundamentally transform that law. It is remarkable to me that college students made sexual harassment into a form of illegal sex discrimination under Title IX. We take this for granted now. But, for decades, sexual harassment was just a way of life for women in the academy.
I’m also really excited about new collaborative work. I’ve acquired over 1,400 letters resolving federal Title IX complaints against colleges and universities from 1994 to 2014. These letters contain detailed information about people’s experiences of sex/gender discrimination in higher education. They also document how schools and the federal government attempt to address the problem. I see the project as a unique opportunity to pull back the curtain on a part of university life that is usually kept behind closed doors.
What is your favorite part about Bloomington so far?
I love walking around Bryan Park with our daughter, Ingrid, and our dog, Fiona. We are also enjoying being first-time homeowners and having Ingrid in daycare.