“This is a political history…”


Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science
IRWGS Core Faculty
IRWGS Director, 2004-07

I think our motivation for getting this oral history project is to document how we did our work because this needed to be done here. We’re all in it for a much more political reason and we want that documented…the story we want to tell is the story of how we built this gender institute and kept it a good place and what kind of difference we were trying to make at Columbia. That’s the story we wanted to tell that should be documented because that might all get lost. It’s all, “I remember that Jean [Howard] said this and they did that.”

We want to tell the story of this political history of people who are committed to a certain project and work together to make that happen. It’s also intellectual, but it’s not personal. It is gratifying. These are people I really love and respect, and, of course, because it’s so collegial and such a rare collegial space here, I love that. I cherish that. It is personally meaningful that I go into the room and everybody who walks in, I feel happy to see them. You don’t feel that way everywhere you go. Everybody has goodwill and good faith towards it. That’s rare but partly, I think, because we’re not competing for any resources and there’s a political project as there is a problem—when we have all white men running this institution that we all live in and we know the women’s salaries are lower and we know the women never get to be on Riverside Drive [indicating preferred faculty housing], they get housing elsewhere. You see the inequalities so we’ve got to do something about that, as well as intellectual work of really building a scholarly field and working in it.