Natalie Watson, a Hastings College junior from Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, presented a philosophy paper at the annual No Limits! Student Research Conference. Held in March at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, No Limits! is an interdisciplinary conference for graduate and undergraduate work that explores a wide range of issues related to women, gender and sexuality.
Watson presented her paper, “Doing Justice to Doing Gender,” in the Rethinking Theory conference session. While considering texts on gender from philosophers Judith Butler and Sandra Lee Bartky, Watson argues against the confines of binary gender, specifically the trait of femininity.
In her paper, Watson first recounts Bartky’s argument that gender is the result of disciplinary practice that defines our society. She then argues that Butler’s essay, “Doing Justice to Someone,” about David Reimer — who was born male and raised as a girl after a botched circumcision — can be read as revealing the flaws in Bartky’s analysis and pointing toward a sense of possible “escape” from confines of binary gender discipline, painting a somewhat hopeful vision.
“My goal was to expose the confines of femininity and how impossible the standards are that come with living in a feminine body. Most importantly,I wanted to reveal how we, as femininely-bodied individuals, can push back against the discipline of femininity and begin to break down our own understanding of what it means to be feminine. While I don’t consider my writing revolutionary in academia, I think that it provides a starting point for further research about the discipline of femininity and the power it holds in our everyday lives,” Watson said.
Since its inception, No Limits! has hosted hundreds of graduate and undergraduate student presentations on research, creative work, and activism related to women, gender and sexuality. This year’s theme was “Writing as Resistance,” and featured student work in fields in the humanities and social sciences.
Hastings College is a four-year residential college that focuses on student academic and extracurricular achievement.