A Voice Fighting for Equity
April Lidinsky, Associate Professor of Women's Studies
With a Ph.D. in Victorian Literature, April Lidinsky, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, is surprised at times to be in her field. After all, Victorian times and women’s studies are not the most obvious of connections. One thing that makes it possible, she notes, is that “Women’s Studies is a new discipline. It doesn’t drag a codifying discipline with it. There is experimentation and collaboration. The research and teaching is interdisciplinary.”
The freedom of the field allows Lidinsky to pull in her many intellectual passions and make connections in her research and with her students. She is grounded in feminism, she explains. “I have been a feminist my whole life, raised in a feminist home, reading feminist literature.” What exactly is a feminist home, and what is feminist literature? To her, it means works by the writers such as the well known, but perhaps underrated, Laura Ingalls Wilder. To Lidinsky, the Little House on the Prairie series is literature which highlights partnerships that are not about exploitation or inequity. “Almonzo Wilder – he was a feminist!” she emphatically declares.
A woman quick to speak what’s on her mind, she is acutely aware that others do not always have this ability or freedom. She is attracted to voices fighting for equity through literature. In particular, she is interested in how women come into their voice through autobiography at times when their pubic spoken voice was unable to be heard, and not listened to or respected if it was spoken. Lidinsky’s voice can be heard in public regularly, as one of the regular writers and readers of “Michiana Chronicles,” a series of radio essays featured weekly on the local NPR station, 88.1 WVPE. This project speaks to her belief that writing is not worth anything if it is not aimed to change a belief, broaden a perspective, or share a unique story or insight.
Her ability to bring her own voice out into the community is matched by her ability to bring people to their own voice in the spirit of equity. As advisor to the student club that develops and promotes the Michiana Monologues, a local version of women’s stories based on The Vagina Monologues, she is inspired by “questions about who is not speaking, who is not heard.” The club’s production follows her personal and professional interests, and she is thrilled to support the students’ effort to develop and produce the performance. “Writing has been one of the few ways women could get their voice heard,” she notes. “It has been a central way for them to give themselves a voice, to move from social object to social subject.”
The ability to move from object to subject, and from theory to practice, makes sense to her students, she notes. “They work hard to work school into their lives and to be able to articulate why education is important.” She loves teaching the Introduction to Gender Studies class, and has advocated for it satisfy a general education requirement. “I have an evangelical passion for this class. Once people learn about the sociological structure of gender roles, they can’t help but get radicalized. It is so crucial to analyze masculinity as well as femininity. Plus, the more people with different experiences talk with each other the better.” Incorporating the class into a general student audience has extended the legacy of the Women’s Studies program at IU South Bend. The first in the IU system to have a Women’s Studies course, in late 1960s, she is proud of the role she has been able to play thus far. This role, and others she has taken on, are part of why she enjoys working on the IU South Bend campus.
“One of the many things I love about IU South Bend,” she adds, “is how small it is. Most every committee is interdisciplinary.” This is a good thing, she feels, because it has meant that there have been many opportunities to meet people in business, arts, and science. From these interactions, she says, “I’ve been really struck by the health of the faculty here. The spirit of collaboration is alive and well. People are constantly working together. All of our energies go to what’s shaping our students, and the administration supports faculty to support this.” Recently accepted as part of the FACET program (Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching), she is thrilled about it. “Teaching is the most important work I do,” she says, emphatically. “It is good to know that the university clearly values the work we do.”
From her early days writing a high school newspaper column, the best way she knew then to voice her perspective, to radio essays, which she thinks of as another way of teaching, she is guided by the continual questions about how her personal experience relates to others' personal experiences, and how it helps people see their experiences in new ways. “I feel like I have a calling to make a change in this way, to provide people with tools to make change in their own lives.”
Photos: Melanie Joy Brown; Text: Krista Bailey