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Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J.; Hirsch, Jennifer / Women on campus in the eighties : old struggles, new victories
(1993)

Ambuehl, Rhonda; Sniffen, Barbara
Chapter 11: Women's studies in prison: lessons for offenders, lessons for educators,   pp. 69-78


Page 75

had obviously had problems in that realm, at least in society's view. I should
not
have worried. I think it was the most profitable part of the course. I found
their
reactions fascinating. They were intrigued with the ideas of moral development
and with comparing their experiences with the issues Gilligan studied. Perhaps
they appreciated the fact that I accepted them as moral creatures in spite
of their
being in prison. Their thoughtfulness in discussing the issues was remarkable.
There was a difference of opinion about abortion; some of the women had
strong fundamentalist beliefs. However, most of them could agree with the
idea
that the decision to have an abortion might be made on the basis of what
was the
most responsible thing to do.
Rhonda: I thought the most interesting part of this section was our response
to
Gilligan's portrayal of Hans's dilemma. Hans's wife was very sick and needed
medicine. Hans could not afford the medicine. The question was, "Should
Hans
steal the medicine?" Gilligan's theory was that men traditionally answer
yes to
this question and women answer no, and that psychologists have used this
inabil-
ity to make a decision to break a rule for a good reason as proof of women's
arrested psychological development. It is curious that most of the class
vehe-
mently said yes, of course Hans should steal the medicine, thus aligning
with the
traditional male response. I find this interesting because I have long suspected
that many women are incarcerated overtly for committing crimes, but covertly
for
not conforming to society's view of acceptable female behavior. A historical
example of this is the imprisoning of women solely for having venereal diseases.
Barb: Rhonda's observation about females being imprisoned for acting like
men
is a good one. Gilligan, however, pointed out that women often looked for
alter-
natives, like persuading the druggist to give them the medicine on credit.
Perhaps
some of the women prisoners, raised as many were in a violent man's world,
had
incorporated the instant solution of illegal action into their repertoire
of
responses rather than searching for alternatives. In any event, it is an
interesting
subject for possible future research. I have noted some-not the majority-of
female students at UW-Oshkosh are just as willing to accept violent and perhaps
illegal solutions to problems as some men are. The different responses to
the
Gulf War provide an example of this.
Bleier's demolishing the psychobiologists pleased the class; by this time
most
of them had begun to be convinced that women had gotten a raw deal in society.
I will not say that sisterhood prevailed, but I think it is fair to say that
the books
studied had changed their views about a lot of things. It was especially
interesting
to hear some changed views about aggression both on the personal and the
polit-
ical level: that aggression maybe didn't work so well after all, and that
coopera-
tion and other methods of resolving conflict might be given a whirl.
Rhonda: PREP also sponsored a women's group that met bimonthly and
brought in outside speakers to address the group on issues that were important
to women. One of the guest speakers on our agenda was a woman who collected
women's art. On the day she came, I learned that the art she collected was
quilts
made by women on the outer banks of North Carolina. I was speechless to learn
that we were expected to welcome a guest speaker who collected quilts and
called them art. The speaker arrived with slide presentations of her "collections."
At first I tried to tune her out, but I was captivated by the passion she
obviously
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