Gender dynamics in the 60's and 70's at the University of Waterloo research is published
“In 1970, a male student at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario deemed the campus women's liberation group to be a ‘fraternity for frustrated females.’” So begins Megan Blair’s abstract for her article published online in August in the prestigious Gender and History journal. The article is entitled, “‘Fraternity for Frustrated Females’: The Gender Dynamics of 1970s Feminist Organising at the University of Waterloo, Canada.”
Megan’s research examines the gender dynamics of feminist organizing at the University of Waterloo in the 1960s and 1970s. In doing so, it reveals the challenges that women faced when attempting to initiate women's organizations as well as the culture of misogyny that existed on campus.
The work is based on research that was part of Blair’s Major Research Paper (MRP) for her MA in history, completed at Waterloo in 2019. One of Megan’s key sources was the UW student newspaper of the time, The Chevron. “I think that using student newspapers provides an excellent window into the campus culture in the 1960s and 1970s. They are an important source for historians who are studying 'ordinary' people whose experiences and voices are not found in traditional archives.”
“I was inspired to do this research after I did a research project in my undergraduate degree that looked at a women's liberation protest of the 1970 Miss Canadian University Pageant held at Wilfrid Laurier University,” says Megan. “I was interested in continuing to explore the women's liberation movement and feminist organizing on university campuses.”
I hope this research illustrates the challenges associated with feminist organizing and counters assumptions that university campuses were always spaces of progressive change. Though women undoubtedly undertook individual actions that successfully contributed to changing their status on campus, it is also important to realistically consider the barriers and challenges they faced and not assume feminist activity was always met with enthusiasm and success. In addition, this research also emphasizes and exposes the long history of attacks on gender movements and the response to threats to patriarchal power, which we continue to see to this day.
Megan Blair is a PhD candidate in History based at the University of Waterloo. Her dissertation continues to look at the women's liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s but shifts from the article's focus, to look at teenagers and their engagement with feminism.