Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Women’s Studies

Major Professor

Sara Crawley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maralee Mayberry, Ph.D.


Feminism, Theory, Activism, Women, Politics


In this thesis I address current debates on the perceived lack of contemporary feminist activism and concerns of Women's Studies as existing within university institutions. I propose that Women's Studies programs and departments serve as locations useful for feminists interested in participating in feminist activism in and beyond the university. By viewing Women's Studies programs and departments as contemporary abeyance structures in feminist movements, I revisit the ways in which debates on differences between second and third wave feminisms have contributed to social change. In doing so, I highlight how the feminist movement maintains itself between upsurges in mass-based visible collective action. I argue that Women's Studies programs and departments are contemporary locations in which the feminist movement continues to raise feminist consciousness, create feminist activists, produce feminist theory, and contribute to social change. Through a series of interviews with Women's Studies undergraduate majors and minors, I discuss the ways in which feminist activism is occurring, and address concerns of contemporary feminists with regards to organizing and focusing their activism. I propose a "matrix of activism," comprised of four pillars in which contemporary activism occurs: structural activism, community activism, discursive activism, and activism of the self. The matrix of activism, including its four pillars, can be utilized in Women's Studies classrooms to clearly discuss how activism is currently done rather than focus on an undefined mass-based feminist movement.