Highlights » Lifestyle » Vol 63

Clark University professor is a voice rising up from the silence

Paul Collins

When one has an opportunity to discover educator, published author and veteran anti-military and feminist activist Cynthia Enloe, one can’t help being gripped by a sense of admiration. She brings a palpable sense of purpose and urgency to her work. Recently, the vocal advocate for women’s rights was selected for inclusion onto the prestigious Gender Justice Legacy Wall. Brought into existence by the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice in 2017, it recognizes and celebrates the contribution made by women to the field of international gender justice. The wall will be installed in The Hague at the International Crimes Tribunal.

Enloe is definitely in esteemed company in taking her place on the wall alongside of fellow inaugural inductees that include Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anita Hill, who, in the 1990s, went before a congressional nomination committee that was relentless in grilling her to voice her claim of sexual harassment against her former boss, Clarence Thomas, whose nomination to the United States Supreme Court was making its way through the review process.

Across her career, Enloe, a research professor of International Development, Community and Environment at Clark University, has been a tireless crusader in her efforts to raise the level of awareness around women and the injustices they face. In her quest to shine a light on a dark world of harassment, workplace inequality and, in many cases, second-class citizenry, Enloe has given a powerful voice to those legions of women who have needed an advocate. Perhaps even more than the voice that she provides, Enloe has also served as a source of hope and encouragement to so many women who need a champion.

The list of her other prestigious recognitions is long and includes receiving the Outstanding Teacher Award from Clark University on three separate occasions, the Susan Strange Award (for international studies) in 2007, the Susan B. Northcutt Award in 2008 and the Peace and Justice Studies Association’s Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

Of her recent inclusion onto the new Gender Justice Legacy Wall, Enloe said, “It is a special honor because it links my academic work, writing and teaching to this international feminist effort to roll back militarism.

“Women from at least a dozen countries are now holding all perpetrators of war crimes against women individually accountable,” she added. “This is constant and tough work.”

To this end, something that appears to be glaringly absent in Enloe’s personal makeup is an inflated ego. She’s easily approachable, inclusive and very down-to-Earth. This, in itself, is as refreshing as a cleansing summer rain shower. Of the broad portfolio of books and papers that she has penned over the years, she said, “I’m humbled to think that these smart feminist activists have found my writings useful in their important work.”

Like I say, she’s an impressive woman who, when all is said and done, has not lost her humanity on the journey to the top of her profession.

In the era that now sees the sexual exploitation of women by powerful, and once seemingly untouchable, men in positions of authority being dragged out of the shadows and into the light, the feisty 79-year-old Enloe is tenacious in her efforts to bring expanded awareness. She is indeed like an inexhaustible turbine, pumping the blood of life into the heart of the modern feminist movement to keep it beating with a strong and steady cadence. As an educator, she has evolved to the point where, today, the world is her classroom. For her students are all part of an international sisterhood that knows no borders. A classroom where she speaks to all of her pupils in a voice that not only resonates and transmits hope, but that is also admired and clearly understood by all. She the kind of special professor that you remember. The one whose words stick with you. The one that still has you remembering what she shared with you all those years ago as you look back at your youth from over the shoulder of your middle and later years. That special professor whose class nobody ever cut.

Paul Collins is a freelance writer from Southborough.


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