GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

A name is a name is a name?

In Anamaria's Posts on 2010/02/01 at 22:00

University of Venus. A very catchy name. It sounds good, with the resonant repetition of the middle “ve”: uniVErsity of VEnus. It clicks on the tongue and in the brain. But is it really under the sign of Venus that we should want to start our endeavor? As someone who spent the past seven years of her life looking at the role of myths in contemporary politics, I was immediately provoked by the title of our blog.

Venus. Is Venus “right” for our virtual venture? Venus is the name the Romans gave to Aphrodite, the goddess they borrowed from the Greeks. Who is Venus? According to my favorite source of information about words, the OED, Venus is “the goddess of beauty and love (esp. sensual love)”. The sensual side of things is further connoted by the other meanings of the word: it designates a palæolithic fertility figure or “the desire for sexual intercourse; indulgence of sexual desire; lust, venery” (the last word a direct descendant of our original noun). Finally, “Venus” can be lifted to a high level of abstraction defining the very idea of charm and beauty, or can be taken down to earth to refer to the attractive and beautiful women one meets in everyday life.

The Birth of Venus

Source: Wikipedia Commons

What are we left with as a general impression? The very ideal of the feminine, as we have been used to since Antiquity, perfectly illustrated by Botticelli’s painting.

Venus is how a woman should be, the unattainable standard of perfection. But, and here comes my critique, this is the ideal of a woman as seen by a man. Should we embrace this definition of the feminine in this blog, which specifically aims to change the predominance of the male element? And moreover, should we take Venus, the goddess of love, of sex, of the body, of sensual beauty to be our protective spirit?

My first reaction was NO. I am more of a Minerva type, I thought. Minerva, perhaps not as gorgeous but certainly much wiser. The goddess of reason and not of the emotions. The rather cold-hearted Minerva, beweaponed, a strategist on the battle field, a planner, an achiever, determined, combative, brilliant. The University of Minerva. Well, I can definitely feel the obvious lack of clang. It does not sound as good, does not resonate with the public. We want to be heard, we want to be read.

And then, The University of Venus may be actually a better choice not only for promotion purposes. It embraces a label we might not automatically agree with, and turns it on its head. We are the mind of the heart, emotional intelligence, intelligence tout court. The University of Venus brings together women, beautiful, emotionally developed women, passionate about their cause. The same women who not only can reflect theoretically, but can also feel, believe, engage with the world. We are both Minerva and Venus. The brain is in fact the headquarters of both reason and feelings. And least be forgotten, the heart is just a muscle.

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  1. Excellent Anamaria! You are inspirational! You engage my mind and my heart – to think critically and to feel passionately! When I first told Anamaria about the name of the blog, she was livid! NO NO NO NO NO – not venus, anyone but venus. I was reminded of intense 3rd wave vs. 2nd wave debates in my graduate courses in feminist theory and methods. (For some reason Martha Stewart came to mind…but I often have Martha Stewart on the brain.) Anyway, as I was saying – it seemed to be 2nd wave feminism vs. 3rd wave feminism all over again. Hadn’t the 3rd wave been able to embrace both heart and mind, emotion and intellect, private and public, Madonna, Martha Stewart, and Hillary Clinton? YES, we could do it all! (We will be writing about balance in the coming week’s posts…)

    Back to the title of the blog. While brainstorming, we knew we wanted something that immediately signaled women and higher ed. We also wanted something that was futuristic, global and then some – we knew we were bringing women together from around the world via social networking tools – blogs, facebook, twitter, skype, etc. So, we thought of planets…and we thought of Venus…and we thought – hey, this is the University of Venus the alternative to the university of penis – the alternative to the alpha-male-dominated ivory tower…

  2. Women PhD holder’s in higher ed remind me of the Ilonggo concept of a “babaylan”– priestess/sage/healer/adviser/repository of community history. They were historically mature women (and in instances where they are men, they tended to act effeminate “binabayi”). The word suggests both beauty and wisdom, and an imminent place in society.

    “Venus” as a name is easily recognizable; its symbolism easily understood. But as a group, I think we want to subvert the stereotype imaginings that come with it (not to mention “colonial” imaginings for a non-Western-based culture like mine!). We are smart, beautiful, feminine, as confident with students and peers as we are in the kitchen (btw, I love Martha Stewart; I imagine if I were born Japanese, my sense of aesthetics would match hers). We are engaging (not holed up in the library trying to churn out publications) and articulate (even if English is not for MANY of us, our first language).

    • Rosalie – I really like the concept of babaylan – much more multi-dimensional. I also agree with you on subverting stereotypes – or changing the ‘boxes’ people use to make sense of us.

  3. The University of Babaylan sounds also pretty good! I am surprised that no one commented against Venus. Does everyone who reads this blog think that she brings us the best auspices? Beyond the female – male dichotomy, Minerva might be a better choice as she was not only a sage and a warrior but also the patron of arts and crafts.
    Or perhaps everyone chose to focus on the “university” part… As a linguistic trivia, I can add that one of the meanings of “university” is “The whole body, aggregate, or number of creatures, persons, things, etc”, so we are in this sense totally covered :-)

  4. FWIW, from a phonological perspective I personally prefer University of Minerva: “niver…nerva.”

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