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  • Berto-tees

    Posted on March 24th, 2014 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    Bertoti Comments:

     I think the Bertoti Conference went really well this year!  There were a few things that went especially well and a few things I think we could improve upon for next year.  It seemed like the “committee” system was effective and turned out to be a great way to delegate responsibilities.  Not only were we able to better split up work this way, but we also had more say over the “type” of work we each did.  Meeting in small groups was much easier to schedule, too.  I think we should definitely keep the committee system for next year!  I think we also had a really effective social media campaign.  Lucas and I had a lot of fun writing the Facebook posts and they helped keep our followers abreast of updates and fun tips.  The Twitter was also a hit!  The round table seemed to also go over really well.  All of our presenters did an awesome job presenting insight into their experiences and advice for listeners.  We should definitely do another round table next year, perhaps one discussing different opinions on current ethical issues/challenges facing historians today.

    I think some logistical issues could be smoothed over a little bit more next year, such as how much food to order and double-checking that we have enough nametags. I think we should have more group meetings.  It was tough to know what other students (committee or cohort or grad in general) were working on and sometimes I felt a little out of the loop.  Lastly, I think we should do more fun things throughout the weekend, especially Saturday. It might be fun to have some type of really tough history pop quiz “stumper” questions throughout the weekend.  We could have different sets for presentation sessions, when making announcements, and the beginning of keynotes, etc.  We could have silly little prizes… possibly Bertoti t-shirts if we can have them made cheaply. Actually, let’s just plan on making Bertoti t-shirts (Berto-tees?) a part of next year in some way.  If we can save enough on a bulk order, we might even be able to hand them out to attendees/presenters.  In turn, when presenters wear these shirts back at their own universities, it would draw attention to Bertoti.

    Refocused focus statement to keep refocusing:

    I am researching the beauty culture of college women during the post-World War II era, seeking to connect messages from of consumer culture with personal choices made by these women.  The postwar period, which can be roughly understood as 1945-1960, featured a time of cultural clamoring in which young women sought to define themselves in the wake of a changing nation.  College women, at this time, are a unique group of women who have not (yet) decided to marry (although a small amount were married while in school).   It is valuable to see how women aged 18-24 reacted to messages in prescriptive literature, especially messages aimed specifically at “college girls.”  Furthermore, studying college women allows for the comparison of women in single sex and coeducational communities.  This research project will explore consumer culture, how it shaped women as consumers, and how it affected women’s ideas of themselves as individuals, while also engaging in a comparison study between how these messages manifested in coeducational versus women’s colleges In effect, studying beauty culture can show us what types of messages were circulated through popular culture and how women responded by adopting or not adopting these prescriptive messages.  I expect to find that women at both women’s and co-educational colleges adapted the messages permeated through prescriptive literature similarly.  This tells us that women followed beauty practices as an “act of femininity” and this was not influenced by the presence of men.

    Disclaimer: These assumptions are being made based on looking at only two universities (a women’s and a co-ed).  I will be more precise in my language, either explicitly stating this, or specifically naming, say, Pennsylvania Women’s College and Carnegie Mellon University.


    I plan to approach this topic through two routes of analysis: consumer culture and personal.  In accordance with the first route, I will look at how messages of consumer culture were portrayed and prescribed in prescriptive literature as related to beauty, both in the meanings they associate with beauty and in the beauty “advice” listed.  The second route of analysis will focus on how women received these messages and in what ways did they or did they not adapt beauty suggestions from prescriptive literature.  My framework will also employ theories of culture, gender, self-image, sexuality, feminity, and masculinity to better understand the role beauty culture played in the lives of college women during the post-World War II era.


    Secondary Sources:

     Since I have recently discovered that sorority records might be valuable to my research, I read the following for this week:

    “Sister Act: Sorority Rush as Feminine performance” by Elizabeth Boyd (Southern Cultures, 5.3, Fall 1999) dissects a major component of sorority life as a feminine performance.  She describes it as a “feminine stratification ritual” and “a scrutiny session in which women are assigned a social value based on looks, status, and feminine competency”.  She later connects the emphasis put into appearance dictates a performance of a prescriptive idea of gender.  I think her framework will be very useful because she connects the idea of appearance with social value.

    In Inside Greek U.: Fraternities, Sororities, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Power and Prestige, Alan D. DeSantis argues that “fraternities and sororities proudly and fiercely reproduce many of the traditional and harmful ideas about gender through their scripted performances.” He explains that these are places where women should act like “real” women and those who are two androgynous or ambivalent in their gendered performances are denied entrance.  DeSantis’s conclusion that women must fit this gendered performance to be a part of this society is an idea that I will test out in my own research.  Did this matter as much in the 50s?  Does the same idea apply outside of sororities, or is there even a way to evaluate this?


    4 responses to “Berto-tees” RSS icon

    • Rose,
      RE methodology, would you say that you are doing a gendered analysis of consumer culture in the post-WWII years, using the beauty culture of college women as your case study? Consumer culture I see as more of a topic than it is a methodology.

      I think you’ve focused the topic really well this semester — what I seem to miss in this statement is a clear argument — the statement that readers will want to agree or disagree with. Would it be something like advertisers of beauty products targeted a certain population (Lizabeth Cohen’s book discusses this targeting) — college women — in the 1950s because personal appearance was seen as a prerequisite for intimate relationships and marriage, not career, was a goal for college women at this time? I’m not sure that’s exactly where you want to take this research, but my words might give you a start for shaping your own statement. Perhaps other commenters will be able to make suggestions.

      Searching for how-to-find-a-man information in publications for young women, and courses on marriage and family in the college curriculum might be useful at some point.

      You state: “It is valuable to see how women aged 18-24 reacted to messages in prescriptive literature, especially messages aimed specifically at “college girls.” Readers are going to ask — why is it valuable??

    • tayloringradschool

      Rose, I think you have some great ideas for Bertoti, especially the roundtable! That seems like I great idea. I think t-shirts would be awesome, but it all depends on the money, unless we all chip in or convince the second years to order us some this year 😛

      Your revamped focus statement goes a long way in connecting the beauty culture to the decisions, and I think it’s definitely more clear now! The only clarification I wanted was how the nation was changing and how that might have affected the culture and choices? After a war there’s usually a lot of rhetoric about becoming more domestic (politically) focused, so this might have rubbed off on beauty.

      I think the theories you talk about in your methodology do more justice than the first two that you talk about. So maybe you’re using these theories as the methodology in order to study beauty culture and the personal? And don’t forget about media studies – in dissecting advertisements it seems that you’re also participating in rhetoric/discourse analysis.

    • I agree with you about all the Bertoti stuff. I love your suggestions! Let’s do that next year! I was surprised at how fast the food went! I was told that last year they had too much left over. We’ll have to see if we can get it just right.

      Are you still planning to incorporate oral history into your research? Are you going to explore how women individually responded to consumer culture or will you try to find sources that reflect how women defined beauty?

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