OSCLG honors its members who have made significant contributions to the organization and makes available to the membership their experiences as leaders, scholars, and mentors.
It is an unparalleled honor to be nominated to the population formerly called the Wise Women’s Council, renamed the Oracles in 2022. Having retired in 2021 from a 33-year career in Communication at
the University of Minnesota – Duluth, I committed myself to the promise that my “best years” in feminist research, service and scholarship were not behind me. My election to The Oracles has given me a space where I may continue to serve and be enriched by my intellectual community.
I have attended OSCLG Conference, with only a few missed years, since the mid 1990’s. I had annually attended the SCA / NCA conference since my first year in graduate school (in 1979) and became accustomed to the highly competitive atmosphere at NCA. While the scholarly response to my work was very helpful in my research, and while I found most panels to be intellectually gratifying, I always felt like I had to be “on guard,” and seldom relaxed at conference.
In contrast to my experience at NCA my first OSCLG conference in Milwaukee was a profoundly positive experience. The focus at OSCLG seemed to address the whole person. Beyond the intellectual rigor
evidenced in the presentations, the candid and compassionate interrogation of ideas, I was impressed by efforts of the organization to affirm the value of human social and spiritual experiences as well.
Examples include Wine and Chocolate (which has become a regular nightly event) and the planned “off-conference” activities (my all-time favorite such activity was riding in a big tube down a river in Gainesville, FL). In the intervening years I have come to appreciate and to depend on the places where our scholarship intersects with political and social justice challenges.
Though retired, my induction to The Oracles provides the context in which I will continue to read, to write, to pay attention to the voices of our scholars, and, notwithstanding my hearing aids, “to listen
with all my might.”
The Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender is a space in which I am continually reaffirmed in my belief in learning as a collaborative, in mentoring as reciprocal, and in friendship as enduring. I early noted the interest of many of its members in language and religion, a special interest of my own. In OSCLG conference rooms, I’ve been able to share my deep interest in the language of religion, gendered violence, and most recently sex work. Since the beginning, I’ve been nurtured by the intellectual and personal generosity of the Wise Women Council and other OSCLG friends. It has been one of my highest honors to
be inducted into the newly named Oracles. I aspire, in this role, to be for others what many OSCLG members have been to me: kind, supportive, and generous.
When I received the invitation to join the Wise Women’s Council just over 48 hours ago, I was quite literally speechless and overwhelmed. Even a couple days later, I am still at a loss for adequate words to describe what this honor means to me.
I was almost exclusively raised by strong women. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I’ve always felt at home at OSCLG. I have always been in awe of and admired the members of the Wise Women’s Council. Some of my favorite OSCLG memories have been their panels.
***Hearing them talk about the history of the organization, including the first conference that was a pajama party.
***The kitchen table talks that Karla Scott hosted a few years ago.
***And the panel where some Wise Women and others shared their stories of abortion.
These are just a few of the memories that will stick with me the rest of my life.
It has been an honor to serve as a board member and officer over the last 13 years. I have not taken this responsibility lightly because I have wanted to give back to the organization in a small way that has given me so much. Certainly, we are all part of different organizations in our professional and personal lives, but, for me, OSCLG is more than an organization.
Some of you know that my area of scholarship and teaching focuses on communication in close relationships. In my interpersonal class, we talk about the philosopher Martin Buber, whose I and Thou informed my ethic of relationships. And we read John Stewart’s Bridges not Walls where he talks about how interpersonal communication truly happens when we maximize the presence of the personal—when we engage with someone as a unique human being rather than just another face in a crowd. This is what OSCLG has meant for me.
And, unlike many other conferences, I see people maximizing the personal and their time together—in panels, during hard conversations about important topics, and of course over wine and chocolate.
OSCLG is the place I want to come when the world feels overwhelming and I need some feminist support. 2020 has certainly been one of those years. Between the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and the political climate including Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and the fight over her replacement, I have been overwhelmed and needing my OSCLG community. I have been able to work with some of the best people I know—too many to name.
I have made some of my best friends here—people who have supported me through hard life transitions and celebrated happy times. When we got the news about the possibility of adoption, some of the first people that I called were my OSCLG friends. And this year when I was having health issues, my OSCLG friends were some of the first people I called even before I had the official ALS diagnosis. And it has been these same friends who have sent me and my family cards and care packages and notes. I cannot tell you what this has meant to us.
This “place” is personal, and over the years, individuals have made me feel heard and valued, and I have tried to do that for others. Thanks to each of you for what you do to make this that kind of space for us all.
Becoming a Wise Women is a huge honor for me. I presented my very first conference paper at OSCLG in Monterey in 1996, and have missed only once since then due to a medical emergency–and even then I tried to talk my surgeon into letting me go to OSCLG for the weekend before the surgery! Attending OSCLG sustains me all year long with the thought-provoking panels, hallway hugs and conversations, and staying up too late eating chocolate and connecting with extraordinary people. I am nurtured by incredible aunties, siblings, and co-mentors, and it brings me joy to pass on some of the extraordinary mentoring I have received to other OSCLG members. OSCLG is my academic home, and my gratitude for our community is boundless.
To be a Wise Woman at OSCLG, for me, is about creating moments for voice–mine and yours. When I came to OSCLG in 1998 I heard a whisper in my heart that said, “This is your place. Find your voice.” Over the years, that whisper grew into a roar as I listened to the voices of dedicated, intelligent women and men. Now as a Wise Woman, I can use my roar to create moments of silence where voices can speak and be heard. Moments where we share thoughts, questions, and doubts. Moments where we use our voices to learn from and challenge each other as we envision what the world could be and who we could be in that world. OSCLG is the place where we can speak our minds (and listen to others), even though our voices may shake.
One of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou is this: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
OSCLG is a place I return to every year, it is a group of people that I can count on to support me, my ideas, and what I bring to the organization. All the wise women that have come before me know this, exude this, and make sure that all those who step into our sphere feel included.
I believe that (wo)mentoring our circle of new and sustaining members is one of our primary responsibilities as wise women. We have much to learn from listening and learning from their understandings of gendering communication. In this way, we construct wisdom together at OSCLG and put it to use justly, compassionately, continuously.
Attending my first OSCLG conference in 2000 was a pivotal moment for me. As a newly-minted assistant professor, struggling with all the challenges of achieving academic success as a women while raising a young daughter as a single mother, I found in OSCLG a haven. Here I could talk openly and honestly about my feminist scholarship and the travails of negotiating academic and social patriarchal systems. I didn’t have to maintain a disconnect between my professional and personal identities, but I could talk at length with other women who also struggled with the issue of work/life balance. The women I met at OSCLG (many of whom are Wise Women!) inspired me. These women became my mentors and sponsors and, perhaps even more invaluable, they became lifelong friends. To me, this is what OSCLG is about and as a Wise Woman I hope to represent the principles of OSCLG inside and outside of the academy.
I love the way OSCLG (wo)mentors feminists and provides a purple refuge for a wide range of scholars to help them thrive. My Cronebabe persona was developed at this conference. It has helped me to push back against, or laugh at that noise “out there” that tells me I’m less than, washed up, or unattractive as I age. Being a Wise Woman gives me the opportunity to help others do the same, to encourage feminist practices in everyday life, and to promote social justice. I see the Wise Women as our tribal elders, memory keepers, and voices of long experience. I am honored to be counted among them.
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.— Shug Avery in The Color Purple
Standing on the shoulders of Wise Women on this council is an honor—these are academic mothers and other mothers who helped me along the way. And occasionally when I share insight in a teaching or mentoring moment and say something I think ‘profound’, I catch myself thinking, “wow! guess I have been paying attention.” As a Black woman I find it hard not to notice how identities matter and OSCLG is where I find support for better understanding those lived experiences. OSCLG is connection and community, a home and a haven—and where good chocolate is a sacrament!
Like so many of the OSCLG Wise Women, I owe a great deal of my professional and personal development to my participation with this wonderful organization. Over many years, both the annual conference and my relationship with its members has expanded and deepened my understanding of gendered communication as well as what I might be able to contribute to that ongoing conversation. The conference has the advantages of being both small and large, both welcoming and discerning. The commitment to feminism is unabashed but also not “competitive.” No one is trying to prove they are smarter or more feminist than you. On the other hand, they are honest in their questions and generous with their visions. It is a good place to invite wisdom.
The power of OSCLG, for me, is in the personal and professional connections that we make here, the diverse voices and perspectives reflected here, the new ways of seeing and knowing that we craft here. I am honored and humbled to be part of the Wise Women Council. There was a time I would not have felt ready to take this role. I now see this honor as an opportunity to welcome that young woman or man in the back of the room who, like me at my first conference, isn’t sure she or he belongs.
What does it means to be designated a “Wise” woman — What assumptions about knowledge, truth, and relationships does this entail? What expectations attend it? What practices and identities-in-relation might it accommodate? How best might we enact it? Ongoing and open-ended, such questions must be addressed communally and performatively rather than in statements and criteria. For me, OSCLG creates a space for trying out various womentoring engagements and for striving to realize “wiseness” together, as scholars, as colleagues, as mutual learners and teachers.
Wisdom is something that I search for, but certainly not something that I believe I have yet attained. I would agree that I might be more experienced than some younger people, at least in some narrow paths of life. I try to continually remind myself to take advantage of opportunities that may help me to increase my experience, and perhaps gain greater wisdom. OSCLG has allowed me to do that….primarily through developing relationships with women who are very wise.
I cherish the welcome that OSCLG gave me many years ago as an English language specialist sneaking into a communication conference. OSCLG did not ask me to choose between my many selves or to behave as if our cultural polarities were relevant to my life: feminine/masculine, teacher/scholar, professional/personal, activist/mother, secular/religious, pro-choice/pro-life, single/partnered, gay/straight, etc. Rather, I could be many selves, foregrounding and backgrounding relevant identities depending on context. I could work, with others, toward building a multi-leveled cultural garden (see MJ Hardman’s work), not live in a single or even dual crop field. I believe our collective Wise Women’s mission is to affirm, repair, and work toward sustainability of the complex and diverse worlds we live in and to pass on our “wisdom.”
If It wasn’t for OSCLG, I couldn’t have done much of what I have been able to do. It isn’t simply the research connections, it is the friendship, love, and ethic of giving and being there for others that I and so many others experience through OSCLG. I don’t feel particularly “wise” as I muddle through things. But I hope I have contributed to the collective wisdom and inspiration that is OSCLG.
I see myself as seeking wisdom, not as having attained it. Women’s wisdom grows out of intellect, body, and soul. Years and experience alone brings some sense of wisdom and it takes reflection as well as a willingness to engage with one’s own authority to develop it. I’m not there yet, but hope I am on my way.
It’s almost impossible for me to imagine a career that did not include the supportive environment of OSCLG conventions. Similarly, my personal friendships have been deepened and enriched by the wonderful people who consider OSCLG their scholarly home. OSCLG has been the foundation for many of my long-standing friendships and scholarly collaborations. I am more than grateful and hopeful that, as a Wise Woman, I can give back to the organization that has given so much to me.
In the past, much of my activism has been based on anger, at conditions that I thought “others” had created. Now, I think that the anger approach is mostly the way toward more separation. Wonderful OSCLG friends and presentations encourage discussions about how best to work with many viewpoints and many people for social justice. I’m trying to wear my identifications more loosely, and to examine my motives more closely. That’s the intent. The practice… Ha! (I’m working on it.)
The Wise Women of OSCLG have given me personal friendship, professional support, intellectual enlightenment and courage to be a strong advocate, as well as much fun, laughter, wine and chocolate. My relationship with my Wise Women colleagues spans 20 – 35 years and I am honored and deeply grateful to be a part of such collective wisdom.
Linda A. M. Perry, Professor Emirita at the University of San Diego, was one of the original members of OSCLG’s Wise Women’s Council, and an early OSCLG President who hosted two of its annual conferences, 1988 and 2001. She died in November of 2012, at her home in the company of her loving family. The wise women memorialized her in a ceremony at the 2013 OSCLG Conference in Houghton, Michigan. Those wishing to honor the memory of Linda Perry can contribute to a Scholarship Memorial fund that has been established in her name at the University of San Diego (contact Valeria Attisha, Director of Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What wise words can I offer that aren’t cliched? or repetitive? or begging for context? Perhaps that’s one thing. The stretch of half a lifetime shows how long is our journey toward a fair, just and equitable world, and yet in context one lifetime is quite brief. How does one muster both patience and persistence? Inspiring and encouraging colleagues. Pioneers who led the way. We can draw on Robert Frost’s words about roads in the woods. On the beer commercial exhorting us to grab for the gusto. On the 12-step mantra: Plan ahead, but LIVE today. And I can add some Burma Shave signs that graced my path; formed into a crude haiku:
Look around. Listen–
deeply. Learn. Laugh. Lead–when you
must. And only then.
Whose on-going language project (with Anita Taylor) focuses on sexism in English, with suggestions of how to repair and re-create our language and our culture
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