Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Patricia Sotirin

Committee Member 1

Elizabeth Flynn

Committee Member 2

Ann Brady

Committee Member 3

Audrey Mayer


This study addresses the problem of gender hostility on a STEM-focused university campus. I engage with current debates over the definition and purpose of feminism, in order to argue for the necessity of feminist activism in engineering education, with a particular focus on applications for Michigan Tech. Theoretically, I locate gender hostility in a long-running rejection of “the feminine” in STEM-based ways of knowing, curricula, and academic institutions. Drawing on Dorothy Smith’s conceptualization of “ruling relations,” I trace the discursive construction of femininity and the masculine/feminine dichotomy as seen in institutional forms, web pages, and student writing on social media.

I consider the efficacy of undergraduate student activism on STEM-focused campuses in countering hostility toward the feminine. Specifically, in this project, I focus on the founding and accomplishments of a Michigan Tech feminist student newspaper: Beyond the Glass Ceiling. I set this newspaper within a history of student-initiated feminist publications at Michigan Tech, including The Technobabe Times and UNDER_WIRE. In chronicling the experiences of the students who wrote, designed, and edited the eponymous newspaper, I analyze how they understood and responded to institutionally embedded, textual, and contextual discourses about gender and feminism. My analysis admits the limitations but asserts the potential of undergraduate women’s counter-hegemonic struggle against the gendered ruling relations governing a STEM education.

In the conclusion, I argue for Martha Nussbaum’s philosophical articulation of justice and gender as a useful platform for developing strategies to address gender hostility in STEM education for the good of all students.