"One of my favorite feminist theorists, bell hooks, argues that we should understand feminism as an action," April Lidinsky says. "She claims (and I agree) that it is less important that we claim we are feminists than it is that we 'do feminism.'"
So feminism is what Lidinsky does. Teaching, inspiring, and doing "women's studies everywhere," she says, is her call to service.
After years of IU South Bend students producing Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, Lidinsky conceived of a more grassroots approach, and in 2007 Michiana Monologues was born. Every year, up to 100 personal stories are submitted anonymously to a website, with about 30 being chosen to be part of the two-hour theatrical event in February. The stories, performed by actors from 18 to 72 years old, have covered topics such as being feminist and Mennonite, experiencing an illegal abortion in the Midwest in the 1960s, deciding to have a home birth, enjoying a lively love life long into marriage, and finding power in the community of women. Lidinsky has nurtured the project to include 15 writing workshops held each fall to encourage submissions, or as she puts it, "to empower women to see their personal stories as worth telling." The interactive brainstorming sessions combine teaching, peer-mentoring, and activism. They are led by Lidinsky, advanced undergraduates, and community writers and are conducted in college classrooms, women's shelters, public libraries, and shops in various Indiana and Michigan communities. Lidinsky's brainchild has earned between $10,000 and $15,000 each year for local antiviolence organizations. It is expanding this year into Goshen and Elkhart, and possibly elsewhere across the country, as Lidinsky has been promoting the project in presentations from New York to California in communities interested in adopting the model.
But spreading the "good news of feminism" everywhere hardly stops there. Lidinsky is a popular invited lecturer on gender issues, in part because of her participation in the award-winning Michiana Chronicles, a program of commentaries written and performed for WVPE public radio listeners every Friday by a group of local writers. For this work, she and her fellow essayists won the 2007 Edward R. Murrow Regional Award for Excellence in Writing.
These highly visible activities are just two of many examples of Lidinsky's advancing her educational call to service. IU South Bend Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Alfred J. Guillaume Jr. says, "In a community of dedicated faculty committed to the highest ideals of service in the IU tradition, Dr. Lidinsky stands apart. . . . Always eager to offer support in her inimitable way, she empowers others with her infectious enthusiasm."
Lidinsky's enthusiasm extends to various other community activities and organizations. At South Bend Adams High School, she has taught in the Theory of Knowledge course, part of the school's rigorous magnet program for college-bound students. With IUSB colleagues, she has designed and co-taught classes for younger girls, including one on life skills for eighth graders, and another titled Reimagining Barbie, in which participants engage with the ever-youthful Barbie doll to analyze cultural expectations of female bodies.
She has served in leadership capacities for several professional and community organizations, including the American Association of University Women, Planned Parenthood of North Central Indiana, the South Bend Human Rights Commission, and the St. Joseph County Sexual Assault Coordination Board.
At IU South Bend, Lidinsky serves on numerous College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and women's studies program committees and is a generous mentor to her students. She also excels in the classroom. She has taught Introduction to Gender Studies every semester since 2003 and also offers classes ranging from Feminist Theory and Methods to American Girls and Popular Culture. In honor of her teaching, Lidinsky was inducted in 2009 as a member of FACET, the prestigious IU Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching. In 2006 and 2008, she received Indiana University Teaching Awards.
Lidinsky writes that a crucial part of her teaching is helping students develop their own definitions of activism "so that they in turn will be prepared to 'do feminism' in service to their own communities." A student recently wrote in an evaluation of Lidinsky's feminist theory class, "Activism is encouraged by Dr. Lidinsky. I am used to classes where people go get a grade and go home, so when people go above what is needed for a grade, it's really special. Activism means feeling like a part of a community and working to better it."