Campus Profile: Professor Christine Garlough Embraces Girl Power

What comes first to mind when you think of the term "girl power"? According to Google, it's an attitude with reference to independence, confidence and empowerment among young women. While this may be accurate, I was still determined to find out what the term meant to the esteemed Professor Christine Garlough, a Gender and Women’s Studies professor here at UW-Madison.

Background Information

Professor Garlough is married to her husband, Dhavan, and has two children, Gabe and Isabella. She completed her undergraduate degree here at UW-Madison and went on to continue her education at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where she earned her Ph.D. She not only teaches here at UW, but she has also been working with grassroots feminist organizations in India for 20 years, with focuses on the intersection of art, politics, and education. The organizations she works with are all non-profits, so she also helps advertise their messages. She also works with different South Asian-American women on political performances and finds the rhetoric of protest movements to be very interesting.


HC: When you think of the term girl power or woman power, what does that mean to you?

CG: Agency. It is the power to have the ability to make your own choices with your body, career and political standpoints. It's also about deciding where you want to live, who you want to be with and having the ability to act on that. It comes in two parts: having the power to make these choices and then having the ability to act on them.


HC: Who is/was the most influential woman in your life?

CG: I would have to say my mom. She came from a very humble background, and she used education to claw her way up from it. She was the first person in her family to go to college; and when she graduated, she became a teacher. She was constantly giving back in simple everyday tasks. I remember from when I was a kid that she would pull over to the bus stop on a rainy day and drive whoever was there wherever they needed to go. She always volunteered her time and left no room for me to not be a good person.


HC: What is one piece of advice you have for college girls?  

CG: Don’t be afraid to fail. There's way too much pressure on college girls to do everything and succeed in everything. Take risks, make mistakes. You grow the most by failing — I would know. So what if you fail? Go back and re-learn; grow through your mistakes, and don't be afraid of them. It's much better to try lots of things than to shy away from things because of the fear of failing.

Personally, I prefer Professor Garlough’s definition of girl power. Hopefully she will come to mind the next time you think of what it means to be an empowering woman! She is an amazing woman here on campus; and if you have taken one of her courses, hopefully this article will convince you to!