Texas Tech University

Julie Willett

Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies
20th & 21st Century U.S., Gender, Labor and Humor Studies

Email: j.willett@ttu.edu

Office: 413 Humanities

Ph.D., University of Missouri

Julie Willett's research and teaching interests are in 20th and 21st century U.S. social and cultural history with special emphasis on gender, labor, and humor studies. Her books include Permanent Waves: The Making of the American Beauty Shop, New York University Press (2000); The American Beauty Industry Encyclopedia, ed., Greenwood Press (2010); Uproarious: How Feminists and Other Subversive Comics Speak Truth, coauthor, University of Minnesota Press, (2019); and The Male Chauvinist Pig-A History, University of North Carolina Press, (forthcoming, Spring 2021). She is currently completing a book manuscript that centers the on-going crisis in childcare within the framework of feminism and popular culture. She is also collaborating on an interdisciplinary project that centers music, humor, and political movements. Her articles have appeared in The Journal of Women's HistorySexuality and CultureSocial Research, and Critical Philosophy of Race; and The Journal of Aesthetics and Arts Criticism.

Willett has been awarded Texas Tech's President's Teaching Excellence Professorship. She is a member of the Texas Tech Teaching Academy and has received other teaching and research awards, including the Texas Tech President's Book Award, Texas Tech President's Excellence in Teaching Award, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, More recently, she received funding from Texas Tech's Institute for Peace and Conflict and the Humanities Center.

Julie Willett

Select Publications

The Male Chauvinist Pig: A History The Male Chauvinist

In the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, a series of stock characters emerged to define and bolster white masculinity. Alongside such caricatures as "the Playboy" and "the Redneck" came a new creation: "the Male Chauvinist Pig." Coined by second-wave feminists as an insult, the Male Chauvinist Pig was largely defined by an anti-feminism that manifested in boorish sexist jokes. But the epithet backfired: being a sexist pig quickly transformed into a badge of honor worn proudly by misogynists, and, in time, it would come to define a strain of right-wing politics. Historian Julie Willett tracks the ways in which the sexist pig was sanitized by racism, popularized by consumer culture, weaponized to demean feminists, and politicized to mobilize libertine sexists to adopt reactionary politics.

Mapping out a trajectory that links the sexist buffoonery of Bobby Riggs in the 1970s, the popularity of Rush Limbaugh's screeds against "Feminazis" in the 1990s, and the present day misogyny underpinning Trumpism, Willett makes a case for the potency of this seemingly laughable cultural symbol, showing what can happen when we neglect or trivialize the political power of humor.

Learn more at UNC Press

Uproarious: How Feminists and Other Subversive Comics Speak TruthUproarius

Placing theorists in conversation with comedians, Uproarious offers a full-frontal approach to the very foundation of comedy and its profound political impact. Here Cynthia Willett and Julie Willett address the four major theories of humor—superiority, relief, incongruity, and social play—through the lens of feminist and game-changing comics Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Hannah Gadsby, Hari Kondabolu, and Tig Notaro.

A major new contribution to a wider dialogue on comedy, Uproarious grounds for us explorations of outsider humor and our golden age of feminist comics—showing that when women, prisoners, or even animals laugh back, comedy along with belly laughs forges new identities and alters the political climate.

Learn more at UMN Press

Permanent Waves: The Making of the American Beauty Shop

Permanent Waves: The Making of the American Beauty Shop by Dr. Julie WillettThroughout the twentieth century, beauty shops have been places where women could enjoy the company of other women, exchange information, and share secrets. The female equivalent of barbershops, they have been institutions vital to community formation and social change.

But while the beauty shop created community, it also reflected the racial segregation that has so profoundly shaped American society. Links between style, race, and identity were so intertwined that for much of the beauty shop's history, black and white hairdressing industries were largely separate entities with separate concerns. While African American hair-care workers embraced the chance to be independent from white control, negotiated the meanings of hair straightening, and joined in larger political struggles that challenged Jim Crow, white female hairdressers were embroiled in struggles over self-definition and opposition to their industry's emphasis on male achievement. Yet despite their differences, black and white hairdressers shared common stakes as battles were waged over issues of work, skill, and professionalism unique to women's service work.

Permanent Waves traces the development of the American beauty shop, from its largely separate racial origins, through white recognition of the "ethnic market," to the present day.

Learn more at Amazon.com.

The American Beauty Industry Encyclopedia

The American Beauty Industry Encyclopedia by Dr. Julie WillettThe American Beauty Industry Encyclopedia is the first compilation to focus exclusively on this pervasive business, covering both its diverse origins and global reach. More than 100 entries were chosen specifically to illuminate the most iconic aspects of the industry's past and present, exploring the meaning of beauty practices and products, often while making analytical use of categories such as gender, race, sexuality, and stages of the lifecycle.

Focusing primarily on the late-19th and 20th-century American beauty industry—an era of unprecedented expansion—the encyclopedia covers ancient practices and the latest trends and provides a historical examination of institutions, entrepreneurs, styles, and technological innovations. It covers, for example, the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, as well as how Asian women today are having muscle fiber removed from their calves to create a more "Western" look. Entries also explore how the industry reflects social movements and concerns that are inextricably bound to religion, feminism, the health and safety of consumers and workers, the treatment of animals, and environmental sustainability.

Learn more at Amazon.com.