Friday, April 18, 2014

WMST Brown Bag: Inverting the Dominant Discourses: Queering Education

Have you notice how many of advertisements, TV shows, and books are hetero-normative? In addition, they often lack visible racial diversity. Today at the Women's Studies Brown Bag, students from Queering Education( EDUC 242)  presented their poster projects that sought to invert dominant narratives such as the "ideal woman," and  heterosexual coupling.

Many projects challenged  the norm of what the ideal woman looks like and how she is represented. When many people imagine the ideal woman, they unconsciously think of blonde hair, blue eyes, thin waist, very feminine, white, and cisgendered. Many presenters challenged that norm by pointing out that women can be racially diverse and still be women as well as pointing out that oftentimes the "ideal woman" is only ideal in the context of being appealing within a heterosexual man's gaze.

Another norm that was challenged by multiple projects was the idea of what is socially acceptable positions or actions for women. The dominate narrative dictates that women and girls not only be cisgendered and heterosexual, but also submissive, domestic, small, and silent. Denying this narrative sometimes automatically makes girls "tomboys." The project challenged the audience to expand their ideas of femininity as well as what constitutes womanhood/girlhood.

In addition, some projects challenged society's idea and construction of masculinity.


In what ways have you been socialized to believe gender stereotypes?

How do you perhaps perpetuate gender stereotypes and heteronormativity?

- Aidan Davis

Val's Blog

   This semester is slowly coming to a bitter sweat end, and this will be my last blog post as the Women’s Health intern in our wonderful Women’s Studies Center community. This year, my third, has so far been my best year at Colgate. In all honesty, I was extremely unhappy at Colgate for my first two years, but the Center became my second home and the ties created through the Center helped foster a sense of belonging to the greater Colgate community. I am extremely fortunate to have an active role in the Center as the Women’s Health intern, which is one of the main reasons for my current, more positive outlooks of Colgate. I’m sure many of you feel similarly, even if you only come to the Center for our weekly brown bags!
A form of feminist methodology includes and values the lived experiences of women, so I will share some of my personal experiences with you all. If you do not know or remember who I am, my name is Valerie Garcia. I am Latina of Puerto Rican decent; I am from the Bronx, NYC; I come from a working class family; I am a cisgender woman with she/her as my preferred gender pronouns; I am a biologist; a feminist; a social justice seeker. Come talk to me if you want to learn more.  
I am a Molecular Biology major with a Women’s Studies minor (shameless plug: become a Women’s Studies concentrator! Especially those of you who are 2015). Usually, the response I get from people is “oh, that’s cool,” although their faces are saying, “oh, that’s random.” And it kind of is! I am still searching for a way to incorporate the two things I enjoy, biological research and social justice, into some sort of cohesive career. I do not want to, nor should I have to, favor or choose one over the other. So if you have any ideas, I am open to your suggestions! No, seriously, I can use all the help and ideas I can get.
Well, this upcoming summer I will begin my journey with an internship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, which I will continue with the Colgate off-campus group in the fall. At the NIH, I will be working in a laboratory with some top researchers, so it is pretty legit. Yes, I’m a little sad I will miss my last Colgate fall, but I am very excited for this journey, because it a very prestigious opportunity. I will also gain insight into something I have always been interested in becoming, a biological researcher (a.k.a. lab dweeb) at an institution that focuses on this work.
                While planning to work in a lab, one of the things that always cross my mind is, how can I do feminism in that type of environment. Although I practice small acts of feminism on a daily basis, I want more. I am constantly asking myself how can I take my WMST knowledge and combine it with biology? Does this combination exist? In what line of work can I fuse my interests and passions? Where does social justice meet biology?
                Don’t get me wrong, there are several options: working in women’s health center, a reproductive health center or policy change. But these routes do not fully meet my needs and interests. Some days I want to just work in my own laboratory. Other days I want to teach science to youth from low socioeconomic backgrounds.  Some mornings I wake up wanting to be a professor at an institution like Colgate. Other mornings I want to make really radical artwork and tell the world the truth about feminism, fight the stereotypes and stigma that surrounds the “F-word.”
I still don’t know. And it’s okay, because I have some time to figure it out. At least that’s what I am trying to convince myself of. Come have a conversation with us at the Center, and lets figure it out together. One way I have tried to reconcile my passions is through my involvement with the Center as the Women’s Health intern. This has been a great experience. I am so proud to be an intern at Colgate’s Center for Women’s Studies.
- Valerie Garcia 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Parting Advice From a Graduating Feminist

Well here I am. Only a few weeks left until graduation and I’m writing my last post for the WMST blog feeling incredibly nostalgic. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect on my time here at Colgate and offer a few pieces of advice on the things that I’ve learned and wish I had known sooner.

Not all feminists are the same:
I know that this might sound silly, but you’d be surprised how often people lump us all under the same category of bra-burning, man-hating, anti-shaving, militant lesbians… Okay, maybe you aren’t surprised.  But here’s a confession: I have yet to meet someone who perfectly fits this description. So the good news is that if you don’t fit this description then you can also be a feminist! Congratulations!!
In all seriousness, what I’m trying to say is that feminists have very different opinions, ideals, goals, and beliefs. We don’t always agree and that’s the beauty of it. I’ve had some of the best discussions with feminists who had different opinions and at the end of the day when we still disagreed, I learned so much more than if I had talked with someone who agreed with me from the start. The point is that even if you disagree with some aspects of feminism don’t be afraid to identify as a feminist and engage with other feminists in conversations.
Along that same vein, don’t be afraid to change your mind. In my humble opinion, I think open-mindedness is one of the best qualities a person can have.

Get to know someone you admire (ideally a feminist):
Like REALLY get to know them. Ask that person to grab a cup of coffee or plan a time when you two can just hang out together. Pick their brain, laugh with them, ask them for advice, and learn from them. It makes this world much more manageable when you see someone you admire navigate this crazy life with ease. Figure out what they struggled with and how they might have gotten over it. Odds are that as a budding feminist you probably are going through the same challenges. Don’t reinvent the wheel but rather learn from those around you.

Talk about what you’re passionate about with your friends and family:
For a long time I kept all that I was learning in my Women’s Studies classes to myself because I didn’t want to come across as fanatic or pushy to my friends. But, as the years have gone by I’ve become more and more comfortable discussing with my friends issues surrounding feminism, intersectionality, race, class, privilege, etc. and it turns out that they actually enjoy discussing these topics too (for the most part). What I have learned from this is that I need to have friends in my life that are willing to have these conversations. Even if they don’t agree with me, we are able to open each other’s eyes and push each other out of our comfort zones.

Allow yourself to be self-critical:
It has become very clear to me (sometimes painfully clear) that I make mistakes, I sometimes offend people, and occasionally I’m just actually wrong. Rather than deny it, I believe there is power in learning from our mistakes and a willingness to be self-critical. Learn about your privilege (or lack of) and understand that we all have a little of both. We all have privilege and we all lack a certain type of privilege. Become conscious of this and how you may perpetuate systems of inequality. This is probably the hardest and yet the most important feminist lesson I’ve learned at Colgate. It’s not easy, but it’s not supposed to be.

Love yourself and those around you:
All right this is my cheesiest advice yet but bare with me. Yes, we are learning. Yes, we aren’t perfect nor will we ever be. But that’s okay. Be critical of yourself, the world around you, and other feminists, but don’t forget to find the little golden nuggets as well. Constantly critiquing the patriarchy, the multiplicity of oppressions, and privilege is important but it is also exhausting and honestly not that much fun. Too often we are quick to be critical, but less willing to point out the good that has come about. But in order for this whole feminism thing to work out, we need to continuously support one another. So I have a challenge for you. Pick several people that you admire or who have helped you in the last few years and write them a letter. Feminist or not, tell them how much they mean to you and in which ways they’ve made a positive impact in your life. Not only will this rejuvenate them, but it will also help you figure out what you admire in people and how to be more like them. And when you are writing your letters don’t forget to write a letter to the most important person: yourself.


- Michelle Van Veen ‘14

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Buck Angel' BB

Speaker Event
Listening to Buck Angel’s speech was inspiring and life changing because it was real. Angel talked about his transition, his childhood and young adulthood when he felt disconnected from his body because he knew he was a boy, and that what he felt connected with.  This occurred when he hit puberty and realized that what he believed he was did not match what perceived him as. He copped the only way he knew how to numb the pain, because he did not have to think about how he was being called a “she” and being referred to as a woman. By drinking, getting high and cutting himself he reveals how our social construct of the gender as a binary is destructive and painful when one does not fall into either of these restrictive categories.  This critique of our society is important because it still occur today and is very much a lived reality of lot people. This desire to live lead to his journey to find professionals who could help him transition in a time when transitioning from a woman to a male was unheard of, in the United States. By transitioning, he talked about the importance of being connected with his body and how this brought him hope and opened the possibility to a whole new world. 

The two advice he shared with the audience were to deprogram our minds and to express gratitude.  The first advice resonated with me because I have come to realize that at Colgate I often times have to perform certain role behave a certain way, represent a certain identity. Also the dissatisfaction of the constant performance, which is not real, can be exhaustive.  I have been thinking about the constant performance that occurs on this campus and how it self-perpetuates these gender binaries at the very expense of the denial of our own happiness. And for me this fear that seizes me when I think about deprogramming my mind and to stop performing, what would that mean? This fear evolves out of the so-called unknown and also acknowledging the fact that the performance is comfortable and set yet costly.  It is costly because we lose ourselves and by deprogramming our minds, we have the possibility to find ourselves. This is done by constant self-examination and critique of my life, and how I navigate in the spaces on campus and outside in the world. This is a life journey that I always have to work on and it makes it less overwhelming. Finally, gratitude is important because we all have people that we are grateful for and our very existence at this very moment is a moment to be grateful for. This gratitude does put a smile on our face because it is a reminder of being alive. Therefore, I am grateful.
_Noufo Nabine

Friday, March 14, 2014

BB Reflection: “Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement”

On Tuesday, we had the honor of hosting writer Sarah Erdreich for “Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement.” She started the brown bag by first talking about how it is she got to doing the work that she does. Sarah joked about her educational pursuits and how they essentially made her “impressively useless.” Given that I’m a senior struggling with unemployment similar issues, it was nice to hear from someone in the real world who took some time to get into the swing of the real world. She went on to talk about her work on the NAtional Abortion Federation hotline and the information she shared helped me put some things in perspective. Firstly, I am pro-choice. I believe that all women should be 100% in control of their reproductive health and if that means having an abortion, then so be it. While I am vocal about laws in the United States infringing on the rights of women to have access to proper medical care, I did not realize how little I thought about how access is not enough. It is not enough to say that under the law, women have the right to have abortions. Having a right on paper is not the same as having a right in practice. Women may have access to abortions, but what about the dangerous people who are willing to incite violence because they disagree? What does my right to an abortion mea if the people picketing outside of the clinic are willing to throw a bomb through the window? What does my right to an abortion matter if the nearest doctor who can perform an abortion is two hours away from me? What if my insurance is not comprehensive and will not cover the procedure I need to have? Sure, I may have the right to have one, but how realistic is that if there are so many other factors to consider when making these choices?
Additionally, Sarah talked about personal blinders that contribute to the stigmatization of abortions. She argued that abortions are a standard form of healthcare and that women contribute to the stigmatization of this by not asking of their health care provider performs them. Sarah admitted that she did not even know if her own doctor performed them. She also admitted that when she asked her doctor, she was uncomfortable. She felt it necessary to preface the question with “I’m not pregnant, but...” It’s interesting that even women who work as pro-choice activists still battle with these kind of concerns.
Ultimately, the abortion debate needs to be humanized. We need to see it as more than body parts and legal precedents. Abortion may be a talking point to your local politician, but it is a very real reality for many people who have had to face a decision as serious as this one.

Drunk In Love,
Renyelle