From Theory to Praxis: Introduction of Mixed Gender Day Camp Groups at Summer Camp

During the past 12 summers I have attended YMCA Camp Minikani, first as a camper, then a counselor, and now as an administrator. With this new role in a leadership position, the responsibility of creating an environment for kids to learn and interact outside of normative constructions of the outside world is on my shoulders. Positive youth development in a camp setting is all about creating an environment of equality and respect for campers to pass on to people in their outside lives. Minikani actively works against destructive societal norms to promote originality and kindness towards others. As a leader of the organization, I aim to continue to work against constructions to promote individual and community wide respect. One way we can address this is through the reexamination of Minikani’s gender grouping.

For more than half of Minikani’s history, camp was extremely gender exclusive as only boys were allowed to come to camp. In 1967, the YMCA allowed for females to become campers, and soon after, counselors. Since then, however, there has been little change made regarding gender practices. The camp is currently set up with a day camp and an overnight camp, both of which separate groups into male and female groups. After taking this course, the necessity of demolishing the binary ideas of gender and sexuality became obvious. Anne Fausto-Sterling, along with other authors and theorists, has illuminated the history of assigning gender to bodies, the disconnection between ideas of binary genders and evidence of multiple genders, and the bias in the medical field with regards to sexing the body. These ideas make it clear gender is a construction, and limiting humanity to a binary viewpoint is limiting people’s ways of viewing themselves.

One of the YMCA’s core tenants includes the notion of diversity and inclusion. On their website, one can easily find this statement: “Together we work to ensure everyone—regardless of gender, income, faith, sexual orientation or cultural background—has the opportunity to live life to its fullest”. This is a goal that the YMCA at large, and Minikani in specific, have actively worked towards. Yet the continuation of binary gender divisions in camper groups has promoted an idea that is limiting to people’s constructions of themselves. Therefore, I am proposing a change starting in the day camp unit of Camp Minikani. We would, instead of organizing groups based on male or female and age, only organize groups based on age. This mixing of genders can help to teach cooperation and friendship with people who identify differently than you. More importantly, the lack of naming day camp groups in binary terms promotes inclusion and a non-limiting viewpoint on gender. Starting with the day camp groups in summer of 2017 can be a jumping off point and eventually lead to changes in the overnight camp unit to breakdown binary gender ideas as well. Even if no campers come to camp identifying outside of male or female, the breakdown of the binary system will lead to a respect and appreciation for mixed gender groups and a gender inclusive world.

From Theory to Praxis: DRI Proposal

My From Theory to Praxis project is a DRI proposal for research I am planning to do as part of my senior thesis. I’m currently in the process of applying to the CIS to be a Public Health and Education major, and concepts we’ve learned in GSS101 have been essential in the formation of this proposal.

 

Introduction

This study will involve a comparative analysis of different sex education curriculums in the state of North Carolina to determine what aspects of a curriculum make it more successful. Students in six different schools will take an exam to determine their knowledge before and after being taught their school’s sex education curriculum. The schools will be divided into three categories – public, private, and religious – with two schools from each category being examined. A pre-test and a post-test will be administered to determine the change in knowledge due to the school’s curriculum. From this information, I will design my own curriculum to recommend to schools in order to improve sexual education programs.

Justification

Sexual education is extremely important as it leads to healthier futures and allows students more agency in their lives and choices. The reality is that most teens will engage in sexual activity in some form, and they need to be educated on how to do this safely and what risks they face. Teenage pregnancy and incidences of STIs have increased in North Carolina and are considered major public health crises. The state is consistently ranked ninth in the nation for teen pregnancy rates. As of 2008, 67% of North Carolina’s reported STI cases occurred within people ranging from age 15 to age 24. Misinformation about safe sex practices is considered a huge contributing factor to both of these issues.

In 2009, the Healthy Youth Act was passed, which now requires public schools to present information that is “factually accurate, objective, and based on scientific research that is peer reviewed and accepted by professionals and credentialed experts in the field of sexual health education”. It replaced the abstinence only until marriage curriculum. However, there is a lot of variety from school to school in terms of what is included in the curriculum and how it is taught, and it is important to see what is most effective in terms of imparting the most knowledge. Schools are allowed to push a religious perspective, and are allowed to present a biased curriculum.

Methods

The primary method of data collection will be a pre-test and a post-test given to students before and after they are taught sex ed in their school. Each school teaches this at a different time, so I will have to investigate when each of the six schools I am studying teach this curriculum, as well as what exactly this curriculum entails. The pre-test and the post-test will be the same test, in order to determine if and how much knowledge is imparted by each school’s curriculum. This data will then be examined to see which curriculum is most effective in terms of increasing knowledge, as well as to see if this differs between public, private, and religious schools.

Based on this information, I will then design my own curriculum. I will take the pieces of each school’s curriculum that was most successful, as well as additional pieces that are deemed necessary based on the tests and where information was lacking, and build a new curriculum. Looking at other schools’ and states’ curriculums will be helpful in this process.

Preparation

I have taken Intro to Global Health, Intro to Public Health, Intro to Gender and Sexuality Studies, History of Educational Theory and Practice, and Philosophy of Education, all classes relevant to this study. Additionally, I did an in-depth study of my high school’s health curriculum and proposed changes that were later implemented based on my research. 

Dissemination

The end goal of this research is to share my research with high schools both in North Carolina and beyond in order to propose changes to their curriculum to improve the amount of knowledge garnered and how comprehensive it is. In addition to proposing it to various high schools, including the ones that participated in the study, I would like to be able to share my work on campus so students here may benefit from it as well.

Interviews or Surveys

The test with which the students will be provided is in the process of being designed. A few of the questions are as follows:

  1. Name as many different forms of contraceptive as you know
  2. Name all forms of contraception that prevent both infection and pregnancy
  3. True or False: STIs cannot be transmitted via anal sex
  4. True or False: Girls cannot get pregnant the first time they have sex
  5. How do people get infected with HIV?
  6. What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

From Theory to Praxis: New insights and a new lens through which I will examine the world

 

In class, we studied a wide range of topics in a very short amount of time, but there were certain topics that stood out to me and personally affected the way I now see things. The first and the second week we looked at sexuality and gender which are both components in the identity of a person. I think The biggest take away from that for me was looking at how society has socially constructed rigid norms to which people have stuck to, and that there is a strong resistance when it comes to wanting to push back on societal norms. It has taught me to look at people differently in a sense where I stop making assumptions about people and making generalizations. There are more than two genders and the world does not fit into a spectrum based on binary identification. There are many ways people identify and compartmentalizing and categorizing them between one or other is not a good way to look at things. There is the expression that things are not just black or white, and it is very true when it comes to people’s identities.

I have learned that marginalization also is intersectional, and because of that I feel like I better am able to understand people and their struggles. It was helpful that there was some intersections in this class that I could connect to my child development class in psychology as well as with my Afro-Latin American course. It was good because I was able to use the lens I acquired in the GSS course in those classes to work past any biases I had concerning social constructs.

This class made me think about how important it is to learn to look at things through a GSS lens, and I wish I would have had exposure to this kind of thinking when I was younger, so I connected it to an Idea I have for my summer job plans. I want to work with middle school children to help expose them early on to some of the things we learned in class because I think it is important for children to start acknowledging certain issues from earlier on.

I went to a KIPP school from sixth grade until my twelfth grade year.  KIPP schools focus on helping low income students in underserved neighborhoods get to and through college.  In middle school they require for student to take summer school courses which includes taking two classes on core studies and one elective course. This year I wanted to assist in planning one of the elective courses with one of the teachers at the middle school. There is a class focused on female empowerment and I feel like within that class there are various topics from our class that can be incorporated to the curriculum of that program in particular.

Starting with our week on bodies, ads, and Fat studies. This is a topic in class I found particularly interesting because it did challenge a lot of my preconceived notions and it changed the way that I look at media now. Having the students break a lot of their preconceived notions on body issues as well as challenging them to have conversations about body positivity and self acceptance at the middle school age would be beneficial because it would help create a certain mindset about themselves very early on. This is one of the things I gained from the class, and I wish I would have been exposed to this earlier which is why I would find it a helpful experience for the KIPP students as a summer elective course.

The goal would be for them to view themselves differently than the way society has taught them to. I hope it would serve to empower the students and I feel like it fits in with the mission of the KIPP program as well because they want their students to be better prepared for college and a lot of these topics are themes that occur in a lot of the classes I have taken here at Davidson.

FROM THEORY TO PRAXIS: ANTI-DISCRIMINATION AND HATE CRIME LEGISLATION VERSUS SYSTMIC CHANGE AND POPULATION POLITICS

 

This class has not changed my opinions and beliefs on issues of gender and sexuality. What it has done is help me realize how basic and primitive my understanding of the issues was and how many issues there are. For instance, I have always supported anti-discrimination and hate crime law and I have never believed that people fall into two distinct and “appropriate” genders. Now I understand that heteronormativity is the belief system that our regressive Republican legislature used as a weapon to implement HB2. “Two bathrooms, two sexes.” Those same legislators used their own ethnocentric views of what is “normal” to mandate who uses which.

After taking this class, I think of gender as more fluid, like a spectrum. Most guys are either more or less masculine than me–not exactly the same. My Contemporary Media Analysis focused on Caster Semenya, an intersex track athlete. Like our Republican legislature, track officials have approached Semenya’s gender from their own ethnocentric, heteronormative perspective in an attempt to “label” her a male and conclude that she has a “disorder.” While she does have some male biological characteristics, I believe that Semenya’s gender can only be fully understood when viewed from her perspective. Cultural relativism requires it.

I am very interested in both protecting and empowering people like Semenya who are marginalized by our culture’s views of gender and sexuality. After reading Normal Life, by Dean Spade, I am aware and intrigued by the notion that laws which focus on individual bad acts can actually be used by conservatives or neoliberals to limit or eliminate systemic protections like school busing. “Discrimination law’s reliance on the perpetrator perspective creates the false impression that the previously excluded or marginalized group is now equal, that fairness has been restored. (Spade 42)” I would have never considered the possibility that hate crime and anti-discrimination laws can be harmful. My focus would simply have been how to make them stronger. Spade, a transsexual himself, helped me understand that when we trade systemic protections like affirmative action for individual anti-discrimination protections we lose sight of the bigger picture. I believe we need both individual anti-discrimination laws and systemic protections. Now I realize, however, that if we are not careful our opponents will play them against each other in an attempt to dilute them.

To expand on what I have learned, I plan to pursue research regarding the potential tension between anti-discrimination and hate crime legislation and population level protections. If Alan Freeman (Legitimizing Racial Discrimination Through Anti-Discrimination Law: A Critical Review of the Supreme Court Doctrine) is correct that crime laws individualize racism and as a “result systemic racism is rendered invisible,” then all marginalized groups have an enormous problem. If we can confirm this conflict between good intentions, we have to figure out how to address it. We can’t forego individual protections in order to empower populations. We must find a way for protection and empowerment to coexist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Freeman, Alan David. “(,1 2 1/,1( – Dariaroithmayr.com.” Hein Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.

Spade, Dean. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. Brooklyn, NY: South End, 2011. Print.

From Theory to Praxis: Marriage and Taxes through a GSS lens

As I prepare to pursue a Masters in Accountancy, it may be difficult to see how topics we discussed in GSS101 will connect to my future career. One of those topics was marriage and the reasons for and against same-sex marriage. Advocates often cited tax benefits as a “pro” for the passage of same-sex marriage, so I wanted to explore what tax benefits couples can receive when married versus not, and how the tax code may subtly discriminate against certain groups.

Married taxpayers can file either of two ways: either individually by the head-of -household or jointly, but only if the marriage is recognized. Before the 2015 Supreme Court Decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage, couples could not file their taxes jointly, and therefore may have been disadvantaged in the amount of taxes they paid. To determine how much someone pays to the government, every individual is placed in a bracket by the amount he or she earns. The tax code places married couples in brackets by the amount the couple earns together. In progressive tax structures, which many states and the federal government currently use, those in the higher income brackets are taxed at a higher rate. For joint filers, the 10 and 15% brackets, where most people tend to fall, are twice as wide, and the higher tax brackets are less than twice as wide, so a joint-filing couple might be more likely to fall into this lower tax bracket than two individual filers would.

Not all same-sex couples may benefit from joint filings. Married couples usually receive either a penalty or a bonus on their taxes. Penalties occur when a couple has to pay more taxes than it would if it filed individually, and bonuses occur when couples save money by filing jointly. When spouses earn similar and relatively high-incomes, they are more likely to receive a penalty. These penalties tend to occur because as joint filers, these couples are less likely to be able to take deductions for children, but if they separated into single and head-of-household, they would be able to receive deductions for dependents.

On the other hand, joint filers can also receive marriage bonuses, which most often occur when one spouse earns all the familial income. A joint filing would likely shift this couple into a lower tax bracket because the lower brackets are twice as wide and, therefore, incorporate even some high earners. In reality, those who make less money, like many LGBTQ individuals who felt same-sex marriage argument was only a battle for upper-class, white gays and lesbians, could benefit from a decrease in taxes if married. These people, however, were largely arguing against this very idea. They realized that the institution of marriage is all about protecting wealth, not love, and if LGBTQ couples want to “redefine love,” they should not feel the need to buy into the heteronormative institution of marriage. In examining this tax structure, I would argue that, beyond LGBTQ individuals, heterosexual women should also be more aware of the patriarchal assumptions that the tax code for joint-filers makes. While a heterosexual couple can still earn a marriage bonus if the woman earns most of the income, it is clear that those who have set up the code over the years have assumed that women would not earn an income, or at least not one that would be competitive enough to negate a bonus.

As we have learned, using a GSS lens can give a new perspective to the assumptions and subtle discrimination that exists in every part of our society. Even in progressive tax structures, ones that liberals fight to protect, discrimination, unfortunately, still exists, and if we intend to ameliorate this pervasive issue, we must at first recognize it. It will be beneficial to take this interpretation into my future career, as I may help people choose a filing, not necessarily just based on money, but also understanding their stance in their relationships.

Sources Referenced:

http://taxfoundation.org/blog/how-many-taxpayers-fall-each-income-tax-bracket

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/3-tax-traps-same-sex-couples-can-avoid-2.aspx

http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/what-are-marriage-penalties-and-bonuses

From Theory to Praxis: What Gender Studies Taught Me About Me

Zamir Ode
GSS101
Gonzalez
12/06/16

Throughout the semester, I was introduced to many sub-fields of gender studies. Many were interesting to me, like fat studies, marriage structure, and masculinity. But what really interested me was the connection between masculinity, body image, fat studies, and how much I could relate my own life to it, especially the athletics portion of it.
Ever since I was young, I was always encouraged to do sports and live a healthy life style. I started wrestling in high school, and that is when I truthfully started to care about my body image and muscularity. Now, as a sophomore in college who entered his 6th year in the sport of wrestling, all I think about is what I have eaten, what I will do for a work out, was my work out enough to burn off what I ate, what I can eat later, and how many times a day I need to work out. Using the research for my literature review, I read books from different fields like fat studies and psychology to better understand and explain how these are connected. It shocked me to how much this actually has to do with me. Reading the Adonis Complex, I realized that a lot of men, probably myself included, have a bad body image because they don’t feel as if they are “big enough”. These men get negative self images of themselves due to what is called “Muscular Dysmorphia”. This mental block these men have leads to either a life of obsessing about working out and dieting, or an eating disorder. I have learned in this class that eating disorders are not a “feminine” thing, and that the crisis of male eating disorders is a growing one. I will admit, in 6 years of wrestling I have participated in very unhealthy actions to do what I could to make weight, or get back to the thin and cut body I was used to during wrestling season. Wrestling has definitely taught me a lot of good lessons, but it also has made me do things I am not proud of.
I will use my new knowledge from gender studies to help give back to the wrestling community when I graduate school. Currently, I am an economics major and that really does not have anything to with the topics of fat studies, body image, and masculinity. However, I want to be a part time wrestling coach along with my job whatever it may be. But, I will use my position as an authority figure in children’s lives to teach them the importance of healthy weight loss, and a healthy body image. I feel like at a high school level, it is easier to be a successful wrestler without practicing the very unhealthy “yo-yo” effect with their weight, which involves repeated rapid weight loss and weight gain over a few months’ time. As a coach, I plan on engraining kids with these lessons to help them live healthier lives and further lower the high risk these wrestlers have at getting an eating disorder.
Gender studies 101 this semester really taught me a lot of interesting stuff, especially about myself. Realizing that these fields have really impacted my life for the past 6 years, I realized it is time for a change in myself, and time to make a change in the world. Even though wrestlers make up a very small percent of the population, I intend to use my new found knowledge from gender studies to help contribute to the sport that made me the young man I am today by educating the youth of the sport about the possible harms and how to avoid them.

From Theory to Praxis: Defying the Gender Dictate of Tatik-Papik

When Rosie Molinary visited our class, she spoke about the way in which social expectations can be both reflected in, and dictated by, media and advertisement. These norms are internalized by the audience and inevitably find their way into public discourse. This process is vividly displayed by gender inequality in Armenian culture, economy, and politics.

According to a 2011 public opinion study on Armenia’s mass media conducted by the CRRC, 81% of Armenians spend an average of three hours/day in front of the television (Stepanyan). For 33%, television is the main source of entertainment, stealing seven to twelve hours of their time daily (Stepanyan). Armenian soap operas are watched by 80% of the population (Stepanyan). Female protagonists, for the most part, don’t work in these soap operas— it seems their characters are created only to engage in secret schemes, cry endlessly, and experience violence. Per the Yerevan-based NGO Society Without Violence, images of women crying, depressed, or experiencing violence make up 60% of all Armenian soap operas (Stepanyan). Women’s bodies are also used to advertise products and to attract customers. In Armenian magazine ads, 50% of women are pictured wearing revealing clothing, lingerie, or are completely naked (Stepanyan).

Politically, 60% of Armenian men believe that a woman could never be a good leader. Out of eighteen government ministers, only two are women—and out of 131 members of Parliament, only fourteen.

This reigning paradigm is represented in the famous monument known as Tatik-Papik, overlooking Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Tatik-Papik translates literally to “grandma-grandpa,” and pictures the heads of an elderly man and woman side-by-side. The woman’s head is covered, and she has a covering over her mouth, displaying the belief that a woman ought to be publicly invisible and silent.

In The Color of Wealth, Meizhu Liu et. al. writes “Income feeds your stomachs, but assets changes your head” (8). When an individual must live from paycheck-to-paycheck, they are forced to think about how they’ll make the next day. But when an individual has a set of resources that allows them to think about their future in a positive way, they can strategize about the future, create and take advantage of opportunity.

In a society like Armenia’s where men dominate political and economic life and women are expected to remain at home, all assets within the family are held or controlled by men. Women cannot leave their husband or exert any sort of sway within the marriage because they rely on the income from his held wealth. Now compound this with the way in which women are sexualized in advertisement, but their sexuality is repressed in the public domain—where women are expected to remain home until married and must then remain in the home and never enter spheres outside of education or care.

Thus, a big step towards gender equality that an Armenian non-profit, like our Fund for Armenian Relief, can offer is an opportunity for Armenian women to increase their wealth and assets. I propose to our donors that we launch a program that designs a platform for Armenian women in rural villages to sell their hand-crafted goods on a Eurasian/international level, with a potential clientele of other Eurasian countries or Diasporan Armenians. We will work with our local FAR employees to identify which women/villages are interested in working with us, and the products they desire to sell, and to provide a certain level of quality control. We will also use our current designer and development team to put together a website that will sell these goods and provide a brief bio on each woman. As their products gain wider popularity, these women will gain a new asset: a clientele base. Because our entire overhead is covered by one donor, we will give all proceeds from sales to each producer, less the cost of maintenance. As each woman’s revenue stream increases and this enriches their community, they will hold much heavier sway within their respective villages. They will gain business savvy and confidence, as well as the financial assets, to hold their own and thus enrich both their communities and families, and in this way, the gender dictate of Tatik-Papik may be defied and overthrown.

 

Works Cited

Lui, Mezhui. The Color of Wealth. New York Press: New York, 2006. Print. Accessed

November 2016.

Stepanyan, Ani. “The Image of Women in Armenian Media/Video.” Information Analytical

            Portal. 4 April 2015.

From Theory to Praxis: High School Outreach Program

Since I have not taken a gender and sexuality studies class before this semester, most of the concepts we discussed in class and from the readings were very new to me. This class has truly allowed me to broaden my horizons of how I view the world and society. Before this semester, I was only aware of gender and sexuality as binaries, but I now see how society has constructed them to be viewed this way. As we began discussing new topics in depth, I started to think about my education regarding gender and sexuality, or lack thereof, prior to this class. In middle school, I had the standard health and sex education classes, but we mostly touched on only the biological aspects of each rather than the emotional and psychological aspects. In high school, we did not have any type of sex education; in fact, it seemed forbidden to discuss any topics regarding gender and sexuality. However, this class has allowed me to understand how important and crucial it is to have open dialogue about these topics in everyday life. Therefore, for my theory to praxis final project I set out to open this dialogue in high schools in the Charlotte area.

As a member of Rape Awareness Committee, I volunteered to be in charge of our High School Outreach Program. In the beginning, I did it purely because I was from the Charlotte area so I had contacts at many local high schools, but as the semester went on, I realized how much of an impact we could truly make with this program due to the lack of health and sex education in the local high schools. Therefore, I began researching other sex education programs, narrowing down what exactly I wanted to focus on, and how we wanted to convey our message. After meeting with Georgia Ringle and Ashley Fry, I decided to focus on consent and positive and healthy relationships as these topics are pertinent and rarely discussed in schools. We found that most schools’ sex education programs are very abstinence-based so many students have never discussed these topics and a strong stigma surrounds conversation of these topics.

In working with the rest of my committee, we put together a presentation that focused on opening a discussion with students based on the norm of reciprocity: the more open and honest we are with them, the more open they will hopefully be with us. We begin our presentation by showing a video of Davidson students discussing key aspects of positive and healthy relationships and giving examples of personal sexual experiences where their knowledge of consent and choice was important. Following this video, we share why we personally are each here giving this presentation and a little bit about our own sexual identity and experiences. We hope that our willingness to share our beliefs and experiences will open a line of communication for the students to discuss their personal experiences and ask questions. In order to further engage the students and for us to frame the conversation towards the audience, we then have them fill out a series of anonymous questions regarding gender and sexual identity as well as personal experiences. This then leads us into our presentation about consent and healthy relationships. In addition to sharing definitions and characteristics of each, we ask students to share their beliefs and knowledge about each topic. We then give the students hypothetical situations and ask them what they would do in each case. One thing we want to emphasize is that there is more than one right way to handle any of these situations; each person will probably handle them a little bit differently. After hearing the students share their opinions on each situation, we each give our own answer and explanation for how we would potentially handle it.  We conclude our presentation by allowing everyone to write down questions anonymously on note cards, which we then read aloud and answer to the best of our ability for the group.

Overall, we have given two presentations so far and have multiple scheduled for the spring. Just from the two presentations we have given, I have been able to see how much of an impact we can have. In one of our presentations to seventh and eighth grade girls at Circle de Luz, several of the girls were already sexually active, but were unaware of the meaning of the words consent and contraception. Though this was highly concerning in the moment, by the end of the presentation, they were all confident in their own ability to ask for and give consent, aware of their choice, and knew to always use protection. Personally, the impact we were able to make from this one presentation was worth all the time and effort I put into creating this program. However, I am looking forward to our presentations in the spring and to seeing the further impact we can make the community.

Theory to Praxis: GSS Knowledge at Home & Abroad

Over my semester as a study of gender & sexuality studies, I have encountered a multitude of concepts, theories, authors, and readings that have lead me to develop a new understanding of the world and its workings. Beyond what I have learned in the formal setting of class, I have learned how to approach my society and other cultures with a new outlook on the structures in place. This course in gender & sexuality studies will provide me with valuable knowledge as I rapidly approach my junior year study abroad experience. I intend to go to St. Petersburg, Russia for my junior year to continue my study of political science & Russian language & culture. I will bring several key concepts from gender & sexuality studies to my abroad experience that will undoubtedly guide me to be a more respectful guest and to exercise cultural relativism in my host country.

Having read Lila Abu-Lughod’s “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others,” I have come to understand the danger of approaching new cultures with a savior complex, be it intentionally or subliminally. In the often-ethnocentric perspective I have received as a student in the United States, Russia is very frequently presented as a country that is historically behind the times. One example that comes to my mind is that imperial serfdom is vehemently vilified, while the true horror of American slavery is often glossed over in the classroom. Vestiges of Cold War biases constantly tint the way Russia and its people are framed, in both the academic setting and within the news media. The same attitude often reflected onto the Middle East can be seen toward Russia, as well: the savior complex. Russia is constantly portrayed as deeply sexist and backward compared to the West, which propagates a dangerous notion that these women need us to save them from the evils of their repressive society. This portrayal rests on the highly problematic progress narrative that we attempted to deconstruct throughout the semester. Furthermore, all societies are sexist. It strikes me as a deflection to address our own unjust power structures to pass the buck to a “more sexist country.”

Connected to the savior complex is a key concept that was completely new to me this semester: homonationalism. Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported undeniably homophobic legislation and civil society has displayed violence toward LGBTQ individuals. However, much like our discussion of the Middle East, homonationalism has permeated through our thoughts on queerness in Russia. Despite the marginalization of queer identities in the United States, our (recent) legalization of same-sex marriage and our general acceptance of white, upper class gay couples can lead to criticism of Russia’s extreme anti-gay laws because, hey, at least the U.S. is better than them! I have certainly heard my fair share of Russia and Middle Eastern countries labeled as homophobic and anti-gay, but it wasn’t until GSS this semester that I realized that, despite American criticism, we certainly don’t live in a society accepting of most queer identities and lifestyles.

This semester has challenged the way I think about nearly everything. I no longer think of anything as “natural,” and no longer accept aspects of my culture as normatively right or better. I look forward to bringing my new knowledge on my adventure abroad and beyond.

 

Theory to Praxis: Intersectionality within RAC

This past semester, one thing that really interested me in GSS101 was the concept of intersectionality. It is important to recognize everyone’s co-existing identities, and I sometimes feel like certain organizations on campus have a hard time of doing that, if there is not representation of those different identities within the club. For example, I am a member of the Rape Awareness Club at Davidson, and we struggle to make sure that our events are queer inclusive. There are queer members in the club (myself included), but we find it difficult to include non-hetero sexual assault as one of our main concerns without assigning a queer person as a “spokesperson” for the entire community.

Next semester, I plan on finding ways to incorporate the queer community into our weekly meetings, no matter what we’re discussing. Perhaps we can try to designate a specific committee to talking about how RAC can involve the queer community in order to get us started. Another idea would be to invite those who would want to get involved from Q&A (another club on campus). Events such as the sex positivity fair and Take Back the Night should be advertised as queer inclusive.

RAC does a lot of good work on campus, and they spearhead a lot of the most notable events. So, it is extremely important for RAC to recognize the aspects they may be lacking. Intersectionality is not an easy concept to understand. Additionally, it takes a lot of effort to obtain and maintain an intersectional, inclusive environment. I plan on approaching the club as a whole, and hopefully discussing together what would work best in order to recognize non-hetero sexual assault as well.