Thursday, July 14, 2016

Understanding the Nuances

Finally, a return to normalcy. Today, class started with a lecture from Professor Hanson about the evolution of the feminist movement. In the 18th and 19th centuries, women received only a domestic education while men received a more complete education. However, Quakers were fairly progressive for their time and believed in gender equality. Mary Wollstonecraft, the Seneca Falls Convention, and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Declaration of Sentiment all helped advance the women's suffrage movement, which eventually ended triumphantly with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women voting rights, in 1920. Women also joined the Civil Rights Movement with African-Americans, and the Civil Rights Act was passed, with Title VII preventing discrimination by race or gender. However, the feminist movement continued beyond that with the National Organization for Women, which promoted equality, and protests, such as the one held at the Miss America pageant in 1968. They also received opposition from a demographic of conservative women, such as Marabel Morgan and Phyllis Schafly, who reinforced the traditional gender roles,

After Professor Hanson's lecture about the history of feminism, we received another lecture, this one from Ms. Angela Simms about the perceived idea of "womanhood." She started out by saying that womanhood presumes middle-class, white, cis-gender, and heterosexual women, which is an image of a privileged woman. Instead, many people are disadvantaged due to intersecting oppressions of class, race, and other interconnecting identities. Oppression can also be attributed to binary thinking and hierarchies within each of the categories. Despite common groupings, people will have varying experiences, although standpoint theory states that a group's location in power relation results in common challenges. This commonality allows effective political action to occur, as people within groups will end up sharing certain viewpoints. However, oppression can also occur due to the controlling images put out by dominant groups in society to manipulate the supposedly subordinate groups into subconsciously adopting attributes of those archetypes. Her lecture was very informative for me, as it helped me get a more nuanced understanding of how society operates.

Once her lecture had concluded, we proceeded to watch the movie "Difret" about a 14 year-old girl named Hirut, who is abducted and raped, but manages to escape and kill her abductor, after which she is taken in by the police with the likely sentence of death. However, she is defended by a female lawyer named Meaza, who is part of the Andinet Women's Lawyer Association. Against all odds, they manage to win the court proceedings and Hirut is absolved of killing the man, although she is not able to return to her village because she has been exiled by leaders of the family's traditional community, in which abduction is a tradition, due to her killing her captor. While the movie was certainly inspiring, it seemed to have a bias towards Western culture, as others may not necessarily view the traditional culture as wrong.

In our discussion group, we also mentioned how Meaza, being a woman, still seemed to receive respect, as opposed to being discriminated against for her gender. We also discussed the conflict between traditional and modern cultures, and whether one should be kept at the expense of the other. Most were unsure of leaving behind the tradition, but in my opinion, as time moves on, we must as well in order to remain relevant. I also argued that it was not worth upholding tradition if it would result in missing out on benefits from progress, instead remaining stagnant and somewhat artificially extending the lifespan of that tradition. Instead, I think that the traditional culture should be acknowledged in writing and its legacy recognized, but that a culture needs to progress along with the rest of society.

As the last segment for our class, we had a guest speaker, Ms. Salamishah Tillet, who is working to empower people against violence towards women and children and using art as a method of discussing difficult situations. Throughout her lecture, she brought up various musicians and how they were able to influence society, as well as analyzing the meaning behind the songs. She played music from Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, and Beyonce, just to name some. Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin were active around the time of the Civil Rights Movement and helped unify people with the message of freedom. Nina Simone's "I Wish I Knew How It Felt To Be Free" seems to suggest that in the past, she had been oppressed and never truly known the feeling of freedom. We also discussed the differences between then and now, as Beyonce is also making music about the racial disparity. I suggested that during the time of the Civil Rights Movement, the disparity was rather overt, whereas now it manifests itself in more subtle forms such as stereotypes and less noticeable inequalities behind the facade of equality under the law.
On the bus ride to laser tag
Once class had ended, we returned to the Quad, where Liz, Serina, Trisha, and I soon ended up waiting in line, almost an hour before sign-ups, to secure spots at the Phillies-Mets baseball game this Friday, which will mark my first time attending a professional sports event, so I'm really excited to go. Not very long thereafter, Serina, Trisha, and I went on an excursion to play laser tag, along with over 30 other people. Although I'm not entirely certain that the two laser tag games we played justified the hour-long bus ride each way, it was really fun, even though I wasn't that great at it.
The outside of the laser tag arena
The inside of the building
I think today, Ms. Simms' lecture was the most impactful to me, as it helped me realize how society functions. I had never thought of the way different aspects of one's identity may provide varying advantages and disadvantages, or that regardless of all other aspects, any identifier creates a commonality in a person's viewpoint.


  1. Chris, I really enjoyed your thoroughness of your observations today as you had your class. I personally felt informed just by reading this. It's so impactful to be taking a social justice program right now in the current state of affairs of our country. Even someone who wants to focus on Computer Science, must be made aware of American Identities as well as racial tensions. If you think about it, we have not had as long of a National conversation on race as we have recently since the Civil Rights movement, and you could argue it hasn't been in the spotlight as much as this either since the Civil War. Something to think about as the election nears.

  2. Thank you! It is certainly an important time to be aware of social justice issues, as national and perhaps even global attention towards them has been increasing, particularly because of the upcoming election. I think it's important that everyone is informed and aware of the social issues and inequalities occurring at any given time, especially now, as these issues pertain to everyone, although the connections may not always be obvious. I appreciate the feedback!