Ask Andrea Breau
Once a month, Andrea Breau ’03 will answer a question about the new gender and sexual diversity programming on campus and how students can get involved.
Echo: You mentioned that you strongly encourage students to engage in“strange exchanges” — how do you think those can be facilitated on campus?
Andrea Breau: I’m not so sure these need to be facilitated in the sense that someone ensures that two individual bodies actually meet in a particular space, but rather, strange exchanges are already happening each time we have any type of contact with another person. In my opinion, it’s literally the space of the social that makes us all strange to one another. What do I mean by that in the Colby context? It doesn’t matter if we’re in the dining hall, at a party, or even in the bathroom or a dorm room for that matter (spaces we like to think of as “private”), every exchange we have with someone is dictated in large part by the social context and how we’re positioned in it. So for me, it’s about facilitating a multitude of new ways to think about how we interrelate to/with one another in those exchanges—all of which are strange but some of which may feel stranger than others. And no doubt, our bodies have a lot to do with that. Our social experiences are not disembodied, which means that what I experience here at Colby has everything to do with my whiteness, my able-bodiedness, my feminine gendered presentation, etc. In so many ways, I’ve never been singled out as “a stranger,” but I’ve spent a lot of time learning and teaching myself about just how strange I am. I’m not talking here about learning about “others’” differences and how to “accept” and/or “tolerate” those difference — because for me that doesn’t get to the heart of the problem. It can’t change that weird dynamic where some of us get to actively “tolerate” while others are relegated to passively “being tolerated.” Rather than identifying (an)other person as “a stranger” and treating them accordingly, we need to learn how to see ourselves as strangers. For example, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how strange it is to be white. I mean, really — it’s STRANGE to be invisible and everywhere all at once (and if you don’t know what this means, now’s the chance to find out)! And so, to end with a more practical suggestion — get acquainted with your own “strangeness” by pledging to attend at least two Pugh Center events (e-mail Tionna Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org to pledge) and come to PCB’s annual “Pugh Club Palooza” this Thursday from 7 to 9 PM! What does it mean to be a social being and have a particular body and understand ourselves always in relation to one another? The programs that Tashia Bradley, myself, and many others are working hard to plan are, at the end of the day, all about gettin’ down with your strange self. Come make it happen!