Further thoughts on gender issues
This semester I am extremely excited, no… I’m downright ecstatic, to do an independent study focused on structural homophobia and sexism in society as a whole, and then an examination of it at our lovely college itself. Now, that may sound a bit general—I’ll be the first to admit I still need to iron out a few details, but I have already begun to immerse myself in queer and feminist theory with the intent of understanding the ways in which it asserts itself at Colby.
This is one of the things I love most about gender studies; I can read dense academic theory and then see it alive in the world directly around me. I am in no way an expert on structural sexism and homophobia, but already I am overwhelmed by the amount of it I see in our community. I write this to you now, dearest Colby, not to share what I have thus far learned, but to illustrate the things I anticipate that I will be investigating and the questions that I will seek answers to.
Cultural, structural and institutional inequalities are, sadly, plentiful. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. As a community, we explore them, but I’d assert we too frequently focus on the cultural causes and aspects of inequalities. How can we change power “structures” if we don’t closely examine the actual patterns and practices of the structures themselves? So then you ask, “What exactly do you mean by ‘structural’ sexism and homophobia?”
I’m sure I’ll more thoroughly define it in the coming weeks, but for the moment let’s use this: the ways in which societal power structures are organized to subordinate groups and individuals based on sex classification and/or sexual orientation. It is supported by cultural sexism and homophobia—the social norms, values, beliefs and symbols of mainstream society. Got it? Great.
Here we go! Time to scrutinize power structures at Colby! Weehoo! We must look rules, practices, how space is used and supported and so much more. It means we must not only look at the pay gap (yes, wake up, it does exist at Colby), but at the “football” and “hockey” tables in Dana, to the ways in which marginalized groups are further marginalized by being shoved and cramped into the amazing Pugh Center. It means we have to look at how we interact with these spaces and practices—the more you look at it, the more you realize how much you unintentionally and unconsciously support it. By looking at what spaces we have, we will notice what spaces we don’t yet have. Now, when I use the word space, I mean the physical space, but also cultural and fiscal support of the “space” and beyond.
For example, we don’t yet have a Gender and Sexual Diversity Resource Center. We need one. Last spring, I was part of a coalition dedicated to supporting equality and bettering power structures at Colby. This coalition created a proposal for a Gender and Sexual Diversity Resource Center. In a developing wordpress.com website (which will be made easily accessible to the Colby community), I will post the proposal and so much more, but in the meantime, I’d like to highlight the following quote from the proposal.
“Resource centers are not luxuries adopted by a chosen few, but are integral to the best liberal arts colleges in the nation. By comparison, Colby proves itself decidedly below average. Such centers affirm to female and LGBTQ students attending the College that Colby takes their safety and well-being seriously. On the other hand, the absence of a Gender and Sexual Diversity Resource Center sends quite the opposite message, especially to those affected by sexism, homophobia, harassment and sexual assault on campus.
“Given that all members of our community are affected by such behavior to one extent or another, at one time or another, and given that each abuse of power is a tear in the fabric of our community, it is a responsibility of the College to provide the much-needed space, resources and leadership for a Resource Center, which can both work to change the climate and respond effectively to incidents when they occur.
Hmm…looks to me like Colby needs to address structural sexism and homophobia. Newsflash! I’ll keep you all posted on my findings, and I urge you to explore with me. Are there things you want me to look at in particular? Any thoughts or questions? E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please! Top secret: I’d rather do this stuff than other homework anyway (shh, don’t tell!). It makes me tick.