LC Gender studies department hosts symposium, Point of Access

From March 8 through 10, Lewis  & Clark held its 36th annual Gender Studies Symposium. This year, it was titled “Point of Access” and sought to examine the dynamics of resource distribution dynamics, regarding how some people are prioritized over others in society based on gender and sexuality.

Students, faculty, staff, scholars and artists came together to participate in the 3 days of panel discussions. The turnout for most of the events was significant, particularly for events that weren’t scheduled during common class times

Point of Access hosted two keynote speakers. On Friday, March 10, Author and Cultural Critic Roxane Gay enticed the audience in the Agnes Flanagan Chapel with her brazen, witty humor and insight into the issues of modern feminism, body image and sexuality.

Eli Clare held a workshop in the Gregg Pavilion on March 9 titled “Moving Beyond Pity and Inspiration: Disability as a Social Justice Issue.” Clare is a white, disabled, genderqueer writer, speaker, activist and keynote presenter. He discussed the intricate issues of ableism, disability stereotypes, discrimination and lack of access to education, employment and housing for disabled people.

“I think both Eli Clare and Roxane Gay were incredible, and all of us [student co-chairs] are so grateful for being able to bring their amazing work to this campus!” said Student Co-chair Bryn Parry ’18.

“We selected them because we felt that they both embodied our theme of access in different ways – Eli’s work uses disability rights and queer activism to advocate for a more accessible world for all people, and Roxane’s work, through its humor, approachability and frankness makes feminism accessible even without extensive prior experience,” Parry said.

On the last day of the 2017 Gender Symposium, the student-run panel entitled “Beauty, the Body, and Aesthetic Expression” allowed Lewis & Clark seniors to share their theses on LGBTQ+ related issues. The event featured moderator Brianne MacEanruig ’16 and panelists Clara Irving ’17, Frankie Lorenzini ’17 and Neal Rock ’17.

Irving’s thesis called “Violence of Being Seen: Recognition of Queerness and Non-normativity” examines the gender policing practice and  “how the creation of a ‘normative’ aesthetic works to hyper-visualize those that deviate and make them subject to the state.” Irving focused on a personal experience she had while doing her thesis research and her belief that the structured gender-binary is rooted in white European colonialism.

Lorenzini’s thesis is titled “Putting the Femme Back in Feminism: Understanding the Transfeminine Aesthetic of Survival.” She relayed some of her experiences coming out as transgender in order to support her thesis. During the question and answer portion of the panel, an audience member asked Lorenzini what impact her community had when she came out.

“When I first came out as trans, I came out as nonbinary and that was something that was perplexing to my family and caused a lot of tension between us,” Lorenzini said. “I pushed it and it wasn’t for a really long time that I decided to use she/her pronouns, choosing a more binary presentation. It was in that moment when I started feeling the support and understanding from my family coming in which still makes me feel really sad.”

Rock’s thesis called “On the Pedestal: The Infrahumanizing Nature of the ‘Goddess’ Trend and Dehumanization through Admiration” focuses on the terms “goddessing” and “pedestaling.”

“In terms of my own experience with being pedestaled, it is an overwhelming sense [in other people] to show that I was accepted but to a point where I was only accepted in a certain way which was the ‘fabulous gay boy’,” Neil said. “I think there is still very much that need to overwhelmingly show your support or place someone in a super high up place where they can only be the best thing ever and can’t have negative things contribute to them.”

The audience responded very positively to the panelists’ theses, drawing in students, faculty, staff and community members.

“I personally didn’t know what to expect, besides perhaps some discussions on the nature and effects of beauty norms on women’s perspectives,” Max Udas ’20 said. “However, I was somewhat surprised to find so much talk about this topic with relation to the struggle of transwomen. I thought this was rather informative considering the usual lack of discussion surrounding this area.”

In sum, the symposium is regarded by Parry as “a huge success.”  She added that, “The advice I’d give to any future co-chairs of any symposium on campus is to make sure go into it planning for the long term– professors are generally very understanding about symposium responsibilities, so reaching out to them about taking tests early or turning assignments in early is a great approach.”


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