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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Introducing our Weekly Women in History Segment!: Elizabeth Blackwell

For out first Women in History post, check out this article about the first female doctor in the United States: Elizabeth Blackwell.

She was trained at the Geneva Medical College and worked in gynecology. Aside from her work in the medical field, she was also very involved in social reform movements such as "women’s rights, family planning, hygiene, eugenics, medical education, sexual purity and Christian socialism."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret

The Gender and Women's Studies program hosted the Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret last Friday, January 16 to a packed, sold-out crowd. Below is an account from GWS student Kendall Connolly about the event and how the experience pushed her to think about larger gender issues in the community.

"On the 16th of January, Villanova University had the privilege of sharing their “catholic heritage” with Martha Graham Cracker. Her cabaret attracted a mixed audience of all genders and all ages of Villanovans to a tiny theatre in Gary Hall. Anxious to see the “guts and glamour of a Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret,” many audience members opted to stand for the duration of the two-hour show as not to miss it. Fortunately for those standing, the show lived up to its name. Not only was the cabaret highly entertaining and hysterical, but Martha Graham Cracker brought up issues that the audience was longing to hear about.
            Graham Cracker recalled an instance where she encountered the phrase “use thy freedom well.” She then demonstrated what this quote meant to her by telling the audience about the time her and her band visited Poland. In the middle of a crowded theatre and dressed head to toe in drag, Graham Cracker shouted “where my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters at?” She called this a “cultural boo boo” because no one in the room responded. Later, she found out that one man in the theatre had to leave because he could not reveal his true identity. She announced to the audience “use thy freedom well” because some people don’t have such freedoms. With this story, Graham Cracker demonstrated that gay men and women in America have certain freedoms that gay individuals in other cultures do not. The lesson was that members of LGBTQ are finally starting to earn the freedoms they rightfully deserve, and as such, must not take those freedoms lightly. Graham Cracker is a living example of not taking her freedoms for granted because she expressed herself and owns her identity while simultaneously informing others to do the same.
            With the story of her visit to Poland, Graham Cracker touched on a large topic currently facing LGBTQ individuals internationally. For homosexual individuals residing in Poland, there are many less freedoms and rights available to them. For example, there is no recognition of same-sex relationships with regards to family rights. As such, they are not permitted to be married or to adopt children. Even with the few laws that protected homosexual individuals, it is clear that there is still discrimination present. However, the question still remains: if Poland has limited rights for gay and lesbian people, and nonexistent rights for those of nonbinary genders, what does that mean for transculture? While many cultures are already resistant to excepting homosexual individuals into their culture, they are less so inclined to accepting transgender people. Clear, the transcommunity is lumped together with the homosexual community, however, they are very different and while people may accept same sex relationships, the idea of gender transformations is very alien to us. Poland and many other countries must now deal with the rights of the transcommunity.
            Based on the lack of transgender rights and small amount of gay-lesbian rights, I do not think it is an overstep to say that gay-lesbian rights acts as a stepping stone to transgender right. It appears that the transcommunity depends on the gay-lesbian community to make their dreams a reality. It is admirable that these two communities have combined together to change culture, however, this has led to an interdependence in their shared community. This is not a bad thing, but it is noteworthy that their community relies on one another regardless of how different their identities are."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Social Issue Talk with A Priest, Rabbi, And Imam

Buzzfeed.com produced a fascinating video involving a Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam discussing their faiths in relation to one another and greater social contexts. Check it out here.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Guest Blogger: Julia Tich

GWS major Julia Tich is a blogger at "Be the Beautiful." Below is a post from this blog concerning gender. You can find more of this blog at https://juliatich.wordpress.com/. Enjoy!

"Born This Way?"

I am going to put a warning right at the beginning of this post. It is probably going to be controversial. Recently I’ve been having a harder time determining whether if something is going to have a shock value as I get further engrained in my beliefs and “adulthood” journey. For example if I were to write, “In his new music video for Fools, Troye Sivan is shown kissing his boyfriend in a beautiful, yet tragic scene as the boy’s father enters with rage” I wouldn’t think twice about something being “problematic” in that sentence. But certainly there are people out there who would find some sort of offense to it. The difference with this post though is that it is much more theoretical and highly debated among even the most liberal people. (I would usually use ‘humans’ here but I am attempting to stay away from any malesque words as I am a raging man-hater).

The question that I want to think about (keep in mind my opinions on this are constantly changing) is gender as a social construct vs. sexual orientation as a biological phenomenon. I will start with the first. Prior to coming to college I didn’t think much about gender or gender identity or all the buzz words that surround my brain and existence today. I thought in very binary terms like the majority of the people in my life. The first time I heard someone say, “Gender is a social construct” was by my friend Scott. (Shout-out to Scott Leighow, he’s incredibly awesome and sings pretty). I remember him saying this in a sort of silly way when someone would say or do or complain about something because of their gender. Even so this idea got my thinking. As I continued studying and learning about gender over the next two years, I clung to that idea, that gender was completely socially constructed.

But recently, I have been rethinking this. My first crisis that occurred a few weeks ago was in defining the term “gender”. Gender is defined in different ways depending on the perspective and not having a solid definition for myself was frustrating. I kept thinking, “I am a Gender and Women’s Studies major and I have no clue what gender actually is, that’s pretty pathetic”. At this point in time I am thinking of “Gender” as a combination of three main things. Gender identity, gender expression, and Biological Sex. When those three criteria are aligned with how US society thinks they should be at a given time, you can happily be cisgender! And when they are not, you are thrown (or happily reside) in the queer world.

Let’s take a look at those three parts. Biological Sex is the least likely to be socially constructed. Of course one may undergo surgery, but penises are penises and vaginas are vaginas and they have their abilities and functions. It’s not really that simple, especially when intersex is taken into account but generally that is how it goes.

The next criteria is gender identity. Basically how you are going to identify to yourself and to others in terms of gender. Certain things about gender identity have to be socially constructed. Such as the words that you use or the communities that you belong in childhood. If I lived in a community that did not use the word “genderqueer” I obviously wouldn’t be able to use that word. But would I have those feelings and just not know how to describe them? Gender identity is such a personal thing when you really think about it. How can society tell me how I feel? Yes I was taught to like feminine things. I was told I was female from the beginning. But I am still an individual. I think when you say that gender is completely socially constructed, it takes away individuality. We become robots in which those that do not conform as social deviants. Those that do not conform are a failure.

Gender expression seems to be similar to me to gender identity. You are going to pick up on styles from society. You are going to be taught how you should dress and told not to stray from certain parameters. These realities can have a huge influence on you. But at the same time, you have your own loves. Your own self and opinions. Society may have created the options, but you have the ability to look society in the eye and follow your heart away from the norm.

What does this mean when it comes to “gender as a social construct”? My answer is that it is both and it depends on the individual and situation. Maybe biology has a bigger role in some people than others. Maybe society influenced people in different ways. But I think to say that “gender is 100% without a doubt a social construct” can force people into pickles and discomfort.

Now on to sexual orientation. This is probably where there are going to be more readers disagreeing with me. Everyone (I’m assuming here) has heard “Born this Way” by Lady Gaga. We have seen a huge push in “finding the gay gene” and showing the world that being queer is not our fault. That we didn’t choose this. That we were born this way! And honestly I think of lot of this has to do with money and trying to relate to cis straight people. Personally, I am unconvinced that it does any good with actually destigmatizing queer people. Instead of saying, “your love and behavior and dress is beautiful” they can say, “You have gross sex because your body tells you to”.

I do think a lot of sexual orientation has to do with biology, sure. But I don’t think it all does. I think society and life experiences and people we meet can have an impact too. Experiences really matter when it comes to certain preferences so why shouldn’t they matter when it comes to romantic and sexual preferences as well. If we say gender is a social construct that means that femininity and masculinity are constructed. However, at the same time we are saying that our sexual orientation at birth reads that we are going to be attracted to feminine people. But what if society never constructed said feminine people! There is a mismatch here.

It also pressures us with labels. If sexual orientation was something we are born with 100%, then we should know who we are right? It should be consistent. But strictly speaking from personal experience this is not my reality at all. I am constantly changing my words. From straight to bi to queer to gay to panromantic/homosexual to pan everything with feminine-only attraction to who the hell cares. I am completely content keeping my queer heart open to whatever life throws my way.

To conclude this discussion I want to say again that my mind is always going and always changing. I can only speak from my experience and my knowledge. I don’t necessarily care if I offend people a little but I don’t want to hurt anyone. So please take this post with a grain of salt as I continue to strive to Be the Beautiful.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret Comes to Villanova!

The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret is coming to Villanova this Friday, January 15 at 6:30 PM! Come see this amazing performer for FREE in the Black Box, Garey 029. 

Welcome Back!

Happy New Year and a warm welcome back from the Gender and Women's Studies Program!

Stay tuned for information on upcoming GWS news and events.