For me and many others, receiving an education from the University of Idaho is one of the best gifts we’ve ever been given. The campus is beautiful, the faculty and staff are welcoming, and the student body is diverse–or is it?
According to the numbers, 71% of students are white and only 29% of students are people of color. For a national average, 58% of all college students in America are white and the remaining 42% are people of color. From the 1970s to today, these percentages have been shifting more towards middle ground.
Although the diversity numbers for the UI may be a little higher than other universities, it’s not something to be proud of, at least not yet.
After talking to a few professors on campus, I learned that the faculty at the UI is disparagingly white as well. I was told that there are only about two dozen faculty of color. So how can we make our classrooms more inclusive?
“I appreciate that you don’t wear bras, but, just so you know, your boobs will get really saggy when you get older.”
Although we have come a long way since the bra-burning second wave of feminism she’s used to, breasts and feminism are still bosom buddies.
With the Free the Nipple movement gaining popularity, many womxn are acknowledging how absurd it is that the public can see the entirety of someone’s breast tissue, but oh god no! Not the nipple! How could you?! It’s just too much!
Everyone’s nipples look the same regardless of gender, but some people just haven’t latched on to that message. To combat the nipple discrimination, some businesses have created campaigns that sell T-shirts and swim tops that cover a womxn’s nipple with a man’s nipple. Some medical centers have even created informative breast cancer screening videos using a man’s breast as he stands in front of a womxn.
When a womxn’s breast is exposed on TV (Janet Jackson’s Superbowl scandal, anyone?), it is somehow more offensive to viewers than characters violently murdered on screen. This promotes the message that nipples are worse than crime. Nipples are crime.
Passing is about performance. Passing is about presentation. Passing is about appearance and external markers of identity. Because most of the world only knows each of us through how we look, and we never get to explain our inner nuances to them, then they only see us for what we are the outside. They make assumptions for what our outward selves signify for our inner selves. Our identity and beliefs are assumed from a quick glance. Usually people think of gender or race with the topic of passing, but passing can involve a huge range of personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, disability or ability, job occupation, level of education, intelligence, economic class, and social status. Passing can signify any personal characteristic of identity.
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, published in 1999, is a key text for feminist theory, queer theory, and continental philosophy. She wrote several other books on gender and has a position as a professor at the University of California Berkeley. Her books are regarded as difficult to read due to their long, unstructured sentences and many references to other philosophers that it is assumed the reader knows. Regardless, I still think her work is valuable because of its contributions to the larger field of gender theory and how we think about gender today. I will give a summary of Gender Trouble, explaining the concepts she covers.
Women are constantly presented as sex objects in the media (Advertisements, movies, etc.). This degrades women and can cause many insecurities and issues for women who are constantly surrounded by this hypersexualized, unrealistic image of what we expect women to be. We all know this though because this content is constantly getting called out and criticized. Something surrounding this issue that isn’t so popular is how it hurts a woman’s sexuality as well. Problems surrounding sexuality aren’t just reserved for women, there are so many issues surrounding how we should express our sexuality and if it should be accepted for all genders. This is not only perpetuated by the media industry but by porn as well. These industries help to degrade women, perpetuate stereotypes about all genders, and contribute to the idea that women’s sexuality shouldn’t be taken seriously because it is only there for the pleasure of straight men.
Here we are, back to the patriarchy. Where a woman’s sexuality is only supposed to be explored for men to look at and men aren’t supposed to explore their sexuality at all unless it’s to bang as many women as he can.
When I was a little girl, all I wanted was to be a teenager. I pictured my future self as a popular cheerleader, a girl who had an endless stream of boyfriends, a gaggle of giggling girlfriends, and a closet full of fashionable clothes. As I got older, I realized that my fantasy wasn’t really me. When I was young, all I wanted to do was wear makeup, but my mom made a rule that I wasn’t allowed to wear it until I was in seventh grade. Through my sophomore year of high school, I experimented with makeup, but I never really felt comfortable wearing it. I wasn’t good at putting it on, and it just never really felt like me. Now, I’m in my sophomore year of college and I haven’t really worn makeup since my junior prom.
Last week I had the privilege to meet with Madeline Scyphers, an activist for the queer community. I had a lot of questions about her community, and Madeline had a lot of answers. I started out by asking Madeline what her identities are so I could get an idea of where she is coming from. She has many, and her response was, “I identify as trans. I identify somewhere between a transwoman and someone who identifies as nonbinary transfeminine. What that means to me is I do feel like the binary gender system of being a man or a woman does not necessarily fit me as a descriptor all the time. I never identify as someone who is a man or a boy, and I really hate it when someone does gender me that way.”
That’s just one aspect of her identity. When I asked her about her sexual orientation, she responded, “The best word I use is queer. I do and have always primarily dated women, but I’m attracted to most people, at least some of the time, but not all people all of the time. Bi and pan don’t really encompass that; only if you explain it to someone. Since I have to explain it to someone anyways, because it’s [the terms bi and pan] implying things that I don’t want it to imply, why don’t you just use the term queer, which is purposefully vague? I can use it, and you don’t make assumptions about what it means.” There’s more to Madeline than her sexual orientation and gender identity. Madeline said, “I also identify as an activist, I am a math student, and that’s really important to me, and it plays into a larger identity of feeling like kind of a nerd.” Continue reading “A Discussion of Language and Inclusion with Activist Madeline Scyphers”→