Posted by: Naima | November 4, 2009

Oh, Academia!

This semester, I’ve been able to take classes that add more perspective to my own daily gaze. The following are my courses this semester: Field Geology in Maine, Public Discourse, Race and U.S. Women’s Movements, and Black Feminist Thought.

Out of these four, one might stick out. Why am I taking GEO, you ask? I have to. While the senior class is the last one with these specific requirements, Bates College has always been an institution that pushes its students to study outside of the realm they are most comfortable with. This particular Geology course spends lab time all over Maine. From Yarmouth Island to Acadia National Park, my Professor and Teaching Assistants guide out 100-level class through the history of rock formations in Maine. We leave some of the most beautiful locations with new understandings of lava, crystals, and sediments. Here’s a picture Professor Dykstra Eusden took when the entire class did an overnight at Penobscot River and Rip Gorge, about a five-hour car ride from campus.

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Between sketching contacts of different rock formations, my studies have been focused on other relevant issues in the United States. In my Public Discourse class, my peers and I have been actively creating speeches about the intricacies of American health care reform. Professor Jan Hovden (also the current debate coach) has given us the freedom of choosing any topic within the health care debate and allows us to switch topics – presumably providing the students the ability to argue different ideologies and understand all sides to this debate. My last speech aimed to convince my audience that explicitly denouncing abortion through through Bart Stupak‘s amendment would be both immoral and an example of a “government takeover”. Regardless of my own ideologies or those of my peers, being able to present coherent arguments to a 15-person class for 10 minutes is a good skill to have. And one that must be nurtured. Taking this course, aside from helping me distinguish the writing strategies of essays and speeches, has put me in a position where part of my grade depends on how well versed I am in the current health care debate. While I fancy myself to be someone who goes to great lengths to stay up to date on what’s going on on in the news, it’s easy to function within this beautifully autumnal bubble and ask, “H.R. 32-what?

My last two courses this semester have a ton in common. Between Black Feminist Thought and Race and U.S. Women’s Movements, I spend about 6 hours each week discussing the importance of feminist theory in the context of the societal normalities that much of the United States holds dear. These converstations take place in small classes, where the students are seated in a round table manner.

Like Public Discourse, these courses have facilitated conversations about the gender-related, newsworthy events of the 2008 Presidential Election, the debates on South African runner Caster Semesnya’s gender, and Morehouse College‘s new dress code.

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Being able to explore the role of gender and race in every nook of our country’s society forces the student to ask questions of race and gender in any societal exhibition. Is Tyler Perry guilty of feminizing the black male body and stripping black females of sexuality? Or is he just a funny man in a women’s fat suit?

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Were the feminist movements of the 1960s ignited by the sexism occuring within the male-dominant Leftist activist movements? Or was it the catcalling on the streets and the media portrayals of women that propelled the movements? Should women even be regarded as an oppressed group in the first place? Dissecting theory with Professor Sue Houchins in Black Feminist Thought and excavating campaigns with Professor Melinda Plastas in Race and U.S. Women’s Movements go hand in hand to provide¬† students with the tools to make up our own minds.

In the aftermath of Maine’s election, many of Maine’s voting residents (such as myself) will be forced to define equality. There are many ways to describe what equality in the United States looks like; I like to think that taking particular classes this semester have facilitated my ability to see all sides of this argument and come to my own conclusion.

Peace and then some,

Naima

 

Images contribued by http://aliyasking.com/2009/02/20/the-critique-tyler-perry-as-medea/, http://www1.essence.com/news_entertainment/news/articles/south_african_runner_must_prove_gender, and Dykstra Eusden.

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