By Samantha Sawh
Inequality in sports, feminist messages in Disney movies and access to abortions will be just part of the agenda when the Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) program hosts its 34th annual colloquium on April 7 in Sweigart Auditorium.
This yearly event is a presentation of student and faculty research.
“What we have tried to do is find speakers who are working on issues that encompass the kind of scope that our gender and sexuality studies program has,” said Mary Morse, professor of English and director of the GSS program.
The reach of the colloquium is not limited to the Rider community or only to students who are taking courses within the program.
“I’ll be presenting a paper on Anne Boleyn and the rumors and accusations of witchcraft that followed her name around for the centuries after her death,” said junior film, TV and radio major Jennifer Fanelli, one of the presenters. “I go into how those rumors got started, if there is any truth to them and why someone would do that to a woman in power.”
Another speaker at this colloquium is Amelia Bonow, a woman who received much media coverage after starting #ShoutYourAbortion in response to the U.S. House of Representatives’ decision to defund Planned Parenthood back in September. She has since started her own pro-choice activism organization.
“I think it’s a really important issue and [Bonow] specifically has shown how social media can be used as a very effective platform in issues that are important to women,” said Morse.
Students see it as an honor to be chosen to present at the colloquium.
“I was really excited to find out I was a speaker at this event,” Fanelli said. “It’s such a great thing to get involved in. I love my GSS minor, and to get to showcase what I’ve learned to others who are interested or curious about what we do is great. I might have squealed a little bit when I saw my email.”
Three of the students who will speak also presented at the New Jersey Women’s & Gender Studies Consortium Undergraduate Colloquium on April 1. They are junior psychology major Melissa Morrissey, senior secondary education major Alia Danch and senior theory and composition major Jay Maenhout.
The event will run throughout the day, with the first panel titled “The Hydra-Headed Nature of Sex Discrimination” beginning at 9:45 a.m. The next panel is the GSS Awards Presentation, running from 1:10 to 1:30 p.m.
Bonow will speak for about an hour, beginning at 1:30 p.m. At 2:50 p.m., a panel will discuss “Deconstructing Popular Representations of Women: From Joan of Arc to Disney.” The last panel, called “Activism and Awareness: Sexism, Feminism, and Fertility,” runs from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
“When students hear these issues raised, when they see fellow students examining issues related to gender and sexuality, then they begin to understand that it is not just a narrow group that is looking at this,” said Morse. “These issues are actually relevant to them as well.”
Fanelli, who attended last year’s colloquium and referred to it as “wonderful and varied,” agrees that all Rider students can benefit from attending.
“I think students should definitely come out,” Fanelli said. “It’s very eye-opening to see how much GSS comes into play in all aspects of life. The people presenting have worked so hard and put together a lot of cool presentations together. Everyone can take away something from this colloquium.”
Morse believes it’s important to discuss these issues, as they connect to the larger discussion happening across the country.
“We are talking about gender and diversity,” Morse said. “It is part of our national conversation, and by coming to a colloquium like this, you can begin to understand those hot buttons.”
Published in the 4/6/16 edition.