GASSP colloquium celebrates girl power

By Jess Decina

The actions and influences of women, from the fictional to the famous, will be discussed at the annual Gender Studies Colloquium, taking place next Thursday.

The all-day affair, with lectures such as “Repression, Submission, and Power Plays: Class and Gender in Film and Literature” and “Media, Literature and Feminist Identity,” appears to have an audience limited strictly to women and Gender Studies students. But Dr. Kelly Noonan, director of the program, believes otherwise.

“It’s much more open than that,” she said. “The main goal is to have students have a chance to present things that they’ve worked on throughout the year or the semester.”

Although the colloquium has been successful in past years, there’s one big difference in this year’s program. The event will also reveal the new name of the Gender Studies program: the Gender Studies and Sexuality Program, or GASSP, Noonan said.

“It’s really more to encompass everything that this program is supposed to be about to reflect what we are already teaching,” she said. “The courses have changed over the years. I hope it can raise awareness for the program in and of itself.”

Noonan hopes to see a turnout from non-Gender Studies students, as she describes the colloquium as a “great chance to see what other students are doing in terms of scholarship.”

Kimberly Van Heygen, a December 2007 graduate, agrees. Van Heygen is presenting her research on women in Russia during World War I, and to her, the colloquium isn’t about the power of women, but the power of an individual.

“I focused on three women, Maria Botchkareva, Berta Lask and Anna Akhmatova, and the role their actions and writings had in transforming the traditional views of women,” she said. “Their views on the war helped shape and create new gender roles for women. I hope that people will gain a new understanding of the power that an individual can have on re-shaping ideas that were ingrained in the mind of a society for centuries.”

Junior Robert Crawley’s approach to the colloquium is a little less historical and much more focused on literature, he said. His presentation, entitled, “Class Overruled: How Gender Expectations Undermine Class Differences in Pygmalion and Mrs. Dalloway,” studies how two female literary characters face challenges because of both their gender and their social status.

“The fact that both these characters are female is, as I have determined, a much more limiting factor than social class,” he said. “What I discovered was that both of these women live in a patriarchal society, and being women limited what they were allowed to do much more than their respective social classes.”

Crawley pointed out that in both works, even a woman of high social stature was not expected to do more than exercise proper social etiquette.

“[They were] expected to be capable of little more than hosting social events and speaking in ways that were predetermined by the men of their societies,” he said.

With the series less than a week away, Van Heygen is excited to share something she’s been so passionate about with an audience.

“I hope that that colloquium would allow students to learn about the ever-changing gender roles, both historical and present-day,” she said.

The Gender Studies Colloquium will take place next Thursday, April 3, from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Sweigart 115. The event is free and open to the public.

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