Question Everything

Sophie Sharps

The statement that resonated most strongly with me this semester was Professor Jafar’s rebuttal against those who claim that you should not be critical of anything. In response, “question everything.” This statement truly sums up our entire semester’s readings, discussions, projects, posts and conversations. Sex, Gender and Society supplied me with both the knowledge and the means to do so.

Last year in Intro to Soc, I remember Professor Jafar very clearly warning everyone that once they put on the “sociology glasses,” they would never be able to see without them. Well, it wasn’t until this semester that I realized that these were more than just glasses but an entirely new vision instead. Each and every reading, blog post, video clip, documentary, news article and whatever else we used in class has contributed to and enhanced knowledge that I simply did not have before. Yes, there are issues that primarily impact women, but nothing is ever just a “women’s issue.” Throughout this class, I was able to gain access to the spectrum of problems that exist but often go unnoticed. Women are pushed into double-binds (by society and social norms expectations, by media, by men, by other women) but men are also shoved into rigid boxes that we so often ignore. Similarly, I learned about how quickly we label others as oppressed but fail to recognize the harm we place on ourselves culturally and socially (the burka and the bikini paradigm). I learned about the social devices that impel women to have children and be “good mothers,” but also the stigma placed on fathers and the challenge that fatherhood places on their masculinity. This class flipped the context of many issues that I thought I previously understood. The idea of PMS as a “culture-bound syndrome” discounted everything I have ever learned about menstruation and how strictly biological it is. Learning about sex tourism opened my eyes to the layers of privilege that Americans hold and the exploitative measures they deem acceptable when traveling abroad.

My sociology goggles have extended far beyond our classroom and have found their ways into all of my other classes, conversations with my family and friends, and really everything social. My friends on campus all joke that they feel as if they themselves are sociology majors and that they have also taken this class, just because of the amount that I refer to this class on a daily basis. Throughout the semester, I have read parts of readings out loud, I have ranted about topics that upset and appalled me (most of what we’ve learned), and have related everything that we have learned to our campus environment. I think the best (or worst and scariest) part of this class for me was how relevant and prevalent everything was to our own communities. This made the readings that much more interesting, the projects that much more engaging and the discussions that much more relevant. After reading and discussing “Grinding on the Dance Floor,” I can’t unnotice the guys that strike from behind and grab a woman’s hips to “dance.” I think about the music that plays and the idea that the college has encouraged this type of behavior by playing into norms and desires, without even being aware of how they are perpetuating gendered norms and inequality. Yesterday I saw a male student wearing a black shirt that read “DOMINATE” in thick white letters, signaling so much more to me than he could ever understand. I get angry when I hear people talking about the “girls” on this campus, or when I go to buy a toothbrush only to find that my only options are pink and sparkly. I wish there was a way to make everyone take this course so that each and every student could understand…everything! I don’t even know how to assign language to all that I have learned this semester that all students should also learn!

I enjoyed getting to know everyone in the class and I think that the seminar-style classroom encouraged and facilitated so much discussion and conversation that sparked new interests and ideas each class. The group projects turned out to be so much more than what I expected them to be; they gave us an opportunity to engage in issues on campus and extend our classroom into the broader community. They gave us a forum to begin to create important discussions on campus and to teach others what we learned and what they should know. Lastly, the blog was such a great opportunity to prove just how prevalent all of these issues are in the larger world. It made me question all that we view as “entertainment” and how we really should view it. The blog posts provided a great way for us to begin a conversation before we got to class, and made sure that we were eating, sleeping and breathing Sex, Gender and Society. I could not have asked for a better class. Thank you to everyone for such a great semester!

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