Reflecting on “The Genesis of Gender”

By Megan Jacobs

On September 30, 2021, Abigail Favale, doctor of gender studies at George Fox University, came to Hope College and gave a lecture titled: “The Genesis of Gender: Christian and Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender.” When I (Megan Jacobs, ’22) first saw the talk advertised, I was excited to attend, as it was an intersection of my two majors: Women and Gender Studies and Christian History and Theology. However, as the event approached, I began to hear more about the speaker and I received a couple of emails warning members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community that this lecture could be triggering and/or harmful to their wellbeing, as Dr. Favale has written previously against trans-inclusive feminism. Because of this, I felt compelled to attend the event to not only listen to what she had to say regarding gender and Christianity, but also be an ally in hopes of pressing Favale with important questions of marginalization and the importance of intersectionality in feminism. Although this event has become quite controversial within Hope’s community, I am hoping to reflect on this lecture in an honest and open way that shares about how it has matched with, or not matched with what I have learned thus far about the intersection of religion and gender studies.

Favale began the lecture by introducing two paradigms that she called the “gender paradigm” and the “Genesis paradigm.” In her discussion of the gender paradigm, she shared research that she had done around the history of the word gender. She shared works from John Money, discussions of second wave feminism, and perspectives from Judith Butler on gender. After providing this brief overview, she stated, “The concept of gender has been helpful, but it has driven a wedge between body and identity.” I find this statement interesting because I don’t disagree, but I also do think that the rest of this lecture could have gone a different direction to try to understand how to find our bodily identity in God. Instead she used this point to make an argument for the Genesis paradigm, where we are to build our bodily identity in our male or female-ness.  

To introduce the Genesis paradigm, Favale explained that she chose to use the book of Genesis because it is our origin, showing us our identity and purpose. Something that I found to be startling about her discussion of the Genesis paradigm was the way in which she chose to organize her slides. Rather than presenting the Genesis paradigm in the same manner as the gender paradigm, she chose to present it by way of comparison, so that we could see the difference between each paradigm. She presented several slides, each of which had two sections: one in dark blue, representing the gender paradigm, and one in white, representing the Genesis paradigm. For example, on one side of the screen we would see a dark blue section that read “Humans create reality, so reality is a construct” while the other side of the screen in white read, “God creates reality, so reality is a gift.” Another slide had the gender paradigm point of view saying “Body as an object” while the opposite side of the screen read “body as a sacrament.” This made it seem as though the way that we should deal with gender as Christians should be black and white.

When dealing with most of scripture, we see that not much is black and white, and the same applies to gender. I understand that we all have different points of view, and I think that should be welcome into discussion at Hope and in every academic/religious sphere. However when one option is presented as the superior or only option, I think that is where we should take a step back and remember that not everyone is an adherent of the Catholic faith. By presenting her ideas in a black or white structure, I think it promotes even more division as we debate about how to define gender. We begin to take sides and forget that there are other ways to refer to it. As I reflect on the event further, I am upset at how the Saint Benedict Institute decided to run the lecture. After Dr. Favale was done giving her lecture, there was a question and answer session wherein listeners were able to submit questions for her to answer concerning the lecture. The questions were submitted to Dr. Ortiz, the executive director of the Saint Benedict Institute, to choose from and present to Dr. Favale. I submitted six different questions. However, only two of my “safer” questions concerning what she thought of feminism were presented to her. While I understand that there was a limited amount of time for questions, I think there should have been someone else who was not from the Saint Benedict Institute facilitating the Q&A session, in order to promote a more open and well-rounded discussion in which attendees do not feel their questions are being cherry-picked to avoid controversy.

I also found Dr. Favale’s definition of feminism to be reductive and non-inclusive. The event was advertised as being the thoughts from a Christian and feminist perspective, so the first question that I submitted was about her views as a feminist. I wrote: How can you consider your feminist perspective to truly be feminist when it is so exclusive? To this, she replied that she is a feminist for women, saying,“If woman is purely a linguistic identity, then I don’t think there’s a point to feminism.” Frankly, I was taken aback by this statement. From what I have been studying in my gender studies classes for these past three and a half years, I have learned about the importance of intersectionality in feminism that is inclusive to communities that have been marginalized on the bases such as socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. In my eyes, Dr. Favale has created an incredibly narrow definition of what it means to be a feminist based purely on the linguistics of the word ‘woman.’ From the classes that I have taken here at Hope, it has become abundantly clear to me that being a feminist involves so much more then simply wanting to defy gender norms. While that is an important aspect of feminism, it is also crucial to acknowledge how this damaging system of patriarchal culture has affected all people.

Ultimately, I feel as though I could say quite a bit about what else in Dr. Favale’s presentation did not reflect what I have learned these past three and a half years in my study of the intersection of gender studies and religion here at Hope. Despite the fact that I didn’t agree with Dr. Favale on some of her points about gender, I believe that discussing gender is an important conversation that should be ongoing and welcomed at Hope College. I am hopeful that there will be other lectures in the future about Christian thought on gender that will be holistic and open to a wider range of more difficult questions. I think it’s important to have more events that aren’t strictly limited to a specific ideology. Gender is not black and white and our views on it should be built off of more than one person’s ideas of it.

WGS Professors’ Research featured in Spera

Spera is Hope College’s annual research magazine, a publication that highlights the scholarly accomplishments of Hope’s faculty. This year, the Women’s & Gender Studies program is thrilled to see the work of Dr. Lynn Japinga and Dr. Sarah Kornfield featured in this prestigious publication.

Dr. Lynn Japinga’s new book From Daughters to Disciples features research that developed out of her WGS course on Christian feminism.

“I joke that stories about women are always about either sex, violence, or sex and violence, but I think there’s a lot of substance and significance in these stories,” Japinga says. “People need to hear these stories, because reading about women and their struggles can make the Bible come to life in ways that it doesn’t if all you hear about is the men — even the heroic men.”

Dr. Japinga in Spera Magazine

Dr. Sarah Kornfield’s research on television’s portrayals of #MeToo is a joint project with WGS Major Hannah Jones. Together, they analyzed the narratives and techniques through which television episodes can help end sexual violence.

“People’s sense of ‘normal,’ and thus ‘real,’ are significantly derived from the images and narratives they see in media entertainment,” Kornfield says. “Essentially, the time people spend watching television each day matters. It shapes our thinking, assumptions and expectations … to bring healing, U.S. culture needs to reach new public agreements about what constitutes sexual violence and how to end sexual violence–and not much is more public than television.”

Dr. Kornfield in Spera Magazine

WGS Student Awards 2019-2020

During the 2019-2020 academic year, Hope College’s Women’s & Gender Studies students won several college-wide and academic awards. We are excited to celebrate WGS students’ accomplishments! Each student is featured with a photo of their choosing, the award they won, and a quote that inspires their feminist scholarship.

Madeleine Zimmerman (’20) won the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholars in the Arts and Humanities award and was awarded membership into the Phi Beta Kappa honors society. Maddie’s quote features the words of Audre Lorde–a black feminist, lesbian, poet activist.

“[W]e have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation… But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”

Audre Lorde

Emily Wolfe (’20) won the Excellence in Scholarship Award and the A.A. Raven Prize in Communication. Emily’s quote also features the words of Audre Lorde.

“Your silence will not protect you.”

Audre Lorde

Sage Mikkelsen won the Center for Ministry Studies Lilly Scholars award. Sage’s quote is the closing lines from black feminist scholar bell hooks’ famous book, Feminism is for Everybody.

“Feminist politics aims to end domination to free us to be who we are — to live lives where we love justice, where we can live in peace. Feminism is for everybody.”

bell hooks

Corri Zimmerman won the James M. Zoetewey Political Science Sophomore Book Award. Corri’s quote by black feminist scholar bell hooks focuses on intersectional feminism.

“The process begins with the individual woman’s acceptance that American women, without exception, are socialized to be racist, classist and sexist, in varying degrees, and that labeling ourselves feminists does not change the fact that we must consciously work to rid ourselves of the legacy of negative socialization.”

bell hooks

Greer Gardner won the Theatre Department Sophomore Award. Greer’s quote borrows the voice of a great literary character.

“I intend to make my own way in the world.”

Jo March in Greta Gerwig’s (2019) rendition of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

Gracyn Carter won the James M. Zoetewey Political Science Sophomore Book Award. Gracyn’s quote by Nigerian author and feminist advocate Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie highlights the role that people play in creating culture and the potential we have to create better lives for everyone.

“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”

“We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Students Reflect on Christian Feminism (REL 264 w Dr. Japinga)

Rev. Dr. Japinga teaches a number of courses that are cross-listed between Religion and Women’s & Gender Studies at Hope College–and she teaches WGS 494 Keystone Seminar. But she might be best known on campus for her WGS cross-listed course, REL 264 Christian Feminism.

This year, the WGS blog is excited to showcase the final course projects of five students: Grace Mitchell, Grace Kennedy, Katy Smith, Riki Ediger, and Rachel Johnson. Even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Hope’s students’ learning and insights are remarkable.

Grace Mitchell rendered her learning as a short story titled The Prodigal Daughter. This story imagines sisterhood and community, contrasting cycles of insecurity with cycles of grace.

Grace Kennedy artistically rendered her learning through this artwork, “She, God’s Masterpiece.” This artwork incorporates quotes from feminist theologians and visually echo’s van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

Katy Smith created a poetic video to express women’s voices and history. Through prayer, dance, and poetry, Katy Smith celebrates the lineage and holy callings portrayed through the lives of biblical women and women from more recent history. Throughout, Katy calls upon God as El Shaddai, a maternal name for God.

Riki Ediger’s artwork focuses on the way humans reflect God’s glory, depicting God as a black, queer, feminist woman. Riki describes her painting, saying, “She wears the pride flag on her shoulder to represent her queerness. She is depicted as naked to show her femininity and the vulnerability that goes along with that.” The globe’s symbolism is twofold: God is pregnant with the earth and she is holding the weight of the world. Riki doubled this imagery in order to “encompass what it means to be a woman and what it means to carry the weight of the world.”

Rachel Johnson featured her learning through a portfolio that highlights the voices and ideas that most influenced her thinking. Her portfolio answers the intertwining questions, “Why would a self-respecting feminist be a Christian?” and “Why would a self-respecting Christian be a feminist?”

As these final course projects demonstrate, Rev. Dr. Japinga teaches her courses with the same creativity and expertise that led to her most recent book, Teaching the Women of the Old Testament. This book is intended for anyone interested in learning more about these under-taught portions of the Old Testament, and especially for pastors who can learn to incorporate these scriptures into their sermons.

Forbidden Voices

I (Hannah Jones, ’21) attended a screening of the film Forbidden Voices on November 18, 2019, at the Knickerbocker Theater in downtown Holland. This event was sponsored by Hope College’s Markets & Morality students organization and co-sponsored by the Center for Global Engagement, Global Studies Program, Asian Studies Program, Phelps Scholars Program, Department of Political Science, Department of Religion, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and a chapter of Engineers Without Borders. 

Forbidden Voices focuses on the stories of three female bloggers– Yoani Sanchez from Cuba, Zeng Jinyan from China, and Farnaz Seifi from Iran. The film is specifically interested in the ways that the Internet can be a platform for those who are silenced by oppressive governments. Sanchez, Jinyan, and Seifi have all used the Internet to draw attention to human rights violations in each of their countries. One of the most powerful aspects of the documentary was the way that it showed the consequences of speaking out in protest– Sanchez has been beaten and arrested, Jinyan has been forced into house arrest, and Seifi has been forced to leave her country.

After the film, WGS student Maddie Zimmerman hosted a talk-back. Before entering the theater, attendees were given a slip of paper with post-film discussion questions about our initial reactions to the film, the importance of free speech as it contributes to human flourishing, and how blogging is a powerful tool for women living in oppressive societies. We were encouraged to form small groups and discuss these questions before sharing our answers with everyone else.

The screening of Forbidden Voices was part of the NEA Big Read Lakeshore. This year, the Big Read chose Julia Alvarez’s books In the Time of the Butterflies and Before We Were Free, which was selected for middle-grade readers. These historical fiction books are set in the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo dictatorship that lasted from 1930-1961 and ended when he was assassinated. Although both accounts are fictional, they focus on themes of resistance and silence, and more specifically, speaking out when doing so is punished by the government.

The Little Read Lakeshore chose the children’s picture book The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!, written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. The theme of this book is similar to those written by Alvarez– when the mayor of the city of La Paz institutes a new law against singing, one rooster speaks up in protest.

The concept of speaking up for one’s self or for others when they are unable to do so has been an important and ongoing discussion in my WGS classes. It can be challenging to know how and when to speak up for others, but the Internet has emerged as a powerful tool for the oppressed to talk back. Various platforms– blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, among others– have been excellent resources for many women like Sanchez, Jinyan, and Seifi. Because voices on the Internet can be so easily shared, blogs and other platforms are able to reach an unprecedented number of people and do so quickly. This has created the opportunity for widespread, international attention to violations of human rights and free speech around the world. In societies in which women are not respected and valued as fully human, online tools give voices to those who have for so long been rendered voiceless.

Finding one’s voice during a time of political unrest and violence has been a theme in the Children’s and Young Adult Literature that I took this semester. As both an English and a WGS major, one of my favorite things is finding interdisciplinary connections. My class read Alvarez’s book Before We Were Free and focused on the protagonist’s journey to use diary-keeping as a tool of resistance. Anita, the protagonist, begins her diary as a way to leave a record that will help others who are in hiding. She discovers the power of using words to document her trauma and gain control over her voice. Towards the end of the book, Anita writes, “if I stop now, they’ve really won. They’ve taken away everything, even the story of what is happening to us” (Alvarez 124). Alvarez expands on this idea in the author’s note, writing, “the silencing of those who have lived in terror is not just an external thing; it’s also a way in which the whole self shuts down. Anita’s silence is symbolic of what is happening to her country” (177). Like Anita, Sanchez, Jinyan, and Seifi have used online writing as a tool of resistance during a time of intense oppression. This documentary, especially when paired with the Big Read, serves as a great testimony to the power of finding one’s voice when it is forbidden.

Works Cited

Alvarez, Julia. Before We Were Free. Ember, 2018.

Powerful Literature

The students in WGS 200: Introduction to Women’s & Gender Studies recently finished a course module on bodies. This module focuses on answering the question: How does society (including ourselves) understand women’s bodies?

At the end of this module, students read Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. This book gave students an opportunity to read a coming of age story that powerfully weaves together the threads of bodies, identities, and the experiences that shape girls’ understandings of their bodies.

Some members of WGS 200 with Dr. Regan Postma-Montaño.

After reading this book, we were joined by Dr. Regan Postma-Montaño for a special round-table discussion as Dr. Postma-Montaño shared her experiences writing an analysis of Gabi, co-authored with Dr. Jesus Montaño. These Hope professors include their analysis of Gabi in their upcoming book, Tactics of Hope in Latinx Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

Discussing the power of literature to capture and convey difficult experiences, and to spark a sense of creativity and excitement, Dr. Postma-Montaño recommended some additional reading!

Undergraduate Research: Prophesying a Feminist Story

Dr. Sarah Kornfield and Ms. Lindsay Hayes working together on their research.

Research is the process of asking questions that have yet to be answered and then discovering the answer. Hope College is excited to welcome students into this process, teaching students the methods of research and supporting students as they discover answers to their own questions. Hope’s Women’s & Gender Studies students engage in research—studying how sexism affects people, examining and developing strategies for challenging sexism, and theorizing new models for social interactions that are free of oppression. Hope is ranked 4th in the nation by US News and World Reports for undergraduate research and we prize our research collaborations between students and faculty. Indeed, the Women’s & Gender Studies faculty delight in preparing graduates to generate new knowledge and to make that knowledge accessible to our local and global communities.

This summer, Ms. Lindsay Hayes and Dr. Sarah Kornfield collaborated to study how Sarah Bessey preaches Jesus Feminism to the evangelical church in America. This research began in the classroom where Lindsay Hayes learned the methods of critical research and applied them to study Sarah Bessey’s featured sermon, “Bearing the Image: Jesus Feminist.” Then Hayes and Kornfield decided to collaborate over the summer, developing this project further and preparing it for publication.

Ms. Lindsay Hayes presenting at Hope’s Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences Summer Research Showcase.

Analyzing Bessey’s sermon, Hayes and Kornfield demonstrate how Bessey weaves together historic modes of speaking, creating a tapestry that draws upon and reinvents the styles and strategies women have long employed when preaching in the church. Ultimately, we argue that Bessey is an evangelist to the church: rather than preaching a message of salvation to those lost in sin, Bessey preaches a message of Jesus feminism to Christians lost in patriarchy.

Bessey concludes her sermon with a prophetic prayer. “I pray for women who are dreamers and schemers. That women here would live just a little bit outside that ‘good Christian Lady’ box and I pray somebody would clutch their pearls over you. I pray for spiritual midwives in your life: Women who will breathe alongside of you as you are giving birth to the new you, over and over and over again. I pray that you would have friends and mentors and pastors and leaders and preachers and policymakers and poets and prophets, moms and a few saucy aunties.” 

WGS in Review: Reflections from the Interim Director

WGS in Review: Reflections from the Interim Director

by Kendra R. Parker

We have had a busy academic year in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and I have been pleased to serve as the interim director for the Spring 2019 semester.

It is only fitting, then, that our last blog post of the 2018-2019 academic year offers some of our Program’s highlights. Check out our infographic for a snapshot. Want additional details or to know our plans for next academic year? Scroll down for more!

In Review: WGS 2018-2019 

Our 2019 Phi Beta Kappa recipient is Nina D. Kay, a double major in Women’s & Gender Studies and Art History with a minor in Creative Writing. Nina has an impressive record at Hope, both in and out of the classroom. Nina is a Mellon Scholar, the founder and past president of the Women’s Empowerment Organization, and a co-director of Hope’s 2019 Vagina Monologues production. Additionally, Nina is the recipient of several awards including the 2017 Recipient of Arts & Humanities Dean’s Award for Research and the 2016 recipient of The Stephenson First-Year Writing Prize recipient. The latter was awarded for her fall 2015 essay, “Bowing to No One: Black Feminism in Frances E.W. Harper’s ‘Vashti’ and Janelle Monae’s ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’” Nina’s research interests in children’s media led to a national presentation at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference in November 2017. Congratulations, Nina!

This academic year, WGS co-sponsored 2 Panel Discussions. In October, WGS Program was one of several co-sponsors for “A Civil Dialogue on Abortion,” a two-person panel featuring philosophers Dr. Jack Mulder (Hope Philosophy) and Dr. Bertha Manninen.

In January, WGS co-sponsored and organized three-week series with S.T.E.P and the Communication Department to educate Hope’s campus about sexual assault, provide historical context for contemporary discussions, and offer safe spaces for discussion. The three-week series began with the screening of  Confirmation (2016), and the second event was a moderated faculty and staff panel. The final event was a small group discussion series. Special thanks go out to Dr. Marissa Doshi, Christian Gibson,  and Dr. Sarah Kornfield for their work in organizing the event series.

Additionally, 3 WGS co-sponsored three speakers.

  1. Dr. Davia J. Crutchfield’s November visit which boasted standing room only in Fried-Hemenway Auditorium. If you missed Dr. Crutchfield’s presentation, don’t fret. Watch “Faith, Intersectionality, and Black Masculinity: Kendrick Lamar’s Urban Theology,” on YouTube.
  2. In early April, we hosted  Sara Wachter-Boettcher, author of Technically Wrong (2016). In addition to her lecture, “Inclusive Design, Ethical Tech, and All of Us,”  (reviewed by Gracyn Carter) Sara dined with two WGS faculty and several students enrolled in WGS 200. They enjoyed a candid dinner conversation and got a sneak peek at some of her insights for her lecture.
  3. The third speaker, Crystal Carr, a Ph.D. Candidate in Biopsychology at the University of Michigan, spoke on “A Novel Model of Cocaine Addiction.” Part of Carr’s presentation included a discussion of sex differences in cocaine addiction (among mice), and students were fascinated with the results.

Four WGS majors/minors participated in the  2019 Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity held on Friday, April 12, 2019, in DeVos Fieldhouse.

  1. Hannah Barnes, “Disability in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction”
  2. Ester Fletcher, “The Alternative Black Girl in Popular Culture: An Examination”
  3. Cadence Jones, “Hysteria: A Look at Sexism in Medicine”
  4. Kamryn Ramsay, “Legalized Abortion and Women’s Health: The True Defender of Life”

For the 2018-2019 academic year, 5 faculty published articles and books. Check out the list below!

  1. Dr. Marissa J. Doshi, “Barbies, Goddesses, and Entrepreneurs: Discourses of Gendered Digital Embodiment in Women’s Health Apps”
  2. Doshi,Hybridizing National Identity: Reflections on the Media Consumption of Middle-Class Catholic Women in Urban India.
  3. Dr. Sarah J. Kornfield, “Speaking in the Language of White Women: Second- and Third-Wave Metaphors”
  4. Dr. Kendra R. Parker, She Bites Back: Black Female Vampires in African American Women’s Novels, 1977-2011
  5. Dr. Jeanne Petit, “’We Must Not Fail Either the Church or the Nation’: Mobilizing Laywomen in the World War I United States.”

We honored 8 Graduating Seniors at the 2019 Senior Celebration “Brinner,” held Monday, April 29, 2019, at Haworth Inn.

L-R: Nora McClure, Cadence Jones, Nina Kay, Ester Fletcher, Emilia Antons, Hannah Barnes, and Elena Galano. Not pictured: Jocelyn Echevarria

This year, graduating seniors chose their own book gifts from a list of 8 curated by WGS faculty.  The books they chose?

  1. Living a Feminist Life (Sara Ahmed)
  2. Thick: And Other Essays (Tressie McMillan Cottom)
  3. Essential Essays: Culture, Politics, and the Art of Poetry (Adrienne Rich; edited by Sandra Gilbert)
  4. Written on the Body: Letters from Trans and Non-Binary Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (edited by Lexie Bean)
  5. The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues (Angela Davis)

Below is a photo gallery of the 2019 Senior Celebration, featuring guests, students, and faculty (current and emeritus).

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In a new move this year, Hope’s Day of Giving allowed for donors to give to their areas of choice, and we are so thankful for our 9 Day of Giving Donors!
Thank you for giving to the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

Last, but not least, we showcased 10 Interviews on our blog. Did you miss the interviews? No worries! They are hyperlinked below for your convenience.

  1. Sophia Bouma-Prediger ’17
  2. Crystal Carr
  3. Dr. Vanessa Ann Claus, 08
  4. Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, ’05
  5. Dr. Davia J. Crutchfield
  6. Allyson Harper, ’14
  7. Rebekah Taylor, ’12
  8. Emme Veenbaas, ’16
  9. Dr. Phillip Waalkes, ’04
  10. Sara Wachter-Boettcher

On behalf of the WGS Program, I’d like to thank the 7 WGS alumni who offered interviews for our blog. Your insight and experiences are invaluable, and I thank you for contributing to the life of the program. Your blogs were also quite important for incoming students.  Dr. Sarah Kornfield, who hosted admitted student day, remarked, “[the alumni interviews] made it so easy to put together brief alumni profiles and show a range of careers and applications of WGS.”

Looking Back, Looking Forward: Final Remarks

As we look back at this academic year, it is safe to say it has been a whirlwind; we completed an external review; we’ve had several speakers; we’ve featured student insights on the blog; we celebrated Dr. Kornfield’s tenure  & promotion–and more. So, what’s next? In addition to our fall course offerings (pictured to your right), we have a new course coming your way.

In Spring 2020, Dr. Marissa Doshi will offer a new 300-level course: WGS 395. WGS 395, or “Transnational Feminisms: From Allies to Accomplices,” will meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:30-10:20 AM.

And still, there’s more. The “what’s next?” question also warrants a personal response from me:

As I step down as interim WGS director, I also step away from Hope College; I will join the Department of Literature at the Georgia Southern University, Armstrong campus in Savannah, GA. I look forward to the new opportunity, and I take with me the wisdom and good memories from the WGS Program, WGS students, and WGS alumni. To each of you, I tip my proverbial hat.

Spera in Deo.

Dr. KP

Claiming My Education, Claiming My Truth as a Survivor

Claiming My Education, Claiming My Truth as a Survivor

By Makenna Clarke

“Student Feature” is our newest addition to the WGS blog. Student-scholars enrolled in WGS courses have consented to share their experiences inside and outside the classroom with the Hope community. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (NSAAM), and this year the Students Teaching and Educating Peers (S.T.E.P) chose the theme  “I Stand With Survivors.”  Thus, it is fitting that our final  Student Feature of the semester comes from one student who is claiming her truth. Makenna Clarke discusses her attendance at author Laurie Halse Anderson’s Grand Rapids book tour and how Anderson’s words, “empower[ed] [her]  to take a step in accepting [her] own truth.” Content Warning: sexual assault. 

On March 16, 2019, I attended Laurie Halse Anderson’s Grand Rapids stop of her Shout book tour.  Anderson was my favorite author in my early middle school years, so I was definitely “fangirling” at the opportunity to hear her speak.  The event was run by an interviewer and lasted a little over an hour, while the last 15 minutes were opened up to audience Q&A. Following the discussion, Anderson signed books and took pictures with fans.  Overall, this event was a fantastic experience.

Laurie Halse Anderson has a previous fictional work, Speak, that tackles the subject of sexual assault, but in her newest book Shout, Anderson shares her own experience and how it has affected her. She talked a lot about toxic masculinity and how our society needs to more openly talk about sexual assault and support those survivors.  

This event was really valuable for me because it helped me to finally come to a realization and accept my truth.  Throughout the event, Laurie continuously mentioned how most instances of sexual violence are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, and not by a random stranger like the media so often portrays.  Because of this, it can often be difficult for the victim to recognize or accept that they were assaulted. As a WGS student and a S.T.E.P. Educator, I had already known this information, but hearing it from Laurie Halse Anderson made it that much more meaningful and real.

Anderson (L) and Clarke (R) Grand Rapids book tour

In fact, while listening to Anderson, I remembered a time when I said no, but the guy didn’t listen. I remember telling myself that it “didn’t count as assault.”  I am so grateful to  Anderson for using her voice and empowering me to take a step in accepting my own truth. I had the privilege of speaking with Anderson while getting my book signed, and although she didn’t know it, she was the first person I had ever told about the assault.  She then asked to give me a hug and gave me some words of wisdom, which meant so much to me.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing how much I relate to a quote from Roxane Gay’s Hunger: “I don’t know how to talk about rape and sexual violence when it comes to my own story.  It is easier to say, ‘Something terrible happened’” (38). In the previous paragraph, I found myself wanting to say, “what happened to me” instead of using the word “assault.”  It absolutely baffles me how much power language has, and as someone who works to advocate on behalf of others, I wholeheartedly understand Gay when she says how difficult it is to directly use certain words when acknowledging her own assault.  For a while, I think it might be hard for me to open up to other people about this part of my story, but I’m proud of myself for even coming this far in defining the assault which has helped me to validate my feelings and claim my truth.

Work Cited

Gay, Roxane. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. New York, Harper Collins Publishers, 2017.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, please contact Christian Gibson, Hope College’s Victim Advocate and Prevention Educator.