Claiming Our Education: She Bites Back (Student Feature)

Claiming Our Education: She Bites Back

by Silvia Lepe, Joivenae Uribe, and Hannah Weller

“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. Today, three students share their insights from Dr. Kendra R. Parker’s February 28 lecture, “She Bites Back: Black Women as Predators in Life and Lit.”

 

What is “She Bites Back”?

On Thursday, February 28, 2019, we attended “She Bites Back: Black Women as Predators in Life and Lit” where Dr. Kendra R. Parker discussed her research on Black female vampires, including her book, Black Female Vampires in African American Women’s Novels, 1977-2011: She Bites Back (2018). This event was part of the 2019 Hope College Department of English Colloquium Series.

Her research is focused on the identification of “predator” Black women have been given over centuries. She compared the political marginalization that both Black women and vampires have experienced in both reality and fiction and explains the terms “Black women” and “vampire” as interchangeable when considered political threats.

Learning Beyond the Classroom

“I learned way more than I thought I was going to. But I am going to highlight a few of the major points of the event. The first highlight was the presentation. Throughout the entire thing, I was shocked to learn what I did about racism and how vampires were used as a vessel in that. The second highlight was when Dr. Parker explained why she wrote the book and how it evolved from her dissertation to what is now a book. The research she put into it was fascinating to hear about. I also really enjoyed listening to why she chose the books she did in her book and her research. The final highlight for me was the question and answer session at the end. Sometimes when you go to presentations, no one in the audience wants to ask a question, but this was very different. The people in the audience were curious; they wanted to know more and even had comments about things that were shown in the presentation. Overall, it was one presentation that I enjoyed. I will definitely remember this information the next time I watch a vampire show/movie.”

“I have learned a lot from this presentation. I was never into reading books, let alone books about vampires. I never looked into the history of vampires and how many Black people were depicted as vampires and as blood-sucking predators throughout history. I had the chance to learn about many different works of literature about vampires, specifically those that include Black women as vampires or things of that sort or characteristics that can be seen as vampires.  I loved learning how Dr. Parker wanted to change the image of women, specifically the image of Black women, and how in Black women’s literature they are not the “typical” bad vampires that people usually envision. It was very interesting learning about the connections that many see between Black people and vampires. I would have never have seen the connection or would have never known that they were depicted that way until coming to this presentation.”

“One thing I learned from Dr. Parker’s lecture was the depiction of Black folks as vampires. Prior to this lecture, I learned about Black people depicted as animals, but vampires were an entirely new category. In simple terms, Black people were considered monsters. The photo titled “The Vampire that Hovers over North Carolina” depicts a Black person (looks more manly) as a vampire terrorizing a village. Since vampires are considered non-human, the “undead,” depicting a Black person meant society considered them as creatures and monsters that needed to be hunted and ‘eliminated.’”

From the Text to the Stage–and Back

This presentation made us think a lot about Octavia E. Butler’s Mind of My Mind. We know this was one of the books used in the research and presentation and one we read in WGS 200 (Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies), but we’re thinking more about the systems of oppression that we see throughout the book.

Black people face so much oppression as it is and seeing the ways that they are referred to as bloodsuckers or feeding off things makes it worse. In Mind of My Mind, there is a lot of privilege given to the characters who have telepathic power, and those without are seen as less than–they are even called “Mutes.”

 

Are you a WGS major or minor? Or are you enrolled in a WGS course? Would you like to contribute to “Student Feature”? Email wgs AT hope DOT edu.

Meet the WGS Faculty: Dr. Sarah Kornfield

How long have you been teaching at Hope College?

This is my 4thyear teaching at Hope College.

Did you major/minor in WGS, and if so, how did your WGS major/minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to WGS as an academic discipline?

The college I attended did not have a WGS major/minor, and I didn’t really understand what WGS was about or why it might be useful to study. Then, during my research in Graduate School (at Penn State), I added a dual degree in Women’s Studies. I came to realize that just because I was a woman and had a gender, I didn’t understand the history of women and gender, what women’s experiences are (or how gender shapes experiences), how creatively and productively women are affecting change in the world, or how our current gendered social systems affect women and men. Essentially, just because I speak English doesn’t mean I understand English Literature the way an English Major does, or just because I can communicate with others doesn’t mean I understand how Communication works the way a Comm Major does; so too with Women’s Studies. More specifically, I came to realize that I didn’t really understand my own life experiences of harassment, assault, and oppression. I came to WGS to learn theories, tools, skills, and practices that would help me live.

What advice would you give to current WGS students or students considering WGS as a major or minor?

WGS is the most life-giving major I can imagine. My advice: try a class! WGS 160 Women in a Global Society; WGS 200 Intro to Women’s & Gender Studies; WGS 350 Feminist Visions of Justice. These courses are designed to help you live good and flourishing lives, with thriving careers, relationships, and community involvement.

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it, who is one person you would include on the syllabus, and why?

Feminist Activism. It would be a class that focuses explicitly on the successful strategies of feminist activism (coalitions, specific argument forms, protests, civil disobedience, speeches, persuasive techniques, activism in popular culture, activism in literature, etc.). Whose work would we read? Anita Hill (law professor famous for the 1990s’ version of #MeToo activism); Adrienne Davis (law professor); Adrienne Rich (poet, activist); Emma Goldman (anarchist political activist); Ursula Le Guin (sci-fi feminist author); Kimberlé Crenshaw (legal activist and scholar); and so much more!

What is a WGS book you read–recently or not-so-recently–that you would call your “favorite”? Why?

Manliness & Civilization by Gail Bederman (who, fun fact, was History/WGS Professor Dr. Jeanne Petit’s doctoral advisor!). This book is a US history of sex/race in America from about 1880-1920. It’s well written, has outstanding case studies (Tarzan, Boxing!) and covers a whole range of institutions (medicine, education, politics, war, news, women’s activism, and sports).

WGS Honors Dr. Jonathan Hagood

 Today, the WGS Program remembers the life of Dr. Jonathan Hagood. We honor Jonathan today with personal reflections, believing these moments of remembrance are one more way to honor a man who gave much to many people.

“When I think of Jonathan I remember the numerous faith-exploration initiatives he led—Continuum scholars, the summer Faith and Scholarship Series, and the Brown Bag Pedagogy Series. I am thankful for the intentional spaces he created that allowed me to explore multifaceted ways to integrate faith and work. We might have not always agreed, but I knew that my opinion was not going to be dismissed or seen as inconsequential. I appreciated that. And oh, I will really miss him handing out Faculty Bingo at graduation! That always made me laugh!”

~Dr. Marissa J. Doshi, Communication and WGS

 

“I don’t have one specific story to share about Jonathan, but rather it was his continued demeanor and presence that allowed me to feel at home here at Hope College. Jonathan was perhaps one of the first colleagues I met on my arrival, and his casual and friendly way made my transition to Hope that much easier. He would continually remind me during the past years that simple things like flip-flops and a fedora (though generally not seen as “academic attire”) were both perfectly acceptable and justifiable as “workplace apparel.” He gave me permission to “be me,” which ultimately empowered me to be the professor I am today. He never threw a questioning eye towards the way I dressed or spoke, and that was perhaps one of the greatest gifts he gave (and continues to give) me. He will be missed deeply!”

~Prof. Matt Farmer, Dance and WGS

 

“When I joined Hope College in 2015, Dr. Jonathan Hagood was one of the first faculty members to contact me. He invited me to join a group of my new colleagues for dinner once a month as part of the Senior Seminar program, which he directed. He later invited me to coffee to talk about the monthly luncheons he hosted (with Dr. Andy McCoy) regarding faithful teaching at Hope College. He then invited me to join a summer discussion group focused on Christ-Centered Liberal Arts Education. He then invited me to present my research (focused on character formation and media) at a Senior Seminar dinner. He then invited me to participate in the Faith & Scholarship summer seminar that he directed (again, with Dr. Andy McCoy). He then invited me to participate in leading prayer as part of the Pre-College Conference. He then invited me to apply for the position of Director of Global Learning—a key component of Hope’s General Education Program. We met recently to discuss Global Learning, and he asked me how he could support my development—what I would like to learn more about as I direct this program.

My experience at Hope College has been profoundly shaped by Jonathan’s invitations. Invitations to join a community, to think deeply about our faith and teaching, to extend my vocation in new ways (with support!). I am deeply grateful for his invitations. His invitations not only drew me deeper into the life of Hope College and my own faith and teaching but also modeled a beautiful, invitational leadership style. Jonathan welcomed me into our work over and over again.”

~Dr. Sarah J. Kornfield, Communication and WGS

 

“Jonathan reminded me that I had something important to say. One moment in particular sticks out to me, and I have returned to it in the days since his passing. I was preparing my 3rd-year review notebook, and he and I were in my office chatting. He asked how I felt about it, and I told him ‘no one wants to read this. I think I’m doing way too much.’ He responded, ‘trust me, someone is going to want to read what you have to say. You have something important to say, something important offer. So write it. Say it.’ His words stuck with me. He wasn’t simply referring to my 3rd-year review narrative; he gestured toward whiteboard that tracked my publications under review and in progress. Honestly, his encouragement and attention to detail were shocking. I didn’t expect a tenured professor outside my home department to care about my work–especially when no one was around to witness his act of kindness. It was then that I knew Jonathan wasn’t doing what he did for an audience or for recognition. Instead, his words were a testament to his character, to his embodiment of what Hope aspires to be–a caring community. I always respected him for that. His presence, his words of encouragement, his caring are already missed.”

~Dr. Kendra R. Parker, English and WGS

 

Meet the WGS Faculty: Dr. Carrie Bredow

How long have you been teaching at Hope College?

This is my 7th year teaching at Hope, my 6th year teaching within the WGS program, and my 2nd year serving as director of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Did you major/minor in WGS, and if so, how did your WGS major/minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to WGS as an academic discipline?

I did not major or minor in WGS, but I wish that I had! Unfortunately, although I took many relevant classes, I did not stumble across WGS as a stand-alone discipline until pretty late in my academic career, making it difficult to complete a formal program. Nevertheless, my interest in gender studies was sparked by several classes that I took as an undergraduate (Psychology and Family Studies double major) and grew during my graduate work in Human Development and Family Science (HDFS).  Through my interdisciplinary training in HDFS I was able to explore the intersections between gender studies/feminist theory and numerous aspects of psychology, sociology, and related fields. It was through this coursework that I discovered my passion for examining psychological issues (including my research on the development and maintenance of romantic relationships) through a gendered (and feminist) lens.

What advice would you give to current WGS students or students considering WGS as a major or minor?

Do it! Women’s and Gender Studies is an incredibly valuable program that is relevant to virtually any career trajectory. Interdisciplinary by nature, it is also very flexible and easy to pair with other majors and minors, providing an analytical framework and skills that can be applied to whatever job(s) and opportunities you end up pursuing. Are you passionate about listening to historically marginalized voices, exploring complex social structures, understanding/confronting injustice and oppression, and honing your ability to interact sensitively with diverse individuals and communities? If so, I encourage you to check out Women’s and Gender Studies here at Hope; send me an email (bredow@hope.edu) and I would love to talk to you more about the program!

If you could teach any WGS course, what would you title it, who is one person you would include on the syllabus, and why?

This is a tricky question, as I really love teaching Psychology of Gender, which I see as a perfect blend of my passion and expertise. But I already teach this course every year so the answer is a bit of a cop-out! If I could teach an additional course I think it would be a class called Gender, Sexuality, & Science that examines the interplay of sex/gender/sexuality and the sciences/social sciences through a feminist lens. There are many individuals who have made important contributions to this topic that I would want to include on the syllabus, including Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sarah Richardson, and Rachel Maines.

What is a WGS book you read–recently or not-so-recently–that you would call your “favorite”? Why?

I have never been good at selecting favorite books, movies, etc., but Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress, and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider are all books that have been particularly influential to my professional and personal development. Several of the essays in The Essential Feminist Reader (edited by Estelle Freedman) also rank among my favorite because they were pivotal to my own “consciousness raising” during undergrad and graduate school.