“A Novel Model of Cocaine Addiction”: An Interview with Crystal Carr, M.S., Ph.D. Candidate

by Kendra R. Parker
Crystal Carr, M.S, is a  Ph.D. Candidate in Biopsychology and a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. On Thursday, April 18,  Carr will deliver her talk, “Exploring a Novel Model of Cocaine Addiction” in Schaap Auditorium (Science Center), at 11 AM. In today’s interview, Carr discusses her upcoming visit, her research inspirations, and a riveting recommended read.


Welcome back to Hope College, Crystal. Recently,  you were at Hope for Brain Day. What are you most excited to share with students, faculty, staff, and community members who will attend your lecture on Thursday, April 18?

My research findings! I have presented some of the results at conferences, but much of the data I will discuss is new.

What’s your current field of study?

The University of Michigan Psychology Department offers a Ph.D. program in six areas of psychology. I am in the Biopsychology area, which is sometimes referred to as Behavioral Neuroscience. We broadly study brain-behavior relationships (the brain is the biology component and the behavior is the psychology component).

So, you’re in STEM, but as an undergraduate did you minor in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS), and if so, how did your WGS minor/certificate shape you? If not, how did you come to learn about WGS as an academic discipline and how, if at all, does gender impact your research interests?

I did not minor in WGS, but for those interested, The University of Michigan offers several joint Ph.D. programs, with the option to combine Psychology with Education, Social Work, or Women’s Studies. In fact, a few of my colleagues are in the joint Women’s Studies and Psychology program and have shared their research with me. Though I am not jointly enrolled, I have conducted several sex-difference studies and I will share these results during my lecture.

If this does not give too much away before your lecture, what inspired you to research and write on cocaine addiction?

In short, addiction plagued my family. I consider relapse to be one of the most devastating aspects of addiction and I am interested in understanding the neurobiology in order to assist with treatment development. Unlike many other drugs of abuse, there is currently no approved medication to treat cocaine addiction.

Your talk will be on dangers of cocaine addiction, but I am wondering if you speak on any connections to race or gender and why your research is important for dispelling systemic myths about cocaine usage, addiction, and rehabilitation. 

There was a time when addicts were considered moral failures, with the logic being they could quit doing drugs if they really wanted. Addiction research has shown that addiction is a brain disease–a distinction that is especially important because it affects social and health policies.

What we know is this: repeated drug use results in neuroadaptations that contribute to compulsive drug use and a high propensity to relapse. The “telescope effect” refers to the observation that women typically transition to addiction faster, whereas women are seen for treatment sooner after first use and present with more severe addiction symptomology.  This knowledge and understanding are critical to dispelling stereotypes and myths.

What advice would you give to current Hope students, but Black women students especially, who are enrolled in STEM courses or who are interested in graduate school? Any words of wisdom? 

Great mentorship surely makes a difference!

In undergrad, I completed a plethora of biology courses, a neuroscience course, and even chemistry. While these courses were challenging, they provided a great foundation for my current degree. Although my Bachelor’s of Science degree is in Psychology, I spent a great deal of time in the Biology Department at Tuskegee Insitute, and I established relationships with the faculty, including Dr. Gerald D. Griffin.

So, as we wrap up a bit, tell me—what’s on your bookshelf these days? What’s the one book you recommend that we read—and why? 

For those who are interested in learning more about addiction, I would certainly suggest Dr. Carl Hart’s book, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. Hart’s prologue details an experiment he conducted in 1999 that gave “experienced and committed” crack users the choice between a hit of crack cocaine and an alternative reinforcer (five dollars).  Hart paints a vivid scene that ends in an unexpected outcome: after having sampled the dose, the participant, a thirty-nine-year-old Black man who worked as a street bookseller, chose the cash.


We really appreciate Crystal for taking the time to share with us! Intrigued? Want to learn more? Join us tomorrow at 11AM in  Schaap 1000. Crystal’s event is free and open to the public.

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.

Claiming Our Education: Reflections on “Speaking Truth to Power” with Austin Channing Brown

Claiming Our Education: Reflections on “Speaking Truth to Power” with Austin Channing Brown

by Gracyn Carter, Emma Holman, and Grace Kennedy

“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 Austin Channing Brown’s February 27 lecture, “Speaking Truth to Power.”

What was “Speaking Truth to Power”?

On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, we went to the Black History Month lecture titled “Speaking Truth to Power” by Austin Channing Brown. The event was held in Jack Miller Music Hall and it was packed full of people. Before Brown spoke, there was a song sang by a fellow student from the Black Student Union accompanied by a piano player. After Image result for “Speaking Truth to Power” with Austin Channing Brownthat, there was a speech by a student from the Student Activities Committee. Then, Austin Channing Brown started her lecture which included stories and life-experiences from her book I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (2018). She talked about her life experience as a black woman in America and divided the rest of the lecture into three points- a world made for whiteness, black dignity, and the answer to the question “what is a white person supposed to do now?” The lecture was very lively and engaging because she did not want the lecture to become too formal and she wanted people to engage with her. Austin Channing Brown had a thought-provoking and action-provoking lecture on what it means to be Black in a world made for whiteness.

Brown’s keynote shed light on the instances of racial discrimination and bias that still take place not only on Hope’s campus but in our whole country. Through her empowering words and personal story, she brought about meaningful conversations on campus and enlightened the audience about how to bring about real change for our community.

Learning Beyond the Classroom

“The whole event was amazing. I can’t begin to fully grasp every point that Brown discussed in her speech, because it was so mind-boggling to be confronted with those issues and concepts . . . Like most white people who don’t know how it is to be oppressed based on the color of our skin, I cannot begin to understand how to reverse all of the pain that Black people and other people of color have experienced because of the white supremacy that is built into our society. I do agree with Brown when she said that ‘every single Black person is created with inherent dignity’ and that we need to stand in solidarity with one another to fight against oppression. Lastly, I fully support Brown in her belief that in order to make a change we need to use the advantage of our own privilege and show up for racial justice.” 

“Having grown up in a predominantly white environment my whole life, I had never really given much consideration to the ways that racial discrimination is evident in my life, I also ways knew that it was wrong, and I knew that it happened, but I considered myself and the people around me to be acceptations to the brainwashing that takes place in white communities. Hearing Brown speak about both the small and big ways that race has played a part in her daily life really struck me for numerous reasons. First, it made me think about how being an ally to people of color is not about how me. It is about standing up for those that are not me, those that do not always have the same socially constructed privileges I have and getting out of the way when there are things that I do not need to speak to. I am not meant to be a savior of people of color, but instead someone that can be trusted to listen and hear what people of color have to say and working with them to ensure they are being heard. Secondly, it empowered me to reconsider how I treat people based on factors that they cannot necessarily control. The overarching theme of this speech for me was not only about racial matters, but the way we treat each other in general.”

“One of the main ideas I learned from this event is the world is made for whiteness. I am privileged because I am white, and I don’t have to think about certain things that people of color do. The world welcomes us because we are white and makes room for us. Another idea I learned from this event is black dignity. Brown states there are two lies: white people are superior and colored people are inferior. The first lie is talked about a lot but the second one is never brought up. We need to discuss the second lie more. Also, Brown discussed the lie that hip hop music is seen as inherently bad because of its involvement with blackness. People constantly disregard Hip Hop without even listening to it. Further, I learned Brown’s answer to the question ‘what is a white person supposed to do now?’ Brown any answer she could give is too short and too easy. She said we should use the power that we have to change the college and curriculum to be more inclusive.”  

Connecting the Dots: From the Text to the Stage—and Back

When considering how this topic fits with our readings I was reminded of Andrew David Thaler’s article; Thaler speaks to the nature of being an ally:  “Being an ally is not something you are, it’s something you do. ‘Ally’ is not an identity, it is a set of behaviors that help acknowledge and promote underprivileged members of your community.” This definition strikes a chord for me as I consider how to better understand being a meaningful member of a community that is striving for diversity and inclusion in many ways. Remembering that being an ally is so much more about how you act than how you present yourself to want to act is such an important distinction.

Another reading that connects to Brown’s speech is Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” McIntosh lists forty-six things that are privileges for her as a white woman. After listing these she states, “For me, white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject… the appearance of being a good citizen rather than a trouble maker comes in large part from having all sorts of doors open automatically because of my color. Her acknowledgment of the privilege that she has is something that I find particularly admirable considering the topics that Brown addressed. Simple things that I all too often do not recognize as advantages can continue to add up to make a world that is not conducive to those that are different from the depiction of normality that we are fed, both as white people and people of color.

Works Cited

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Feminist Frontiers, 9th ed. Edited by Verta Taylor, Nancy Whittier, and Leila J. Rupp. McGraw-Hill, 2012. pp. 11-17.

Thaler, Andrew David. “On Being an Ally and Being Called Out for Your Privilege.” Weblog. Southern Fried Science, 19 November 2013.


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.

Claiming My Education: Black Women in STEM–Knowledge and Inspiration

Claiming My Education: Black Women in STEM–Knowledge and Inspiration”

by Heaven Silas

“Student Feature” is our blog’s 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,  Heaven Silas (Communication ’20) reviews Dr. Valerie Taylor’s visit from March 6. 

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, at 7:00PM, in Winants Auditorium, I attended Dr. Valerie Taylor’s “High Performance Computing: A Case for Performance Analysis” lecture. In this event, Dr. Taylor, a STEM expert, gave a lecture to students and faculty members on her research on Computing Analysis and Parallels with Algorithms.

Dr. Taylor discussed the main topics of how power, time, communication, and frequency interact with each other in this specific form of math and science. She summarized her lecture with “High performance computing is important for some applications. Performance is important for efficient deception, and different applications require different strategies for efficiency.” 

If I’m being honest, the entire lecture went completely over my head. I am not in any way skilled and or knowledgeable about STEM  nor am I familiar with this form of research. I was not able to engage in the learning process of her actual lecture.

However, I was moved in a different way.

Seeing this Black woman as an expert in the STEM disciplines inspired me. Her knowledge and skill level of the subject was amazing, and I was even more excited by how many people had come out to hear her lecture. She was teaching amongst predominantly white people, and specifically white men. These men not only attended, but they were also open to learning from her and receiving all of what she had to share.

This was not a typical event that I have attended–where someone speaks and shares their life experiences; this woman was actually teaching some of her research in detail, and people were taking notes, solving problems, and following along with her lesson. I did also learn (proudly) that 9 megawatts are equivalent to the electricity necessary for 6,000 homes, and the cost of this would be about 9 million dollars. Not sure why, but this fact stood out to me (probably because it was the only thing that I understood).

Attending this event allowed me to see yet another way of Black women exceeding people’s expectations of their intelligence. Not that I had any doubt in my mind that Black women are not intelligent; I have never once thought that (I am, after all, a Black woman). However, our society perceives Black women as unintelligent. In fact, I have learned it is a common stereotype, and a lot of our readings on feminism and women’s rights in my WGS 200 class have spoken about.

For example, in Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay recounts experiences of racism amongst white men regarding her education. Specifically, she recalls a time when a white male student scoffed at her for getting into her ivy league school: “He looked at me with plain disgust. ‘Affirmative Action’ he sneered, unable to swallow the bitter truth that, I a black girl, had achieved something he could not” (85).

Additionally, in Feminisms Matter, Victoria Bromley discusses how women are often seen as less intelligent than men. Bromley explains that according to dominant assumptions, American women are “supposed” to be “Nurturing, irrational, subordinate, passive, domestic, virginal, and dependent” (3).

Did you see intelligent on that list? Neither did I.

Works Cited

Bromley, Victoria L. Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism. University of Toronto Press, 2012.

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


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.

Toxic Tech: An Interview with Sara Wachter-Boettcher

by Kendra R. Parker

On Tuesday, April 2, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, principal of Rare Union, co-host of Strong Feelings podcast, and author of Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech (2017), will speak to the Hope College and Holland communities on “Inclusive Design, Ethical Tech, and All of Us.” In today’s interview, Sara discusses her upcoming visit and her interest in Women’s and Gender Studies. Sara also reminds us that “…filling computer science classes with women will not fix the problems in tech…if it’s toxic to the women, how does that help?”

 What are you most excited to share with students, faculty, staff, and community members who will attend your lecture on Tuesday, April 2?

I’m excited to really connect the dots between a bunch of things attendees have probably seen in the news about tech—from Facebook’s data breaches and lack of privacy to image recognition systems that don’t work for black and brown people—and talk about how those problems have manifested.

So often, news stories about tech are sensationalized, either positively or negatively. It’s either, “Ooooh! Shiny!” or “Tech is evil!” What we need is a deeper conversation about the cultural norms and financial incentives that have led the tech industry to build so many products laced with sexism, racism, bias, and other types of harm—because only when we can have this conversation in a nuanced and meaningful way can we begin to figure out how to fix it.

Did you major/minor in Women’s and Gender Studies (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 or research interest?

I took a bunch of classes and almost added a Women’s and Gender Studies minor to my program, but I didn’t because I was already knee-deep in two majors!

The experience that most shaped my feminist perspective and values, though, was working in a countywide sexual assault support center for three years during college. I answered crisis lines and did admin sometimes, but mostly, I worked with the education program, facilitating workshops with middle schoolers. We talked to the kids about recognizing abuse, how abusers will try to convince you it’s your fault, and where to turn for help. We also taught segments on power and control, consent, and assertiveness.

That experience taught me so many things, but one of the less obvious ones is how much it matters who and what shapes our norms. By middle school, these kids had already learned to accept a lot of things as normal that they shouldn’t have to—harassment, abuse, lack of bodily autonomy. Not to mention deeply ingrained, restrictive gender roles.

And so, I think a lot about how different aspects of our culture influence norms about sex, bodies, relationships, and gender. When I started seeing the lack of diversity and compassion within the tech industry, combined with the increasing power that industry had, I realized we needed to do a better job of talking about its role in reinforcing biases and narrow norms for the world.

Your response is great for all of our readers–you don’t have to major/minor in Women’s and Gender Studies to have a passion for justice. Thank you for that necessary reminder. Now, if this does not give too much away before your lecture, what inspired you to research and write on technology and sexist apps?

It started in 2015 when I was filling out a form online for a new doctor’s office. Halfway through, out of the blue, it asked me: “Have you ever been sexually abused or assaulted?” And it stopped me in my tracks. Because there was no information about why they wanted this info, how it would be used, where it would be stored. There were just these two checkboxes: yes, or no?

For a new doctor with no context to ask me this in a form I’m filling out online broke me open a little bit. And so I started looking at how data we collect online can be problematic—it can be collected non-consensually, it can be collected in biased ways, it can be collected to surveil you, it can be collected to hurt you. Once I was thinking about that problem, I started noticing a million other related problems—and how much worse those problems were getting the more we were relying on artificial intelligence and algorithms in software to make decisions about who you are, what you want, or what you deserve.

Amazing. I always like to say that “research is me-search,” so your experience encapsulates this perfectly. Now, your talk will be on dangers of toxic tech, and you’ll touch on a range of biases, but I am wondering if you will share your thoughts on the need for women in tech—as undergraduate majors, developers, and the like? What advice would you give to current women students who are not considering Computer Science or STEM courses as a major or minor (or even a course in their undergraduate studies) about their value and the necessity of women in the discipline?

I think women are absolutely needed to make technology products that work for a wider range of people, and I definitely think that computer science and STEM courses need to be much more open to women. However, I don’t think you have to study those things to be a crucial addition to a tech project (I didn’t).

One of the problems we are seeing in tech today is that the industry has prized technical skills above all for a long time: if you can code, you’re deemed a genius…even if what you code is an app that increases surveillance and incarceration of black people. Meanwhile, if you understand, say, the historical context of race in this country, or you know about the emotional and psychological effects of living under surveillance, you’re deemed unnecessary to building tech. This is a myth that needs to change if we ever want to have a more ethical tech industry—one that isn’t built on business models that exploit and harm. I think that is very slowly starting to change, precisely because the tech industry as it’s stood has started to show cracks; I know there’s now more emphasis in a lot of tech companies on hiring people with backgrounds in social sciences, humanities, and communication. But it’s big industry-wide bias to overcome.

I say all of this because I think it’s important to note that just filling computer science classes with women will not fix the problems in tech—particularly because there’s a huge issue of women leaving the industry because it’s so unwelcoming. And I don’t think it’s useful to tell women they “should” study computer science, just because it would be good for tech—if it’s toxic to the women, how does that help?

However, I would say, if you are interested in technology, even a little bit, I would absolutely give it a try. There are so many myths about programming —that it’s really hard, that you have to be great at math, that you should have started when you were 12 if you want to be good at it. None of those things are true, and you absolutely belong in those classes if you’re interested at all. So many people gain technical skills at so many points in their lives, from every background you can imagine.

That’s very insightful. Thank you for sharing. I have one last question. What’s on your bookshelf these days—the one book you recommend that we read—and why? 

Recommending one book is an impossible task! But one that sticks out at this current moment is definitely Thick, a new book of essays by Tressie McMillan
Cottom. She does an amazing job bringing together a rigorous background in sociology with incredibly accessible, moving, personal writing, which is rare! But she also gets at the heart of so much happening in this current moment around race, gender, privilege, and political power. Once you read her work, you’ll want more of her in your life, I promise.


We really appreciate Sara for taking the time to share with us! Intrigued? Want to learn more? Join us next week at 4PM in Winants Auditorium (located in Graves Hall). Sara’s event is free and open to the public.

Claiming My Education: Defining Mental Health–Disability or Debilitating? (Student Feature)

Claiming My Education: Defining Mental Health–Disability or Debilitating?

by Makenna Clarke

“Student Feature” is a new 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, the “Student Feature” features  WGS 200 student-scholar Makenna Clarke.

On February 22, 2019, I attended Katie Rose Guest Pryal’s lecture, “Disclosure Blues: Transforming Mental Health in Higher Education.”  I chose to attend this event because of my passion for mental health awareness as well as my own experiences with it. Pryal started out the event by documenting her personal experience with mental health which included bipolar disorder, anxiety, and PTSD.  She talked about her time as a student but mainly focused on how mental health played a role in her position as a professional in higher education. Pryal discussed how she taught at a school where she was a non-tenured faculty member. Despite her many credentials, she still had no job security as long as she wasn’t tenured and was even more worried about reaching tenure as a person with a psychiatric disability.  For the years that she worked in higher education, Pryal never disclosed her disability to any coworkers or superiors, which caused her an immense amount of stress. Ultimately, Pryal decided to leave higher education because the stress of hiding his disability was no longer worth it to her. She goes on to explain how the higher education system needs to fix contingency in order to better accommodate neurodivergent people. She goes on to defining terms one should know in order to have effective conversations about disability and what we must do to “get to a better world.”  According to Pryal, this includes examining fears such as gut-level reactions to neurodiversity, examining structural problems, as well as ableism. After the event was over I decided to buy her book and asked her to sign my copy. She asked me why I came to the event and I told her my story which was really neat. We had a great conversation and I was so appreciative that she was willing to spend her time listening and talking with me.

Pryal called one of the sections of her presentation “Use the Right Words” which I found to be very informative.  She explains how when discussing disability it is important to use identity-first language (i.e. disabled person).  Pryal explains how “normate” is a better term than “able-bodied” because it implies that not all disabilities are physical.  To me, the most interesting term she talked about was “psychiatric disability” as opposed to “mental illness,” which implies a sickness that can be cured. Pryal prefers the term psychiatric disability because it can be an identity that one can claim, or even be proud of.  She then discusses neurodiversity and neurodivergence which spans broader than psychiatric disability. Lastly, she defines accessibility and universal design, and even shares a quote from her book, Life of the Mind Interrupted, which says: “Usually, when we talk about helping people get what they need to make their way in the world – whatever their disability – the standard is ‘accommodation.’  That term connotes ‘doing something extra’ to meet someone’s needs” (102). As a student who receives academic accommodations, I really appreciated this quote because there are times that having accommodations makes one feel like an outsider.

I thought this event related very well to Susan Wendell’s “The Social Construction of Disability.”  Wendell writes, “I see disability as socially constructed in ways ranging from social conditions that straightforwardly create illnesses, injuries,
and pour physical functioning, to subtle cultural factors that determine standards of normality and exclude those who do not meet them from full participation in their societies” (58).  At the beginning of the event, Pryal made a comment how when she was first given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, anxiety, and PTSD, and she felt uncomfortable identifying herself as a disabled person because society typically doesn’t define disability in such a way. Over time she realized that she wasn’t going to let this language have power over her, and instead she would allow herself to identify how she truly felt.

Works Cited

  1. Pryal, Katie Rose Guest. Life of the Mind Interrupted: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education. Blue Crow Publishing, LLC, 2017.
  2. Wendell, Susan. “The Social Construction of Disability.”  The Rejected Body. New York, Routledge, 1996, pp. 57-68.


Claiming My Education: Cry It Out (Student Feature)

This is the third installment of “Student Feature”–a new 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, the “Student Feature” focuses on WGS 200 student-scholar Kelly Gotham’s experience watching Cry It Out!

Claiming My Education: Cry It Out (Student Feature)

by Kelly Gotham

On Saturday, February 23, 2019, I attended Hope College’s production of Cry It Out. The play was about three new moms and how they navigate their new lives with children. Jessie and Lina have coffee together on the patio between their houses while simultaneously watching their children on the baby monitors. They discuss what it is like being home with a baby and Lina compares it to being held hostage. One day, their neighbor,  Adrienne, shows up she is clearly not like Jessie and Lina. She is dressed in a suit and was constantly looking at her iPad and not engaging in conversation with the other two. We later learned that she owns a jewelry company (which keeps her preoccupied), and we also learn Adrienne experienced a painful labor when she gave birth to her daughter. Adrienne’s husband, Mithcell, later confides to Jessie about  Adrienne’s postpartum depression and refusal to hold the baby. Later, after Adrienne confronts Jessie about speaking with her husband, Adrienne tells her truth; she explains her birthing complications, and Adrienne’s confession provides an entirely different outlook. The play ends with Jessie’s preparations to return to work.

I learned some more about the reality of being a mom and how they feel alone even though there are so many women with the same feelings. Throughout the story, it was evident that they all had different challenges and life certainly is not perfect. It gave me a perspective from the mom’s point of view that parenting is tough and there is a lot that it entails. It was a very real and un-sugarcoated story that is meant to captivate the audience.

Cry It Out relates to Octavia E. Butler’s Mind of My Mind (1977), specifically regarding privilege and socioeconomic status. In Butler’s novel, the actives (telepathic humans with control of their telepathy) are similar to Adrienne because they have more power than others. For example, Adrienne affords a mansion and assistants; the actives have power over “Mutes” (or humans), controlling the mutes’ behavior to ensure the telepaths have access to wealth.


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

Claiming My Education: Women’s March Grand Rapids (Student Feature)

Claiming My Education: Women’s March Grand Rapids

by Hannah Weller

“Student Feature” is a new 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, the “Student Feature” focuses on WGS 200 student-scholar Hannah Weller and her participation in the Women’s March in Grand Rapids.

On January 19, 2019, I attended the Women’s March in Grand Rapids. This march was just one of the thousands of Women’s Marches happening across the country. This one was small, but we were mighty. There were about seven or eight women who gave speeches and shared their stories of everything from child poisoning to sexual assault. We all listened, cried at times, and cheered during most of the event. After the speakers were done, we marched through Grand Rapids and were welcomed with women and men leaving stores and restaurants to either join us or to offer their support for what we were marching for. As we crossed the streets women yelled and honked their horns to show that they were with us as well. It was my first Women’s March and it was a truly beautiful experience to share with people I knew and with people I didn’t.

I learned so much from going to this event; I thought I knew a lot about feminism and standing up to the patriarchy but wow, I was mistaken. The women that spoke had faced so many hardships in life and I was stunned. One speech that really impacted me was one of a mother who was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. She spoke about her firsthand experience of coming to the United States and how the stories we hear about the dangerous journey are true. But, she spoke about how she overcame all these difficulties in order to give her children a better life and now she is a proud owner of two restaurants in Grand Rapids. Another speech that really touched me was one of a student, who was a Mexican lesbian. She wrote a poem about what it was like to grow up and learn that the affection of a man is what makes you a woman and how she felt alone because she wanted the affection of a woman instead. It really made me think about how Latina and Black women really are judged more harshly if they are a lesbian or even transgender. The final speech that was fascinating to me was one by a sex worker. She talked about all the benefits of sex work and how new laws being put in place are making their jobs more dangerous. The new laws were supposed to be helping find victims of sex trafficking, but this is also affecting the websites that sex workers use to find and vet clients. Without the laws they had in place, sex work is now dangerous and homicide rates could rise against them yet again.

Feminism today is not what it was 20 or even 30 years ago. While I was at the march and listening to these women speak, all I could think about was how narratives have helped play an important role in feminism. In Feminisms Matter, Victoria Bromley discusses how feminism has changed over time and so have the tactics, but narratives remain important. In chapter 10, Bromley talks about the different waves of feminism and how in the second wave tactics like “guerrilla theater” were used as a way to share the narrative of feminism. In the third wave, they told personal stories about their experiences to show other women that they are not alone. Some feminists even wrote stories and novels under pen names to share their stories, since women authors were marginalized. Protests and marches are just another way of spreading feminism and showing why it is important. It shows why even men need to be feminists. The number of men I saw at the march helped reassure me that men really do care and they are willing to come out and do what’s right for women too. There were so many men that were there just to help lift their wives and girlfriends and friends up. Some were passing out hand warmers and extra signs because they wanted to show us that they support us and that they too believe in what feminism means.

Works Cited

Bromley, Victoria L. Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism. University of Toronto Press, 2012.

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.

Claiming Our Education–The Vagina Monologues (Student Feature)

Claiming Our Education: The Vagina Monologues

By Emma Holman, Heaven Silas, and Joivenae Uribe

“Student Feature” is a new 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, the “Student Feature” focuses on WGS 200 student-scholars who attended Hope’s 2019 production of The Vagina Monologues.

What is The Vagina Monologues?

From February 14-16 2019, the Women’s Empowerment Organization and S.T.E.P hosted Hope College’s production of The Vagina Monologues. It took place in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of the Martha Miller Center at 7:30 pm each night. The event started out with the two co-directors of the production, Rachel Dion and Nina Kay,  informing the audience about the origin of The Vagina Monologues: Eve Ensler interviewed over 200 women of various ages, races, and sexualities and asked them all the same questions about their vaginas. The result? The Vagina Monologues.

During this particular event, about 15 women performed different monologues that focused on vaginas. The women (enrolled students at Hope) performed pieces that encouraged women to embrace their bodies, their sexuality, their womanhood, and most importantly, their vaginas. These monologues focused on topics like sex, gender, sexuality, gender identity, sexual assault, periods, mutilation of women’s bodies, childbirth, and masturbation.

The whole production lasted a little over an hour, and after each show, there was a discussion session with panelists.

The co-directors and two panelists sit on stage preparing for the post-production discussion on Saturday, February 16, 2019. (L-R Nina Kay, Rachel Dion, Dr. Kendra R. Parker, Dr. Marissa J. Doshi)

Learning Beyond the Classroom

“One reason I chose to go to this event was that the high school I went to (Mercy High San Francisco, all-girls) also put on the Vagina Monologues as an assemble every year around Valentine’s day. It was a day that many of us looked forward to because we all left feeling empowered and good about our bodies and giddy after spelling out vagina together as a whole school (imagine a theater full of about 400 girls screaming “VAGINA” simultaneously–IT WAS GREAT). Though I did not expect Hope’s version to be the exact same, I did enjoy it back home and I wanted to see what the event would be like here.”

“While watching these performances, I was immediately taken back to middle and high school where I was uncomfortable with talking about my body, periods, and anything that had to do with sex. Hearing these ladies say “vagina” over again the way that they did [during the production] would have made me extremely uncomfortable [back then]; I am not sure if it was because of my age and my lack of sexual maturity and/or knowledge about the female body, but I hated talking about it; not so much of hearing about it.”

“I learned many different things from this event. One of the first things I learned about this event is what it actually is. I have heard about The Vagina Monologues when I first started going to Hope College and went to the activities fair. One of the women at the booth for WEO said that we should sign up for the vagina monologues and my first thought was what is that. I did not know what to fully expect until I went and listened to what the hosts said. Another thing I learned from this event is that every woman’s experience is different. I already knew this, but it was reinforced when I was watching the play.”

Connecting the Dots: From the Text to the Stage—and Back

One of the last monologues (the one about moaning) connects back to Pop Culture Gone Mad” chapter from Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism (2014). The chapter discusses how in pornography women put on a kind of act. Porn plays a big role in our society however in negatively portrays what healthy sexual encounters should be like and expects that all women have the same needs and are only trying to please the men: “a generation of girls who think porn sex is the only way to please guys…the problem is that we’re expected to imitate something that’s acted” (Valenti 53-54). The monologue relates to this because this woman has discovered the pleasures of genuinely making another woman feel good, and how her experiences with these women have been more pleasurable than with men because it is more genuine. Porn culture creates expectations for both men and women and if those expectations are not met, then people tend to become sexually embarrassed and do not feel comfortable exploring their own bodies or others sexually. While porn may be empowering for some people, for others it can be a harmful, unrealistic expectation.

One of the monologues was about a woman and how her skirt does not ask for it. This idea connects to chapter four of Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism. She writes how wearing a skirt equates to asking to be raped in our current society and how horrible that idea is. Both the woman’s monologue and Valenti’s chapter maintains that a woman should wear whatever she wants without the fear of getting raped.

In the section “Eenie Meenie Miney Moe, Which Wave Are We in and How Do We Know?,” of Victoria L. Bromley’s  Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism (2012), readers learn about the different waves of feminists and the different strategies
that each wave did. Eve Ensler, the creator of 
The Vagina Monologues, was a part of the third wave feminism which began in the 1990s. An activist tactic of the third wave was writing personal narratives. The production is full of personal narratives from hundreds of women who are sharing their experiences with their vaginas and their feelings about their vaginas.

Works Cited

Bromley, Victoria L. Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism. University of Toronto Press, 2012.

Valenti, Jessica. Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters. 2007. 2nd edition. Seal Press, 2014.

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

WGS and the World: Alumni Interview–Sophia Bouma-Prediger, ‘17

Meet Our Alumni: Sophia Bouma-Prediger

by Kendra R. Parker

Sophia Bouma-Prediger graduated with a double major in Spanish and Women’s and Gender Studies with a minor in Psychology. She shares “WGS gave me the vocabulary and community I needed to learn more about myself, and the world, through a variety of lenses and perspectives.” Read on to find out about Sophia’s work with a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Mexico

What are you doing now? What paths led you to this point?

I am currently living and working in Oaxaca, Mexico. I moved to Oaxaca in Spring of 2018 in order to work with a local NGO–Fundación En Vía. En Vía works in women’s empowerment through the areas of microfinance, business education, and responsible tourism. The organization’s focus on women’s empowerment, and work with women in some of the smaller communities outside of the city of Oaxaca, were what originally drew me to them. After 9 months with Fundación En Vía, my stint as the English Coordinator was up, but my interest in working in language education had only grown. This interest led me to my current position as the Academic Coordinator at a local language school, Nágora Language Academy.

I love my work at Nágora as we work with all ages of students, from all backgrounds of life. At Nágora, although the focus may not be women’s issues, empowerment is definitely something we strive for. We work to create a space for empowerment through language learning and the ability to communicate across cultures. In our conflict-ridden world, communication is incredibly important, and too few of us are able to cross language barriers. Therefore, knowledge of a language different from one’s own, can open up endless opportunities and empower us to take action.

Did you major/minor in WGS? If not, how did you come to WGS as an academic discipline?

During my time at Hope College, I was a WGS major along with majoring in Spanish and minoring in Psychology.

What I love most about my WGS major is that it is applicable to just about any work environment. However, I use what I learned in my WGS classes not just in my work, but also in my everyday life. It affects the way I view advertisements and the news, the way I build relationships with friends and the way I view the world around me.

How did your WGS education shape you?

My WGS education showed me that I could (& should) follow my dreams. Pre-WGS courses I knew I was interested in Feminism but I didn’t have the courage to tackle it head-on. WGS gave me the vocabulary and community I needed to learn more about myself, and the world, through a variety of lenses and perspectives.

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

Take that first class!

If you never give it a try, you’ll never know if you like it. But also, WGS is such an important discipline and you’re truly missing out if you don’t at least dip your toes in.

Are you a WGS alum who would like to be featured on our blog? Email us! wgs AThope DOT edu