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AmyMay's picture

Diffracting My PPPP Portfolio: Entangling Emotion and Rationality; the Political and the Personal

            This course has been unique, challenging, frustrating, exciting, and empowering in many ways.  Its interdisciplinary nature challenged the associations I had previously drawn between concepts.  My opinions, modes of thought, and even identity were diffracted through the lens of this course (and the people/authors in it).  On the other side of this diffraction emerged new appreciations and revelations regarding both the content we studied and my assumptions about scholarly discourse. 

I had a lot of trouble connecting at the beginning of this course.  It was just another class I was taking as a requirement, since I had accidentally completed the rest of a Gen/Sex minor anyway.  I was interested in the subject matter, and I completed the assignments and participated in class accordingly, but I was not captivated and intrigued.  I was a bit confused about how to relate disability to the core theme of the course (I still haven’t totally resolved this one.)  I had already read Exile and Pride, and though when I read it as a freshman it was mind-blowing, this time around I was mostly, well, complacent.  I felt there wasn’t much more for me to learn here; my mind had already been expanded and wrapped around the concept of ableism.  In short, I think I had a small case of senioritis.  As the course progressed and I became enamored with some of the topics we were discussing, I also became more and more engaged in the course as a whole.  Serendip became not just something I used to submit weekly assignments, but a website I trolled like I would Facebook.  Though I still had trouble with some of the more complicated readings (i.e. Barad), by diffracting them through new texts we were reading, I began to see their usefulness.  During the Act II (Biology), I was very excited about what was going on in class.  Through this topic I started thinking about rape culture at Haverford (in my second Web event).  This subject captivated me and my interest really took off as we entered the activism portion of the course.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of seeing Judith Butler in this inspiration—her work on bodies in alliance made me think harder about what I might do to address some of the issues I had identified in Web Event 2

Most of the growth and effort I put into this course occurred as we moved into activism and I became obsessed with talking about rape culture.  Not that I wasn’t putting effort into my posts before, but I was just doing the standard class work I would have for any other course.  Looking back, Anne’s comments on my first web event reflected this.  She pointed out that while I grounded myself as the speaker by using “I” and talking about our class, I also slipped into the “God trick” in my paper as well.  To be perfectly honest, I at first wrote off her criticism.  I wondered “How does she expect me to not to the God trick and still sound like an academic paper?  How else am I supposed to be authoritative towards my readers?” I think in some ways my difficulty inserting myself into arguments comes from the discursive pitting of emotions against rationality.  Compared to how I typically write, I had taken a big leap by using first-person pronouns in Web Event 1, which I think came from using a blog as a medium.  Serendip somehow made the posts seem more informal, but also personal, so that I could use “I” without feeling out of place.  I think this aversion from “I” statements comes from my comfort expressing myself in academic writing.  It is something I have become skilled at; I even teach others to use academic discourse in my work at the writing center.  After 3.5 years in college, writing in a removed, academically authoritative style has become second nature to me.  My later work in this course was my first experience leaving that comfort zone.

After ruminating more over Anne’s comments in my first web event, I committed to thinking a bit more “out of the box.”  In my mid-semester evaluation, I challenged myself to go beyond the traditional academic essay.  I first tried to do this in my post “Are We Really Bugs In Amber,” in which I borrowed Karen Barad’s writing style (which I had struggled with as a reader), to see if I could use it to get my point across.  I also tried to diffract her points through a less academic text—Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.  While I think this post was successful in raising questions, it was not successful in answering them.  I noticed a lot of my other less formal posts asked but did not answer questions.  Part of my reliance on questions was my desire to create a dialogue of ideas.  However, I also think that I had not yet found a way to express firm opinions outside of the academic essay (so I resorted to only posing questions without addressing them myself).  As I became more and more interested in issues surrounding sexual violence at Haverford, I felt myself growing more comfortable speaking both with emotion and authority—even using “I.”   Looking back on these writings, I view them as both compelling and emotional, reflecting personal involvement but also intelligent thinking.  My work on this topic showed me how “neutrality” can be less powerful and effective in challenging hegemony, because it a lacks the humanistic call to action (as in Little Bee).  Though I remain most comfortable using words and academic discourse to express myself, I have broken outside the “God trick.”  I think I just needed to get to the right topic where I could use my identity, experience, and emotions in my favor.

Though this course has made me grow in my appreciation for the intra/action of different fields of study, my greatest achievement has been growth on the level of discursive style.  For the first time I broke through the sterilized lens through which academia looks as social issues.  I grew as a scholar and as an individual by being able to think, write, and speak about my personal experiences from both an emotional and structural perspective.  I have come to dismantle the dichotomy between emotion and rationality.  Understanding my experiences in an academic context was a gateway to personal/emotional understanding, and even led me to use my own experiences in my activist efforts.  This development is reflected in the coursework on Serendip, but also in my blog posts.  The blog reflects both my sentiments and those of Christine Letts, as both of us edited all of the posts from the consentissexyhc account.  However, since I also used my own blog account and blogged anonymously, below is a list of all of my posts (ones I either wrote or co-wrote, but not that I edited.)  Comments are not included as they have no title or specific links, but I encourage you to read the entire blog, since a large number of my contributions to these discussions were in the form of comments, most of which are attributed to me by way of my wordpress account.  Additionally, I strongly encourage everyone on the internet to read the entire blog, to come to a better understanding of how sexual violence is perpetuated and (mis)handled at Haverford College, and the consequences of this for survivors on campus.  While our blog is specific to Haverford, this issue is gaining increasing attention at colleges nation-wide.

 I swore never to be silent…

Original Parent’s Email

On Sex, Alcohol, and Consent

On the Difficulty of Saying No -- link to this article


One of the narratives [trigger warning]—On this I wish to remain anonymous at this time, so I will not be posting a link to the exact post.  There are several narratives posted anonymously on the blog.  Mine is one of them.





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