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Because Ordinary's Just Not Good Enough Today

skindeep's picture

But Ordinary’s Just Not Good Enough Today


Note:  I would suggest listening to this soundtrack whist reading the paper, there’s no need to look at the video:


1.      PART ONE:   Because We All Start Out Somewhere



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This picture show you, the audience of this display of self reflection who/what I was before I came into this college, or to be more precise, before I came into this class. I was movement. I could see the light, and it was bright enough to touch me, to engulf me, but the path that lead to it was not always clear. I could see objects along the road, make out the shapes, but I was too engrossed in the light and hence there was always a sense of haziness about the journey I was on.

I grew up in Bombay, India – and the culture that surrounded me was almost on the brink of being sexist and was very hetero-normative. This is in the sense that gender, sexuality and any related issues were never spoken of, let alone questioned. Needless to say, I had never actively thought about issues related to gender before coming to Bryn Mawr. Did I even realize how big a role gender and my perception of it played in shaping my identity? Not really. I had gotten a sense of it as I grew older and watched the society around me mould both my friends and I, but had never really given it much thought. As you can imagine, coming to America, and specifically Bryn Mawr was an interesting change. It was forced me to look at where I was standing. Where the light was, what was around me, and how far I had come. It was fresh. I’m still in the process of falling in love with it.

More about the culture/education that shaped my views can be found at this link: /exchange/node/4804



2.      PART TWO: And Then Awareness Begins to Skim Our Surfaces



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Coming from my almost conservative background, it can be understood how our Gender and Sexuality class debased me. The class intrigues me. It makes me question myself, my culture, my upbringing and the society I live in today. The ideas it poses are new to me but it still seems like I’ve always known them, it’s always been alive inside me, I just didn’t know it. I wasn’t aware. And now, slowly, I can feel the awareness seeping in.

The first book we did – Evolutions Rainbows by Joan Roughgarden, was a fascinating read. The science I’ve studied has always been something rigid, bent on finding reasons for phenomena so that it can label things, put them into boxes and leave no room for anything else. However, in my mind I often played with philosophy and physics and came up with theories on how they were related. This is why Roughgarden’s book caught my attention- she spoke about science as something that had no boundaries and emphasized that it was in fact society that was forcing people into categories. Her views on diversity and her theory that biology speaks only of ‘male and female’ and never of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and that we, as a society decide what makes a man male and a female female make me smile.

Getting a biologists view on gender and sexuality was definitely something new and therefore interesting. It helped generate a lot of questions about what lay ahead.

Next came Sherry Ortner’s book Making Gender – this brought with it a change in perception. We moved from science to social science. This section of the class did not force me to change the knobs in my mind; it did not provoke questioning or bring to light a lot of new concepts. I think this was one of the biggest problems with it, it was a little out dated and hence failed to catch my attention.

The last section of class, in which we discussed Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel The Doll’s House was by far the most interesting. Gaiman’s manner of looking into issues related to identity and the subconscious violates me. It has embedded itself into me and ideas related to it keep surfacing in my mind every now and then. The very concept of becoming aware of oneself and ones subconscious mind in order to better understand and hence explore issues related to gender and sexuality captivates me.

All in all, these few weeks of class have helped shape my understanding of gender related issues in a manner such that it is firm enough to have structure, yet loose enough to yet be molded. We have looked at gender and sexuality from all different perspectives and angles, hence giving me a more concrete idea of what I know and therefore, what I don’t.


3.      PART THREE: And Then We Dream


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Lifting off from the base knowledge I came in with and the layers of subsequent knowledge college added on to it, I have a fair idea of areas in Gender and Sexuality I would like to explore.


Diversity in culture: I think an understanding of the manner in which different societies in different countries deal with issues in gender and sexuality is pertinent if we want to bring about change in any of the areas related to it. Just looking at the difference between the manner in which India, Pakistan and America deal with it, makes me realize how suppressed a topic this is and yet how vital its understanding is, for the progress of any society.


In Society: Similarly, I would like to go back to the social sciences and look at the area more thoroughly. Ortner’s work may have been a little out dated but we as individuals are not. I think that each of us brings with us a unique aspect to the class and to the discussion on gender and sexuality as a whole. So maybe, we could share our stories (anonymously or not) and then find people whose work affects us even today; we could help piece together different aspects of our own individuality. Suggested Reading:


Abuse: Another aspect of gender I would like to delve into is abuse. How abuse affects the way we look and feel about our gender and sexuality. When people experience any kind of abuse, be it physical, sexual or emotional, it impacts them in ways most of us cannot understand. And the effect that has on their perception of their gender and sexuality would be an interesting area to look into. Suggested reading: The Color Purple by Alice Walker


Masculinity and Promiscuity: The idea of male masculinity verses female masculinity and the origins and need for both/either of these two concepts has always interested me. Mainly due to the fact that I grew up as a ‘tomboy’ and I loved it. Just as much as I loved ‘dressing up’ and going out with my friends. And I saw nothing wrong with it, as opposed to a large section of society that did. Are these concepts just societal views? Are the labels necessary?


Media: The role of the media in promoting societal views related to both gender and sexuality. The level to which we unconsciously submit to these stereotypes, and shape ourselves accordingly. This I think will be beneficial because it relates once again to Gaiman’s use of the subconscious – are we molding ourselves without even realizing it? (Example: the song- Love Story by Taylor Swift )


Another Suggestion: Watching:  The Butterfly Effect directed by : Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber

                                         and Boys Don't Cry directed by: Kimberly Pierce


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