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AntoniaAC's picture

When I arrived at Bryn Mawr college three months ago, I was excited. I was ready to start my adult life and meet new, smart, passionate people who would influence my mind and my educational growth. However, as I slowly acclimate to the culture and the bubble that bryn mawr is, parts of my identity felt polarized. That the community embraced specific diversities in a neo-liberal sense but failed to accept all of my identities. I, specifically, saw a movement toward LGBT politics and women's issues but a lack of race awareness and a complete blindness to socioeconomics. As a queer, bi-racial latina from an upper middle class family, who has tendencies for social justice activism I felt that many of the underlying struggles were being overshadowed just as many past women’s and queer movements had done before. By divine luck, I was randomly placed into Anne Dalke’s Emily Balch Seminar, “Changing Our Story,” and was reaffirmed in the need for literary expressions of identity. The class focused, initially, on the differences among people and the forms of contact that allow these unique experience to come into dialogue. But, I still felt as though the intersectional Bryn Mawr, that I had been promised fell short of many of its proclamations. Maybe, my expectations were a bit high, but I after highschool I was craving something different.

This project, is something I truly believe in. Intersectionality, broken down, means the recognition of the overlap in social identities and their relations to systematic oppression. Bryn Mawr is a wonderful community, but it that does not mean it is perfect. So when I decided on a topic, I wanted to look at the intersection of identities and how that is handled at this school. In my experience, it seem rather segregated based on specific backgrounds and that the overlap was rare. Some of this was due to self-segregation, ease, and to housing arrangements, but it limited exposure and dialogue. The main idea of the project was to just examine this phenomena, to come closer to an understanding of it and possible solutions. I joined forces with Cathy and the two of us worked to smash our ideas together in a sensible way. Her original idea was to see how culture clashes are prevalent in the community and was there a way to create positivity from it.

The first plan was to interview the pensby center and to see how identities come in contact and how minorities on campus are seen and treated. We received some amazing feedback from Patty and Vanessa from the center and both women testified to the need the college has for inclusivity. Patty, specifically, dealt with the college’s international relations and the students who come from abroad. She also said that while the school has made progress a segregation of international vs domestic still exists and impart that is due to language but also to American race relations. She said that there is a false perception of many of the asian international students, specifically the Chinese internationals, that they all come from an affluent family and are paying full tuition, when in fact many attend on scholarship. She also said that the reason the college chose to make change the dynamics of the school when making the international percentage 25% was to create a global educational experience. Patty, while hopeful, said that there needs to be more action towards integration and communication between international and domestic students if the school wants to become this global institution that it desires to be. Vanessa on the other hand works primarily with religious groups and Posse. She said that the school has definitely made progress towards increased diversity but also must work on way of supporting the identities of the people who are accepted She says things like Posse and the Mellon mays are a great way to help build a community of women that help boister each other and form friendships.

After that, Cathy and I, decided to switch things up and interview other students about their perceptions of the Bryn Mawr community with an emphasis on the queer students,  international students, and students of color. We talk to students from many different backgrounds and learned a lot about why certain attitudes have been set in place. I talked to many queer students of color who felt like the white queer community is one of the most accepted on campus but the other identities are pushed aside. Others felt marginalized because their economic background and struggle was erased because of the previously states SES blindness. Many felt like on some level they could be themselves but only if they chose one part of their identity to focus on. I, too, felt this way and was surprised that other students felt polarized from their identities too. Intersectionality it seems, while talked about, rarely is the presence on campus.

Solutions are hard to comeby but I felt that some of the people I interview had tangible actions that might point the school in the right direction. Some of these actions being clubs, discussions, demonstrations, etc. But it's importantly for me the results reminded me that nowhere is perfect but even the smallest thing make a difference. For example Cathy and I. She is a straight, middle class, Chinese woman from China and I am a gay, upper-middle class, bi-racial Latina from California. Some of our identities overlap and most don’t but our contrasting identities by no means hinder our friendship.