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Friday, Apr 12, 2024

Feminist Trivia, project symposium encourage students to act on intersectional issues

Students from various GSFS classes lined the hallway of Axinn displaying their final projects.
Students from various GSFS classes lined the hallway of Axinn displaying their final projects.

Feminist Trivia, project symposium encourage students to act on intersectional issues 

Ellie Trinkle - Staff Writer

The Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies Department collaborated with students and professors alike to host two events last week focused on intersectional gender and sexuality issues. The first event was Feminist Trivia night held on Tuesday evening in Wilson Café, followed by a final projects symposium on Thursday evening in the Axinn Center for the Humanities. 

Carly Thomsen, associate professor of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies and an organizer of the events, described the value of making and playing games for learning feminist, queer and trans theory. 

“In this case, trivia was the expression of a pedagogical approach that grounds all of my classes. Games are fun and they invite people into conversations who might not otherwise have them,” Thomsen wrote in an email to The Campus. 

Thomsen and several students in her Feminist Foundations class that helped organized the trivia night invited Kelly Sharron, professor of Gender Studies and Sociology at the University of Kansas, to host the event. Sharron is the producer and host of the trivia app called Trivia Time, and previously worked alongside Thomsen on a trivia show that was included in the Reproductive Justice Mini Golf Course featured in the college hockey rink this past spring.

Sara McKillip ’25, a student organizer of the trivia event, credited Sharron as being very helpful in making the event possible.

Students in Thomsen’s Feminist Foundations class this fall worked on crafting questions for the trivia event on reproductive labor; affect labor, or work that produces emotional experiences; and the “do what you love” theory that working in a job you love allows employers to exploit their workers. The students worked through a series of peer workshops and a round of final revisions with Sharron before finalizing the trivia questions.  

“We had a pretty decent turnout with about 9 teams participating in both rounds. The audience was very excited and engaged during the two games of trivia which also made it more fun to host,” McKillip wrote in an email to The Campus, calling the event a success. 

The second round of trivia questions will be featured on Sharron’s podcast. 

Another organizer of the event, Elsa Bolinger ’26, described how the process of creating the trivia game showed her the difficulty of translating scholarly ideas into an accessible format for audience members without a background in gender studies. “[We] learned to think in the ways that we’re taught to think through the class, while still preserving the nuances of the ideas,” Bolinger wrote in an email to The Campus. 

On Thursday evening, students from several courses within the department this semester shared their final projects in Axinn as a part of the Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies Symposium. Student projects included games, zines, podcasts and initiatives aimed at promoting equity and justice within the gender, sexuality and racial spheres. 

Axinn was decorated with student posters featuring slogans such as “positivity turned poison” and “media’s victims,” commenting on the toxicity of the body positivity movement. All students participating in the symposium read the same six texts in their classes at the beginning of the semester, which addressed how feminist and queer theory and activism sometimes clash with one another in how we understand gender, sex and the body, Laurie Essig, professor of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies wrote in an email to The Campus. 

“It was a great way to get the conversation started that sometimes our "commonsensical" ideas about gender/sex/body are well-intentioned, but probably wrong and would benefit from being in conversation with feminist and queer studies,” Essig wrote. 

Adelle Macdowell ’26, Daisy Kulina ’26, El Fahey ’26 and Maya Alexander ’26, students in the Gender and the Body course, recorded a podcast titled Intersection(Re)ality that was featured at the symposium. The podcast discussed the challenge of defining the term “intersectionality,” while assessing whether or not intersectionality is something to which our society should strive. 

In generating the idea for the project the group was inspired by a reading they did in class by Siobhan Sommerville about common misconceptions of intersectionality, Alexander said. “I think what really caught our attention was the misconception that Somerville presents about intersectionality, it’s not just adding up people’s levels of oppression but it’s about how race, gender, sexuality, etc. bounce off of each other and are an interwoven web,” she added. 

Annie Lee ’23.5, Elio Farley ’24.5 and Roxy Alvarado ’25 created a zine for their Gender and the Body class that drew between Victorian constructions of gender and power dynamics and contemporary issues. Through images of the Victorian lady and child, the group looked at how these constructions relate to Middlebury’s institutional dynamics, and what identity groups receive protection from the college. 

According to Alvarado, the group chose images of Victorian children to suggest that the purity, innocence and protection they received was similar to the privilege given to certain groups on campus. “It’s really based on spreading the message of what the school is trying to cover up,” she added.

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Jahnavi Choraria ’25 and Marina Prikis ’25, students in Essig’s Making Feminist Media class, used their project to challenge the statement that people of a certain sexuality were “born that way.” Their ideas were inspired by the work of Mount Holyoke Assistant Professor of Political Science Joanna Wuest, who argues that portraying homosexuality as a mental illness makes people view it as innate, but it is not actually something that people choose for themselves or for which they should be held accountable. The group aimed to add complexity to the term “born this way” through a combination of posters and pop culture references. 

As a part of Feminist Foundations, Connor Curtin ’26, Reilly Isler ’25 and Sophia Cole ’25 designed a workshop for athletic teams seeking to expand knowledge of pronouns and create a more inclusive,socially conscious environment at Middlebury. The group designed a 45-minute talk to be given to athletic teams at Middlebury, breaking down key terms relating to pronouns and inclusion and encouraging students to engage in educational activities. They hope to implement the talk this spring and deliver it to 100% of varsity sports teams and 75% of club sports teams. The group designed an outline for a 45 minute talk to relay to athletic teams. 

Other projects showcased at the symposium included a collection of zines by Kamryn You Mak ’23.5, Kassie Olaleye ’26 and Talia Chang ’26 exploring the intersectionality of being queer and a person of color, a feminist self-defense workshop by Maggie Harper ’26 and Ruthie Brown ’25.5, a breakdown of how Barbie and American Girl Dolls impact young girls by Ashley Aparicio ’26 and Christina Ritter ’26 and a design-your-own Latina doll to challenge stereotypes by Yenifer Abad Santiago ’25.

Both the Feminist Trivia and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies Symposium events gave attendees the chance to play, create and learn about how expressions of and pressures to conform to gender affect our society and how we can strive to improve them.

Editors’ Note: Adelle MacDowell ’26 is a layout editor for The Campus.