Author Archives: Alyssa L Santiago

Personal Reflection

This isn’t my first time taking Intro to Women’s Studies.  Once upon a time, before Covid-19, I took this class in person. But I withdrew from all my classes halfway through the semester because I was struggling with my mental health. And thanks to this class I took way back then, my professor at the time pointed me to the resources that jump-started me on my journey. This class is more than learning about history through the lens of women and LGBT+ people, but it’s a place to be seen and heard. I’ve always been interested in learning about women’s rights and LGBT+ history but never had the time or space for it. With the election of the 45th president, it was clear to see that these issues aren’t some out-of-reach smudge on our history that lives in the past but its part of the history we make today.


I’ve heard of the name Angela Davis in presentations students would make about African-American writers for Black History month and be curious about her work. But I never had the time to read it for myself because I always focused on my school work more than my personal interest. So aside from the fact that this class is one of my personal interests but I also had the pleasure of reading Angela Davis for the first time. My heart fluttered when I saw her on the syllabus and I was more than happy to order her book for next day delivery. Not only did I enjoy reading her work, but I also used it in some of my other classes this semester. 


Being a part of this class wasn’t without its challenges. Sitting in front of a computer at the end of the day for three hours was intimidating and challenging for me. I would’ve loved this class to be twice a week instead of once a week. If it was twice a week, each class would be shorter which for me would be more manageable. And also I would’ve seen the people in this class twice a week instead of once.


Everyone’s presentations were amazing. My fellow students showed some real talent with their projects. The thing about group projects is that they usually turn out so awkward and it’s clear to see who did all the work and who didn’t. But all these projects were gorgeous. Each one was visually pleasing and very informative. Everyone cared so deeply about what they were talking about and it showed even though we couldn’t see their faces. I would sit on my bed looking at the slides and the pictures and colors. My favorite part was that they clearly practiced giving their presentation and if they didn’t then that’s even more impressive. I could never be as articulate as they were off the top of my head with no practice. I, unfortunately, wasn’t a part of any group project but that’s okay. I struggle with deadlines and groups in general. To feel the weight of other people relying on you to do your part is a lot for me at the moment. 


But the most important point about this class for me was the causal engagement. As I said before the idea of a three-hour class at the end of the day was so intimidating, most of the time I didn’t want to go. But I never regretted going after the class ended. We all cared about each other and made the class personal. Because these issues that we’re learning about are personal, they’re personal to us. They’re not theories in a textbook or stories from the past but in some way, they applied to our lives. And by making it personal we were also learning from each other.


This class has been amazing and I’ve learned more outside the lessons than inside them. The information was great but the idea of a group of women coming together at the end of the day to encourage each other and lift each other up while collectively raising our awareness of women’s rights, that’s priceless. There will never be another class like this one. I hope everyone had an amazing semester as I did. Challenges and all.

Cinderella, The Modern Women: A Review of the 2021 Amazon Original

There’s been a lot of talk about Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of the classic fairytale Cinderella. Cinderella has been a tale that has captured the hearts of children and adults alike for 70 years since Walt Disney’s animated feature in 1950. But the character of Cinderella has always been vague. And the message that Prince Charming will find her, take her away and they lived happily ever after, isn’t without its plot holes. However, no one really questions it because of its status of being a classic timeless fairytale. 

But in recent years, the idea of the timeless classic princess has faded and audiences now want strong female leads that could be amazing role models for young children everywhere. So why is this new live-action Cinderella getting so much hate?

This new Cinderella challenges many patriarchal ideals that are portrayed in the original film. It shows the many different layers to women and men. The movie is packed with demonstrations of independence, ambition, ideas of marriage. We learn more about the context of women and the role they play in the story. 

The theme of women’s rights and independence is central in the film. We see many new female characters in the film like Queen Beatrice and Princess Gwen, the wife, and daughter of the King. And the film expands on the characters already known to us like Ella (Cinderella) and Vivian (Stepmother). Each woman leads such a different life than the next but they all share one common struggle, they are women. All the same basis and stereotypes about women that society has in the real world apply to this fairytale universe. 

Even though they are royalty the Queen and Princess are faced with the same challenges as the common women. I would dare to say that their struggles are exacerbated because of their royal status. Queen Beatrice is the wife of the King and for most of the movie, she struggles being heard on matters of any kind, even ones involving her children. But because she is the Queen she is the example that is set of all other women in her kingdom and in my opinion is the one most trapped by the standards and expectations of women. Princess Gwen wants to rule the kingdom and progress it for all people living there not just for royalty and nobility. But the King thinks she is unfit to rule because she’s a woman and for most of the film tries to force Prince Robert (Prince Charming) to marry and take the crown. The audience can clearly see that Princess Gwen is more fit to rule than her brother who even admits to Ella that the only qualification he has to be King is that his dad was King and it’s a terrible system.

Marriage is another huge theme in the film and once again is related to the real-world struggles of women. Marriage in the film, is more than a symbolic union of two people in love, in fact, it’s the opposite. Marriage is a means of survival for women because they are unable to provide for themselves in any other way. Vivian, the widowed stepmother of Ella, works tirelessly to prepare her daughters to become wives. A scene that drastically sticks out from the original movie is where Vivian is teaching her own daughters, Malvolia and Narissa, how to do housework in which they respond to “Why are we doing Cinderella work?” Vivian explains to her daughters that they too needed to learn how to do house courses in order to attract a husband wealthy enough to take care of them. This film provided more backstory to Vivian and her first marriage. I think most people assume that her first marriage ended because her first husband died but in fact, her first husband left her because she wasn’t acting like a good wife by pursuing her dreams in music. Which explains so much about Vivian’s character and the way she treats Ella.

Ella is so special in the ways that she is different from her classic counterpart. Ella is bold, daring, outspoken with dreams of being independent. Ella doesn’t want to marry but instead wants to start a seamstress business as a way of supporting herself and her stepfamily. Even when proposed to by the Prince she declines because she wants to do more than wave from a royalty box.

There are so many themes in the Cinderella film by Prime Video including toxic masculinity and queerness but none are as prominent as women’s rights and independence and marriage. This depiction of Cinderella shows her as assertive and bold. Varying differently from the classic domesticated housemaid. She’s an aspiring businesswoman whose endgame isn’t a marriage but happiness in doing what she loves and making a living off of it. This new Cinderella is a modern woman ready to lead her life on her terms without the influence of others.