Personal Reflection by Balakirova Dana

It feels as if a tide is turning in our culture in the United States. Women’s issues are being taken seriously. There is also progress being made for transgender liberation. While there is a lot of disheartening news in today’s age, such as the current consideration to overturn Roe v. Wade, and marginalized communities are still under constant threat of surveillance and violence being perpetuated against them, there have also been events, such as the Women’s March, where millions of citizens walked and protested in defense of women’s rights. During this class, I have been able to work through the current literature in these subjects, as well as develop my own personal beliefs on these matters. Under the guidance of a great professor, I was able to expand my working knowledge of the current theories in gender and the intersections that factors like race and class play in its development.

One of the most powerful readings from the class blog was the post about love and self-love in particular. Self-love is something that I have been thinking about incredibly deeply lately. As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, I have noticed many people around me continuing habits they started during the lockdown, like smoking cigarettes, or not exercising their bodies, and this has gotten a lot of individuals, from what I have gathered from talking to them, with this feeling deep down of shame and depression. In our society, self-love has been turned into a product. Every day people’s mental health becomes worse off from the stresses of pandemic life and now the economic downturn, which has resulted in inflation on almost every day-to-day good while wages have remained stagnant. Since we live in a ruthlessly capitalistic world, companies have cropped up all over the place, promising silver bullets in the form of meditation and remote therapy apps. When I click on those apps, however, it is always an expensive subscription service being thrust on people who are desperate for a change in their lives. There was a point in my life where the hyper-consumer culture we live in, especially when it comes to self-love and self-development, disgusted me to the point where I almost believed it was better to have self-hate since it seemed more objective and less shrouded in consumer fantasy. Yet, as Angela Davis herself stated, one cannot change the world without first taking care of themselves. I have many peers who have ambitious plans, yet they focus too much on the hustle and grind of the world, never giving themselves enough time to rest. This leads them to burnout and, ultimately, a feeling of deep disappointment because we have been conditioned to think even a small break is a compromise. This is because our society runs on our constant productivity. The learning that I have done in class has conjured many of these thoughts. As a woman, I have always thought about gender and the norms placed on women in society, but have not been able to verbalize them as clearly as I can now. Partially, this is due to the readings themselves, which I have more thoughts on in the following paragraphs of this response, but it was also due to the writing assignments. Writing assignments such as the one assigned during this course do a tremendous job at helping students think their thoughts through, be able to edit and refine them, and then present the most coherent, structured version of their arguments to an audience. I believe, as a consequence of this class, I have been able to strengthen my writing skills, especially when it comes to the topic of civil rights and gender equality. These are incredibly important topics to discuss candidly.

From this class, I have learned that the culture that has influenced our warped perspective on self-love has also externalized those beliefs onto other people. The media, family, and social systems, such as public education, are where our empty perspectives about the world are shaped. The blog post about gender ideology in media shared sentiments that I have fostered for a long time. It is interesting that even the movies that are celebrated for being progressive often still have debated gender ideologies. One example of this is the recent remake of Spielberg’s West Side Story, which I was interested in watching because of the interviews saying that the director played close attention to how he portrayed the Latinx characters, making sure to not characterize them as had been done in the original version of the film, to the point where mostly white actors were cast for the roles and wore brown face during their performances in order to appear more Latinx. However, when it comes to gender dynamics, as was explained in the blog post in the bit about “Iron Maiden,” a detail that has stuck with me, the film was incredibly poor. While the woman lead did strive not to conform to the gang war around her, the entirety of her story relies on being the interest of a white man, even as a troupe at this rate in Hollywood. This is because to make a movie, one requires money and connections. Historically, people of color have been excluded from production and acting roles, as evidenced by the original iteration of that movie. Many of the people currently living in Hollywood are thus white men. As was described in the blog post, they thus encourage “unconscious ideologies” that reinforce the white male perspective. This was most evident to me during the duration of writing and revising my assignment, which I used to explore different gender and race dynamics in contemporary artists and how they broke against the norm, often to the dismay of fans and even their own families. This shows how, for people who exist outside of the gender spectrum or are in another marginalized group, simply being genuine to themselves self can be dangerous. This is what makes it triumphant, however.

In terms of my final project, I believe I brought this passion and interest in the subject to the assignment and gave it mine very all. Looking back on the group project about gender stereotypes, I believe it gives an excellent overview of how gender norms are normalized from an incredibly early age. The group project had given an extensive breakdown of what gender stereotypes are and how they are perpetuated. Not only that, however, it presented a breakdown of the current philosophical, psychological and sociological concepts surrounding the development of gender. That said, I made sure all of my research for this project was up-to-date and thought-provoking. I worked hard not to simply regurgitate the information presented in the class, but also to give my impressions and genuine thoughts about it. The aspect of the class that I enjoyed the most was the freedom to explore my own preconceived notions and what norms I had internalized and which stereotypes I have turned down simply naturally.

That said, I believe taking this class has been of the highlights of my college career. It was very informative and the class seemed like it was full of nice, interesting, and accepting people. Everything was well organized and easy to understand, even if it required a lot of critical thought to fully accomplish. A lot of professors struggle with keeping media and assignments on their pages easy to access and it can be easy to be bogged down with links, however, I never experienced that problem in this class. Instead, every week, I was excited about new developments being posted. It was truly an enlightening experience.

One thought on “Personal Reflection by Balakirova Dana

  1. Hilarie Ashton

    Dana,

    What an insightful and thoughtful set of observations you’ve shared here. I really appreciate how you describe your added exposure to the literature of gender as well as the way that your beliefs have been impacted by what you learned. And oh my goodness, what a sharp and important meditation you give us on the ruthlessness of capitalism during a pandemic. I wish the people making our policy could read your words here. And you put it so well that civil rights and gender equality “are incredibly important topics to discuss candidly.” I agree, and I really appreciate how our class was able to have those discussions.

    Your paragraph about your blog posts and the thoughts you share about Spielberg and the Hollywood system are really sharp: you essentially did another version of the blog post assignment within this assignment, which you didn’t have to do, but you did so well. I love where you wrote, “for people who exist outside of the gender spectrum or are in another marginalized group, simply being genuine to themselves can be dangerous. This is what makes it triumphant, however.” That’s so true and also so beautifully put.

    Take good care, and keep in touch,
    Prof. A

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