Reviewing the Whole Gender Spectrum

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Julia PaolinoThe Wheelock College Political Science and Global Studies Program goes beyond simply understanding different systems of government. Instead, this program critically analyzes the every day politics in our socially constructed society. This semester I am taking a course on Gender and Politics. Many people automatically associate gender and politics with women and politics. However, in my class this is not the case. Although we have examined women in politics, we have more closely analyzed how femininity and masculinity play into politics. Most recently, we moved beyond the typical gender binary and studied transgender politics.

The most interesting part of the class was the viewing and discussion of the newly released documentary Lady Valor. The film tells the story of Kristen Beck, a transitioned woman and former Navy Seal. These conflicting identities sparked an interesting conversation in our class regarding society’s lack of acceptance towards people who do not meet the expectations of a gender binary but praise and gratitude for those who serve in our country’s armed forces. We discussed how Kristen’s transition actually generated some acceptance from a different demographic of people than most due to her past military service. Some of the friends she had made through the Navy Seals have accepted her transition, even though there are still many who do outwardly oppose her. These circumstances caused our class to question if one aspect of her identity superseded the other in the eyes of American society. Does society value military service more than it fears those who challenge the traditional view of gender? Or vice versa? We were all able to voice our thoughts, opinions, and questions on the matter in an open and safe environment. I left the class feeling much more aware of another aspect of gender in our society’s politics and eager to continue learning about the role that gender plays.

The Political Science program here at Wheelock has truly helped me to think outside the box and challenge the norms that our society has created. Using the lens of gender through this course has taught me so much about politics at large. Taking on a new perspective and framework to analyze the political information I see on a daily basis allows me to be more media and politically literate.

Julia Paolino is a sophomore from Warwick, Rhode Island majoring in Communications/Media Literacy and Performing Arts.