Students and Other Lecturers Contemplate Boundaries Seen in Society

The Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGSX), Studies Living-Learning Center (LLC), and faculty presented Transcending Boundaries on Nov. 11, an annual conference that discussed constraints and stereotypes in society.

The conference, previously presented by the Women in Science House (WISH), was split into four sections: The Past-The Canon, Present-Gender and Media, Present-Practice, and Future-Calls to Action. Each section included two to three 15-minute essay discussions and presentations on various topics followed by a discussion led by a moderator. The lectures were held in Goodpaster 184 and 186.

Senior Lisa Davidson, a moderator in the discussion on Present-Practice, was involved in essay submissions earlier this semester and felt the conference covered several important topics in today’s society.

“This is my first year getting involved in it,” Davidson said. “It’s cool to talk about issues that are relevant today and to see people thinking about things they don’t normally talk about.”

“The good thing about the essays this year is that we had a lot more submissions then we did last year, and had a good selection to choose from,” she said. “Last year we took all the papers but this year we had to be selective because we got so many submissions. They were all really good.”

The first half of the presentations included discussions on the masculinity of Jesus, gender roles in Disney, a lecture led by Professor of English Donna Richardson on “Females and the Feminine: Just How Sexist is Aeschylus’ Oresteia,” and a presentation on misrepresentations of women in Picasso’s cubism.

The presenter, sophomore Derek Mullin, spoke about the dichotomous view of women at the time that was evident in many of Picasso’s paintings, referencing his 1932 work titled “Le Reve” and the 1937 piece “Femme en Pleurs.”

According to Mullin, the women were either seen as “goddesses” or “doormats” as the hyper-sexualized woman was painted with pastels and curvy representations of the body while women who displayed unattractive behaviors such as being overly emotional or engaging in prostitution were painted with “distorted geometric faces.”

The conference included speakers from other universities as well, including Davidson’s sister Laura Davidson, who visited from Towson University to discuss “Women in Minimum Wage Society”

“It was nice to have [Laura] come in,” Davidson said. “In the past the conference was open to other university systems, and we used to bring in other professors and students from other universities to present. It was an all-day kind of thing. It bridges the gap, and hopefully in the future we will open it up again and expand, so it will be even bigger.”

Sophomore Ashok Chandwaney, who attended the lectures, “Mexico, Maquiladores, and You: A Cartoon Explanation and a Real-Life Call to Action” and “The Privilege of Civil Disobedience,” felt the conference gave him a new perspective.

“I liked them all because each of them took something you take for granted (Disney movies, pens and consumer products in general, and protesting) and attacked them from the angles of privilege and societal ‘normality’ to present an insightful conclusion,” said Chandwaney.

The conference also included keynote speaker and Associate Professor of English Beth Charlebois, who presented “Biblically Prescribed: Sex and Violence in Othello.” The lecture centered on the parameters for male and female interactions set up by the Bible.

“Basically a man’s faith in god can only be reaffirmed and confirmed through his relationship with his wife. We talked about how sex in a relationship is always questioned, especially in Othello, where Othello was always questioning his wife,” Davidson said.

Charlebois talked about the implications of this in early-modern England, how it is still present today, and the future implications of it.

Davidson felt that the transcending boundaries conference was an important event for students to attend. “Students need to talk about things that are happening today and think about them from a critical analysis standpoint. There are boundaries in our society today that don’t have to be there. This conference helps bring those boundaries to light and start the discussion of how to break them down and transcend them.”