Three Bowdoin students recently presented papers at Gender Matters, an academic conference at DePaul University in Chicago. Senior Simon Bordwin and sophomores Courtney Chuang and Jarred Kennedy-Loving gave a panel presentation titled “Straight Gays, Mad Women, and Bad Ass Dudes: The Risks of Commodified Identities in Popular Media.”
The panel, which was organized and moderated by Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies Samaa Abdurraqib, grew out of her students’ final papers for “Introduction to Feminist Theory.” Each student focused on an archetype of gender and sexuality as portrayed in the popular media, and explored the problems that arise from such portrayals.
Bordwin analyzed the “normal gay man” depicted on television shows like Modern Family and The New Normal, Chuang deconstructed the image of the “uber-masculine male” used in the James Bond film Skyfall, and Kennedy-Loving examined two antithetical portrayals of black women—“madwoman” versus “angel”—in Tyler Perry’s film Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
After the students read their papers aloud, Abdurraqib opened up the floor for questions from the audience. “Some questions were specifically about their papers and some were broader, but the students dealt with all of them really well and professionally,” Abdurraqib said, adding that the other conference attendees were impressed. “Afterwards many of them commented to me about how poised the students were and how knowledgeable they seemed.”
“It was an incredible experience getting to present our papers,” Chuang said. “I was really happy to see that the audience was engaging with our ideas and our theoretical contributions.”
To fund their trip, the students applied for and received travel grants from the Roberts and Koelin Fund. The GWS department also paid for a portion of their travel expenses.