By Milo Booke
In the women’s and gender studies senior colloquium, digital media and gender studies go hand-in-hand.
“We did a book club in class where we read eight books,” Valerie Lightner ’15 said. “We thought about the themes in the books and how we could apply them to a project.” Led by Kenyon’s only full-time women’s and gender studies professor, Laurie Finke, the students in the class helped choose the reading material for the course and develop the final project — a podcast series.
The project idea was a departure from previous years’, which focused on a central theme such as travel, or bathrooms as a political space. Projects in previous years culminated with a public presentation by the colloquium members. Doing a podcast had strong appeal due to the popularity and accessibility of podcasts, which can be easily distributed to the entire Kenyon community. Finke was fascinated by the incredibly popular podcast series Serial, a spin-off of This American Life that chronicles a single true story over each season. Finke thought this medium would translate well in her seminar. The class has yet to distribute the podcasts, and are still determining how best to share their work.
The students in the colloquium split up into pairs to create their projects. Collectively, the class will produce only seven podcasts. Meghan Brennan ’15 outlined the focus of this project: “The theme is drunken feminism,” she said. “It’s a pretty loose collection of ideas. Each pair has the opportunity to present something personal to the Kenyon community.” The concept of “drunken feminism” sprung from a joking comment made in class. The students in the colloquium loved the idea, as it reflected the intended casual tone of the podcast series.
The podcasts explore a variety of topics. Many groups are employing an interview-based format, discussing issues such as the role of women in comedy, relationships to gender and what it means to be an “unlikely feminist” at Kenyon. Along with her class, Finke worked on a podcast about the relationship between feminism and sororities on campus. Brennan and her partner SJ Liegner ’15 are creating an interview-based podcast about going out and socializing. “We’re talking to a variety of people in the Kenyon community who witness [people] going out, and how gender or age, and other social constructs, are performed,” Brennan said.
Other groups prefer a more individual narrative. Simon Golovcsenko ’15 and John Foley ’15 are creating a podcast that explores their own intersecting experiences. Both grew up in suburbs outside of Boston, attended the same camp and were Boy Scouts, but their paths didn’t cross until they had both been accepted into Kenyon early decision. “Our podcast comes out of our own shared experiences as being queer men and our disillusionment with our purposed gender identity, and how we’ve navigated that through our lives,” Golovcsenko said. The podcast will take the form of a conversation between the two as they explore the similarities and differences of their respective experiences. “It’s this idea of growing up and being a queer man, and not always identifying with the word ‘man,’” Golovcsenko said.
Women’s and gender studies is one of the smallest departments at Kenyon, with only two majors in this year’s senior class. The students in the class hope the podcast series will allow students to engage with the issues covered, although community involvement is secondary to the podcasts’ role as a final project for the course. “Feminism should be a vibrant and ongoing discussion that keeps people moving forward,” Brennan said. “We can break down the barriers and inhibitions that are often placed around these discussions.” Digital media allow for the Kenyon community to better experience these discussions. Brennan thinks the goal of the podcast series is to “take it out of an academic, stuffy environment, and make it something accessible to people.”