There wasn’t an empty seat available in the Donald P. Corbett auditorium last Thursday, as over 300 community members and students gathered for the Dr. Anne Margaret Johnstone Memorial Lecture and Keynote Address, “The Purity Myth.” The lecture was part of the University of Maine’s Women’s History Celebration. Sponsored by the Women in the Curriculum and Women’s Studies Program, the monthlong celebration included workshops, films and lectures marking the accomplishments that women have made and the hardships that we have overcome.
The featured speaker, Jessica Valenti, is the author of four books including her latest, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women,” and is the founder of the snarky and comedic blog, Feministing.org. Valenti has been called the “poster girl of third-wave feminism” by Salon magazine, and was the perfect choice to lead this Women’s History Celebration event.
Valenti was both hilarious and informative about describing the modern-day sexism that occurs in our society, including the praise of virginity and how it negatively impacts the self-worth of America’s young girls. Valenti opened her lecture by asking the audience for a show-of-hands, how many people in attendance identified as feminists? She was surprised when more than half of the audience members raised their hands. Valenti claimed that she has dealt for years with people turning their noses up at the word “feminist.” According to Valenti, so many people practice feminist behavior but are “too freaked out” to call themselves feminists because of the negative connotations that have plagued it for years.
“If young women knew what feminism was about, they would be more likely to be involved,” Valenti said, addressing the bra-burning man-hater myth that society has successfully attached to the word. Feminist, as defined by the American Heritage dictionary is “someone, male or female, who believes in social, political and economic equality between the sexes.” Feminism is also famously defined by Cheris Kramerae as someone who believes in the “radical notion that women are human beings.” Valenti said that one of the biggest problems with feminism is that there aren’t enough young people involved in the movement.
Valenti began her blog 7 years ago when she Googled “young feminist” and was only returned one applicable result, an article by the National Organization Women from 1991. She then began her blog and centered it on grasping a young audience, in a friendly, witty and communal way. The comment section on Feminsiting.org is one of the ways that the blog connects with its readers. Viewers can comment on a post and get this, Valenti actually writes back, and a conversation is begun. This back-and-forth communication is a very feminist way of creating a sense of community, Valenti claims. The more comedic style of the blog “makes feminism more approachable” to younger audiences.
The main topic of the lecture was about how Valenti believes that America has an obsession with virginity. She backed up this belief by referencing abstinence-only education and societal rewards for saving one’s virginity until marriage. One of these rewards is a “purity ball,” a dance that was at one point federally funded in certain areas, at which a daughter pledges her virginity to her father and symbolic gifts are exchanged. According the Valenti, these rewards create a sexual double standard: they cause young women to believe that their “only real worth is whether or not they abstain from sex.” But at the same time, our society thrives on sexualized images of women in the media. These cultural constructs, Valenti argues, make finding out who you are and realizing your self-worth difficult for impressionable young girls.
“Being a good person should actually be because you are a good person; it has nothing to do with sexuality,” said Valenti.
Valenti has since retired from editing Feministing.org, and is now focusing on being an author and lecturer around the country. Valenti ended her lecture with a question and answer session, and audience members were eager to ask her about the media coverage and education surrounding abstinence. When asked what feminists can do to address these issues Valenti answered, “We need to address the cultural constructions that make everyday sexism possible.” We can do this by spreading the word about feminism and its accomplishments and getting involved in our communities and local governments in order to make big changes in the lives of women.
By Emma Thieme
The patches of snow on campus are quickly disappearing and the temperatures are rising (we’ve already had a 50 degree day in March!). These little hints can only mean two things for me: summer is fast approaching and the deadline for my capstone project is just around the corner. When the days become longer and the weather heats up, it’s difficult for even the most organized students to stay on top of schoolwork. But even if my mind does occasionally drift to my summer plans, it does help that the projects that are standing between my diploma and me actually involve topics that I’m interested in.
In order to complete the broadcast journalism sequence, I have to take Michael Socolow’s CMJ 489: Media Ethics course as well as Sunny Hughes’ CMJ 481: Digital Journalism course. When you reach this level in your college career, your classes really begin to prepare you for life beyond the Orono campus, and your required projects are designed to help you build a competitive portfolio for your future endeavors.
Every journalism major, no matter if their sequence is print/editorial, broadcast or advertising, has to take Socolow’s class and complete a capstone paper and presentation. For the past few semesters, my course load has required me to branch off from the journalism major in its entirety and focus on the broadcast aspect of it, allowing me to become part of close-knit classes that are often taken by the same group of students and are often taught by recurring professors year after year. Hughes’ class is an example of this. However after all that, it is nice to re-group with my fellow journalism majors again in Socolow’s class and find out how my peers have been developing within their respected sequences over the past few years.
In Socolow’s class, we sit in a circle and have in-depth discussions about cases in which the media had to weigh the consequences and make an ethical decision. We read articles, watch videos and observe social media in order to educate ourselves on different ethical situations and what the possible implications might be. In order to complete the class, we are required to choose an ethical case that involves the media and give an educated analysis on it, compiled in a 10-page paper and a 15-minute presentation in front of the class. The case that we choose is intended to be a talking point that would impress a potential employer in an interview.
In Hughes’ class, we are asked to hone in on the filming, editing and interviewing skills we have learned over our college careers, and create six different multimedia stories covering a timely issue. Our entire class decided to focus our projects on sustainability, and each one of us is covering a topic underneath this umbrella. I am focusing on sustainable agriculture and am interviewing farmers, scientists and experts all over the state of Maine. However, some of my classmates’ topics include land-use regulations, alternative energy and wildlife conservation. The freedom of Hughes’ class allows us to work on our own deadlines and experience the independence that our field requires.
It’s mid-March and completing these final projects is definitely going to take a lot of time out in the field and in the library. But this experience also allows me to use the education that I have gained thus far to make a final product that will give me a leg up in my job search. Although my mind often drifts to thoughts of the Maine coast in summertime, I’m still very much aware of my passion for journalism and my drive to make it my career. These final projects allow me to put this into perspective and motivate myself to plan for the future.
By Emma Thieme
When you are in your junior year of college, something that you will hear often, maybe daily, is that you should be doing an internship. Last year when I was a junior I heard this maybe a little too often, and I was beginning to get worried that I wouldn’t have time or be able to find an internship that was right for me.
So when the executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union (MCLU), Shenna Bellows, came to a Student Women’s Association meeting last spring and talked about possible internships at her organization, I jumped on the opportunity.
The MCLU is our state’s nonpartisan affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Its mission is to preserve and enhance civil liberties and civil rights. The MCLU does this by representing civil liberties cases in the courts, lobbying at the local, state and national levels for legislation that would enhance civil liberties, and doing educational outreach in schools and in communities.
After I did some research, I knew that the MCLU would be a perfect place for me to do my first summer internship. As the MCLU is a nonpartisan organization, I would be challenged to work objectively and gain perspective from both sides of every issue that I worked on. To apply, I sent the MCLU my resume and mentioned that I had attended a presentation at the university and I was interested in pursuing a communications internship. I got a quick response, and later in the week I received a phone call setting up an interview.
I met with MCLU field director Brianna Twofoot, who first asked me what issues I had the most interest in. Then she asked me questions about those issues and what I had done to become involved in them. I was able to talk about my involvement with the Student Women’s Association, and our organizing of projects within the campus community. Some of the questions Twofoot asked me were more difficult, and I was happy that I had done some research beforehand in order to familiarize myself with the ACLU’s mission and past work. A week after the interview, I learned I had landed the internship.
I was so proud of myself and excited at the opportunity to gain some real-life experience in advocacy. The MCLU compromised with my summer work schedule and had me come in two days a week for 6-hour shifts. While in the office, I primarily did research on issues such as solitary confinement, racial profiling and electronic medical records. Twofoot said that the MCLU wanted me to gain experience with and become an expert on several key issues.
I spoke to people at other state affiliates, and discussed issues with them. I logged pages and pages of media coverage. I wrote summaries for the MCLU website and found sources that might help the public better understand their civil liberties. I drafted letters to the editor and worked with local media outlets. And at the end of the summer, after all that real-life work, I was an expert. I had gained contacts in the field and had practiced working and organizing with them. I had gone to meetings and shared ideas with representatives from other organizations such as the NAACP. MCLU staffers worked hard to include me in their organizing and made me feel like I was part of their team.
Now that I have experienced how rewarding an internship can be, I have started to pursue other internships at organizations that I am interested in. Because why stop at just one? The more experience I gain in the communications and journalism fields, the more apt I am to work for an outlet that I care about.
By Emma Thieme
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that going to the gym is not my favorite thing to do. I enjoy eating well and doing outdoor activities to stay in shape, but when it comes to exercising, I would rather sweat it out in the sauna or relax in the hot tub at the Student Recreation and Fitness Center than climb for hours on its state-of-the-art Stairmasters. But when I needed to pick up an electives course this past semester, DAN 297: Topics in Dance caught my eye. For three years the chosen topic for this course has been yoga, instructed by Terry Lacy.
To me, dance is a wonderful form of exercise. It allows you to be creative and expressive, while building muscle strength and improving posture and flexibility. I thought that taking a yoga class would bring me back to this familiar form of expression, and I was right!
Lacy is an optimal instructor for the course as he has been practicing yoga for more than 35 years and owns his own studio, Central Street Yoga, in downtown Bangor. His instruction is motivating and careful. He pushes his students to explore the capabilities of their bodies and he respects the differences in these capabilities. “It’s about the journey, not –the pretzel,” his studio website reads.
“I love the fact that yoga can be anything you want it to be. It’s not rigid,” said Lacy. He described how yoga can be beneficial no matter a student’s age or athletic ability “yoga has something for everyone”.
Yoga is made up of 8 “limbs” that act as a doorway into the practice. Physicality is just one of these limbs. A common misconception about yoga is that it is just about physical exercise, but Lacy claims that yoga is much more than athletic ability.
The practice of yoga consists of hundreds of poses, and Lacy usually begins every class with a short lesson, introducing a new pose to his students. He then turns out the lights and begins practice, in which he leads the class through pose after pose with seamless transitions from one to the next.
After just 30 minutes, my body is feeling the effects of a hard workout, but my mind is relaxed. I’m not out of breath, shaky or staring at a screen monitoring my burned calories. I am completely focused on my body and my breathing.
Lacy teaches his students how to use their breathing in order to push themselves deeper into their poses. He often opens with the idea that because the world is constantly in motion, our bodies are never completely still, and therefore we must constantly be exploring possible small adjustments to our poses and postures. The breathing techniques that Lacy has taught us allow me to focus my mind and push myself deeper into my poses. Whenever we feel that we can’t possibly hold a pose any longer, Lacy reminds us to return to our breath.
Throughout my childhood, I had never been a particularly athletic girl, but after taking Lacy’s yoga class I am re-evaluating this statement. The class was in one word inspirational and in two words life-changing. I discovered that my body is apparently capable of amazing things. After a semester’s worth of practice, it can balance on its elbows in crow pose and bend over backwards for wheel pose. My body was very surprised that these things were possible, now it does them all time.
Lacy ends every class with savasana, a meditative pose of total relaxation. This is a time to reflect, and allow your mind to completely rest as you focus solely on inhaling and exhaling. It is interesting to experience the thoughts that pop up in my mind during this meditation, and to feel them quietly fade away as I allow my body to melt into the floor. The room is so quiet and I believe my slowed but strong heartbeat can be felt throughout the room. When Lacy asks us to bring our attention back into our bodies, I am completely relaxed and ready to handle my life stresses in a more calmer and gentle way.
Lacy’s last words of practice: “let us bow or heads to the infinite possibilities. Namaste.” Namaste.
Image Description: Terry Lacy instructs his yoga students on how to do a successful headstand.
Image Description: Students focus on relaxing breathing techniques.
By Emma Thieme
After a productive weekend of catching up on schoolwork and having fun with my friends, I wanted to end my time off on a well-rounded note by going to watch “The Laramie Project.”
“The Laramie Project,” written by Moisés Kaufman, chronicles a year in the rural town of Laramie, Wyo., in the wake of one of the most infamous hate crimes in America. The show is nationally performed and was co-sponsored by Wilde Stein and UMaine GLBTQ services.
The play tells the story of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay Laramie resident, who died on Oct. 12, 1998, after being severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die by two other Laramie residents, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. The performance consists of a series of interviews that were conducted by a theater troupe, each one revealing a little piece of who Matthew was as a person and what he meant to Laramie.
Not only were the cast and crew successful with conveying a deep message, but they were also able to pull off a difficult performance. All of the actors had several roles to portray and were often moving from one stage-side to the other, changing accessories in order to let the audience know that they were switching characters. These transitions were seamless and easy to follow. The production crew did an excellent job using audio and visual effects in order to give an authentic portrayal of the town of Laramie. Throughout the performance crying could be heard — the message had clearly evoked an emotional response from the audience.
After watching “The Laramie Project,” I was so thankful that such a production was put on at the University of Maine. It was heartbreaking but eye-opening, and it made me reflect on how lucky I am to be part of a campus that does not tolerate hate.
By Emma Thieme
On my 21st birthday last April I unwrapped my first serious camera, a Sony Cybershot DSC-HX1.
“A good journalist needs a good camera,” my parents told me as I discarded the brown bag wrapping paper.
I remember the feeling of excitement I had when I looked through the viewfinder for the first time, but it wasn’t long before a feeling of bewilderment crept up on me. When it comes to photography, I can take as decent a picture as the next person, but that’s only on the automatic function. Once I turn the dial away from “intelligent auto adjustment,” I’m lost in the world of ISOs and f-stops.
Which is why it was crucial for me to take a photography course in my last semester as a Broadcast Journalism student. I chose Bill Kuykendall’s NMD 201: Photographic Reporting and Storytelling. My four years in journalism studies have not failed to open my eyes to the ever-changing world of media, and Kuykendall’s class was no exception. I left his first lecture with an eagerness to explore the world around me from behind the camera lens. And based on Kuykendall’s experience, I knew that I would be learning the basics from one of the best.
Kuykendall has been teaching, directing and founding photography programs for more than 30 years, and he even served as the photo director for the Seattle Times. Kuykendall is an award-winning photographer who has been the recipient of prizes such as the Newspaper Picture Editor of the Year award by the National Press Photographers Association. One of the most exciting things about the first week of classes is the new introductions. It is a breath of fresh air to be at a university that affords its students experienced and knowledgeable professors. After listening to Kuykendall’s experience in the media world, I can’t wait to use him as a resource for my own journalistic journey.
Another great thing about NMD 201 is that it is obvious that Kuykendall cares about his teaching and his students. When my neighbor handed me the class syllabus, I was impressed. Of course, I had been expecting a bulleted packet of course goals and rules, complete with an H1N1 warning, and identical in format to every syllabus I had received since my first college class. But instead of the predictable outline, Kuykendall had written his syllabus as what can only be described as a short storybook of what the class would entail, complete with pictures from his own portfolio and quotes from successful photographers. Bill’s outline of the course was encouraging and conversational. “Don’t shy from risk. Innovating never will be easier than now,” I read off of the first page.
After leaving my first photography class, I am filled with the same feelings I had when I looked through my camera last spring. I am thrilled by all of the new possibilities and challenges that I might face. And although my fingers may still stray to the automatic settings, I am confident that this won’t be the case for long.