Welcome back, Academic Feminists. Today we are happy to present Maggie Casey, the next interviewee in the Feministing Student Series. This series features the work of college and masters students whose final projects/theses focus on gender and sexuality issues.
Maggie Casey is a recent graduate of Beloit College in Wisconsin. With no current plans to return to school she spends most of her time convincing people to move to Baltimore and plotting ways to overthrow the capitalist patriarchy.
Gwendolyn: What is your thesis/final paper about?
Maggie: In our culture we often interpret medical language as neutral terminology describing natural phenomena. So often we overlook both the direct and indirect ways in which culture informs the language that we use, and in turn the ways that language shapes culture. My thesis looked at the dangerous ways that medical language has been used for centuries to regulate and limit women’s sexual pleasure. Broadly speaking, I make the argument that the use of incorrect terminology in relation to women’s bodies, a dismissal of the natural, the medicalization of sexuality, and a fundamental lack of research about women’s bodies have all greatly contributed to the continued subjugation of women.
What got you interested in this subject?
I have definitely been inspired by Sophia Wallace’s work with her project Cliteracy. As a feminist you so often have people tell you that you’re overreacting or reading too much into little details, but that’s where it gets most interesting! Wallace looks at tiny details that may seem insignificant, but in reality have a huge impact on the way we view bodies and sexuality.
What is the one thing you are most proud of?
Over the past few years I have become more and more frustrated with the dense and inaccessible language of academia; it keeps so many awesome innovative ideas from ever actually reaching most people. I went into this process with the hope that anyone could read my work and understand what I was saying and how it played out in the world and in their lives. It’s hard for me to tell how much I succeeded in that, but I’m certainly proud that I tried.
What was the most difficult?
Not including everything that I thought was important! Realizing that I was writing a chapter to a book that I did not have time to complete. Recognizing what could be a fun footnote versus what was vital to the main meat of what I was writing.
What is the one piece of advice you’d offer to students who will be working on final papers/projects next year?
There is so much that you are going to want to add that you won’t be able to and that is okay. Think of it not as a culmination of everything that you’ve done before but as one step in your life project. As frustrating as it is to look back on work you’ve just completed and already realize ways in which it is limiting, incorrect, or, in my case, adding to the destructive discursive practice that I was trying to break down, that’s actually a good thing. Be comfortable with the fact that it may never feel like a completely finished product.
Are you a feminist student? Would you like to be interviewed for the Academic Feminist? Send an email with the subject “Feministing Student Series” to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include in the body of the email your name, your school, your year of graduation, your major, and a one-paragraph description of your paper. Please attach your paper as a word or PDF file. Anyone who is a current college or masters student or has graduated within the last year is eligible.
Gwendolyn Beetham’s feminist theory book collection includes two copies of Gender Trouble.