Interview with Uanne Chang ’20

Uanne Chang ’20 is a 2019-2020 Brace Fellow, co-head of Andover Dance Group, and a member of Blue Strut. This past summer, Chang wrote a research paper combining her passions for dance and gender studies through exploring the way female dancers are viewed through a male lens.

What topics did your project research?

This gender theory called “the male gaze,” it was thought of by Laura Mulvey, who’s a feminist scholar. The idea is that a lot of beauty ideals are manifestations of what the heterosexual male desires. And that manifests in how we view women in media and film, so I applied this film theory to the world of dance… it’s very similar in the way that it’s a viewing of the human body, but in movement. And so I did a historical genealogy on that and I started with the very beginnings of ballet, the origins of ballet… and going from there I constructed a historical pathway analyzing the male gaze and its different manifestations at different points in time. And so first we have King Louis the Fourteenth, and then we have ballet as an erotic spectacle which then goes to Diaghilev and ballet muses.

What inspired you to do this research?

I think the issue of how the body is seen, especially how the female body is seen and idealized and the standards that are imposed upon the female body on the stage, is something that I personally felt as a female ballet dancer. I know eating disorders are very prevalent in the world of dance, especially in the world of ballet, and so I think it’s a very relevant issue… I wanted to learn more about it because it was so pertinent to my own life and I’ve just seen so many of my own friends and people I’m close to affected by this.

What is an example of the expectation of female bodies in the modern world?

A lot the ideals are affected by George Balanchine’s works from the 1970’s and the legacy he carries and the body shape that he idealized with the New York City Ballet. That carries on, because it was only in the 1970’s which is very recent… and so I think that is the driving factor of the eating disorders because he really liked long and skinny. He wanted small heads, very long legs, tiny tiny torso, stick thin… I think it is changing with people like Misty Copeland on the scene.

How does your research from ballet translate to other sports?

I think no matter what women do they will always be seen through [the male gaze] lens. Sports are similar to dance in that it’s a spectacle with spectators watching the body do these amazing things, but they’re watching the body. Because of the historical connection of women’s bodies being sexualized, there will always be that connotation that exists within the male sphere… There’s always this projection of the male gaze onto the female body whether it’s a girl doing gymnastics or a girl doing soccer or a girl doing ballet.

Interview with Corrie Martin, Instructor in English

Corrie Martin teaches in the departments of English and Interdisciplinary Studies and co-advises GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance), AWE (Asian Women Empowerment), and AWA (Andover Writers’ Alliance). She and her spouse, Dr. Marisela Ramos (teacher in History and BOSS advisor), are the proud parents of a Kindergartner, the real boss of the family.

How did you become a feminist?

The first time I became conscious of the word feminism or feminist, I’m sure, happened in high school because right around 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment was a big deal. They hadn’t reached the right amount of states that had ratified it within the time limit, so they told us it was all over, that we couldn’t have it. I remember that feeling of being completely mystified and angry and disillusioned, so I think that’s when I first got into this idea of feminism as a politics and as a movement.

Even before that, I was born aware of gender and how gender informed everything, partly because I’m gay. I was born conscious that I was already on the outside of the norm, and people treated other people differently because of their gender and [their] sexual identity. I noticed that I had to be secretive about it, too. So I was born with that consciousness, but the word feminism and the idea of feminism as an organizing movement, I didn’t learn about that until high school.

When did you start embracing your gender identity?

Probably not until well, well, well into adulthood, and probably not until after my second or third relationship even, when I finally came out to my mother. So, I was well into graduate school, in my twenties, and I finally came out to my mother explicitly, and at that point, I was like, “senior burnout,” like, “I’m just going to do it, I don’t care about the consequences, I have to just be open and honest with everybody in my life.”

It turns out that everybody in my family already knew, my sisters, my father, but my mother I knew was going to have a problem with it. When I finally came out to her, knowing that it was going to be painful and hard and I was just going to have to do it, that was the point of no return in embracing who I was. She’s fine now, we have this awesome relationship now, but it took ten years. It was long and hard, but I’m so glad I did it, and she is too.

What led you to decide to go by ‘M.’ instead of ‘Ms.’ or ‘Mrs’?

When we first came here, we realized that, “Oh my God, everybody here goes by a gendered courtesy title here”… I really didn’t want to be called a ‘Mrs,’ or a ‘Ms,’ or a ‘Miss.’ That just doesn’t fit me. Before, I taught at the college level so I didn’t need a title, they all just called me by my first name. It wasn’t an issue until I came here.

Even though I identify as a woman, those things like gendered pronouns, they just don’t fit me. Like the word mother, I embrace being Mari’s parent… but those just don’t feel right. ‘Mrs.’ and ‘Ms.’ and ‘Miss’ don’t just share something about gender but they also reveal to the world your marital status, your relationship to a man. It’s very strange. We thought, “What if we just dropped the gendered markers, and then you have an M,” and it worked so well off the tongue… When I did it with my very first class, I was a little nervous. I wondered if it would be really uncomfortable… They took to it in the first five seconds. It was so natural, and I was like, “Okay, this feels right.”

Specifically raising a daughter, are there any unforeseen challenges you’ve had? Rewarding aspects?

In the playground, we also have to be conscious of the gender dynamics with toddlers. Already, it’s happening: boys would tend to try to take over, or would be rough with the other kids and take toys away. We noticed these gender dynamics so we tried to intervene but in a way that was a teaching moment for all the kids and the parents. A lot of the parents on the playground had these gendered assumptions about how boys can act and how girls should act, and trying to raise awareness in the playground about that is really interesting. From day one [of having a child], you do have to be conscious of how… even if you’re trying to [ignore gender stereotypes], you can’t because the world is gendered, [so] you have to constantly be aware and try to intervene in a positive, supportive way.

How does your gender identity influence your parenting style?

I guess it doesn’t matter what my gender identity is because we don’t associate our gender identity with particular roles or expectations in our house…Dr. Ramos identifies as cis-gender, and she’s a really girly girl, but she hates to clean so I have to do all the cleaning, but I also have to take out the garbage. We just do things based on what we like to do and who has the strength to do it, and really try to disassociate our gender identity with any expectations about what we should do or what we should feel. It’s really just about being a full human being and communicating and knowing that gender’s a wonderful thing when you celebrate it  in all of its diversity and not let it become a box that narrows your choices and your aspirations.