By Laura Markowitz ’85When Women’s Studies was established as a field of academic inquiry 40 years ago, humans had a relatively simple, binary view of gender: One was either female or male. One’s sex was inextricably linked to one’s reproductive organs. True, hermaphrodites existed as a kind of murky in-between, but that was resolved by assigning them at birth to either the pink team or the blue team.
This essentialist view of gender was challenged in 1990, when feminist philosopher Judith Butler published her groundbreaking book Gender Trouble. She argued that gender is a learned social behavior that we each perform.
Swarthmore students today cite Butler regularly when they talk about gender as “a fluid state of identity.” It seems almost obvious to this generation that femininity and masculinity are nothing more than social constructs that we act out—and that there are many more than two gender choices. The dismantling of the long-held binary view about gender was offered as a reason by professors and students as to why Swarthmore’s 23-year-old Women’s Studies Program should officially change its name in spring 2008 to Gender and Sexuality Studies.
By Ken MaguireAfrica’s rich and powerful are almost as easy to spot as its ubiquitous poor. Many of them shuttle to and from work and around towns like Accra, Ghana, in shiny chauffeured cars and oversized SUVs. That’s not how Patrick Awuah ’89 rolls. The man who wants to revolutionize how Africa educates its future chief executives of government and business—he’s spent $700,000 of his own money doing it—drives himself to work in a 1999 Honda CR-V, looking more like a suburban dad than a mover or shaker.
By Carol Brévart-DemmCaptured in the stage light’s golden circle, Hans Lüdemann’s long, slender fingers deftly work the keyboard of a majestic grand piano. The internationally acclaimed German jazz virtuoso coaxes out a slow, haunting seven-note melody—a theme that will recur repeatedly as the piece “Turning Points” develops. Eyes closed, lips moving, Lüdemann murmurs to himself, “as if I’m breathing what I’m playing,” he says later.
By Paul Wachter ’97During the terrible week of Oct. 6, 2008—Black Week, as it was later dubbed on Wall Street—the Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 2,000 points, about 18 percent. It was the worst weekly decline in the index’s history but only the latest blow in a burgeoning economic crisis. The $8 trillion housing bubble had burst, taking with it some of nation’s largest financial institutions—like Lehman Brothers—and putting others such as AIG and Citigroup on life support with government dollars.
By Robert StraussNan-Kirsten Weinstock Forte ’84 was distraught. Her MCAT scores were disappointing, and her dream of becoming a doctor was dying. To console her, an adviser at Swarthmore suggested she try one of her other dreams—science journalism—while studying again for the difficult medical school entrance examinations. “It was fortuitous. I have never looked back."
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