“Critical Series @ WAC” lectures conclude

By Piper Sartison
Elm Staff Writer

On Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m., the Washington College gender studies, Latin American studies, and Black studies programs, alongside the William James Forum Fund, presented the third and final installment of the “Critical Series @ WAC” fall semester schedule, titled “What is Queer Theory?,” at the McLain Atrium between Dunning Hall and the John S. Toll Science Center. 

 Hosted by Associate Professor of Spanish and Director of the Black Studies Program Dr. Elena Deanda-Camacho, and Assistant Professor of Spanish Dr. Martin Ponti, the talk sought to recognize the existence of the LGBTQIA+ community while also bringing awareness to the discrimination that continues to form against them, according to Dr. Deanda-Camacho. 

“We are in a country [where if you are] LGBTQ[IA+] you can [legally marry] …We are in a country in which we have a lot of [queer audiences that are] being represented on media…And yet this week [in Illinois] there was a high school that formed an anti-queer coalition,” Dr. Deanda-Camacho said. “This high school was trying to make students afraid of bathrooms by weaponizing [the news that stated] the dangers of allowing transgender students in the bathrooms that they [identify] with.” 

  “Just this week, the ninth state followed a bill [that bans] any kind of medical assistance for LGBTQIA+ communities,” she said.  “That’s kind of where we are: there are so many things that we have advanced…and yet there are so many people that are trying to push us back to the [1950s].”

According to Dr. Ponti, individuals “can’t understand queer theory without looking at the term ‘queer’ itself” and how it has changed over time. While many people consider the word as derogatory, some have embraced the term as part of their identity. 

“That lack of certainty is what allows you to be critical,” Dr. Ponti said. “Everything can be questioned [and] everything can be argued…there is no clear definition, [and] we don’t want a clear definition.”  

According to Dr. Ponti, as a college student, he noticed that “there was a whole field of media studies that looked…. at [queer representations through film].” Through this, Dr. Ponti said that the LGBTQIA+ community — gay men in particular — were cast into specific roles in which they become invested with strong female characters. He said the inclusion of queer theory sought to recognize these patterns and make necessary changes as to how individuals are seen in the larger world. 

 “We challenge what society has considered [or deemed to be] normal,” Dr. Ponti said.“Queer theory in itself asks questions [and] tries to be critical.”

Throughout the remainder of the talk, Dr. Ponti also discussed theories relating to both gender and sexual identity.

According to Dr. Ponti, gender identity should be fluid, with space in between for individuals to grow and change, emphasizing questioning models that claim to understand gender identity, as certain images may only constrict humans to a gender binary rather than a spectrum. 

 According to Dr. Ponti, queer theory seeks to question the restrictions and stereotypes that society displays regarding the LGBTQIA+ community. Dr. Ponti and others hope to create a safe community where people will feel accepted for who they are. In addition, by analyzing the development of the LGBTQIA+ community, they hope to enforce the idea that there are no restrictions to sexuality or gender.

Photo by Kayla Thornton
Featured Photo Caption: On Nov. 18, “Critical Series @ WAC” concluded for the 2021 fall semester with “What is Queer Theory?” led by Associate Professor of Spanish Dr. Martin Ponti.

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