Transgeneration2By Cortney O’Brien 

I signed up for Communication Arts 255: Topics in Rhetoric at Allegheny College in
the spring of 2010 not knowing what to expect. I took it to fill my
credits for a major in journalism. The course description was vague
at best and seemed harmless. It didn’t take me long to realize,
however, that these 50 minutes were going to be less about learning
useful information and more about embracing alternative
lifestyles. 

Our “learning” in Topics in Rhetoric consisted of watching
Transgeneration, a documentary that follows four students
as they undergo gender transitions and how they cope with it on
their college campuses. Our professor dedicated at least three class periods to watching segments from this documentary. The
film followed people such as Gabbie, formerly Andrew, a
male-to-female student, who wore a blonde wig and flaunted tight
womens’ clothing. As we watched this documentary, I couldn’t help
thinking: Why? Why am I being forced to sit
through this? 
Is this what my education has come
to?
  

Our third paper of the semester really stretched my comfort
zone. The prompt? We had to choose a gender ambiguous character
from the media to study and present our research to the class. I
tried to pick a character that would make me feel least
uncomfortable. But, I still found myself talking about the
transformation of Alex to Alexis Meade on ABC’s Ugly
Betty

Other memorable lessons from Topics in Rhetoric included
listening to Liz Phair’s song “Flower,” which features charming
lyrics such as, “I want to **** you like a dog/I’ll take you home
and make you like it/Everything you ever wanted/Everything you ever
thought of/Is everything I’ll do to you/I’ll **** you till your
**** is blue.” This, I gathered, was to challenge gender norms and
to glorify women having the power over men, essentially taking away
their masculinity. I came to this conclusion, because in another
class one of our readings suggested men shouldn’t be pressured to
act masculine and challenged the heroism of the old rustic
lifestyles of American cowboys. Since when is it wrong for a male
to want to be strong and hardworking? Suffice it to say, I did not
see much academic merit in this class and each minute made me feel
awkward.

Although I wish I could say these uncomfortable moments were
limited to my Topics in Rhetoric course, I found myself in another falsely advertised Comm Arts class as well. Communication Arts 201: Intro
to Popular Culture consisted of little more than watching porn on a
weekly basis. The professor dedicated most of our class time to
showing sex scenes from famous films such as Basic
Instinct
 and Unfaithful. He hoped the clips
would encourage discussion about the sexual power play between men
and women, but most of the time we students just sat there
uneasily. 

Witnessing firsthand the radical nature of college courses, I
can see how it is affecting today’s youth. They are taught that
alternative lifestyles are the norm and that traditional gender
roles should be challenged. Essentially, that males don’t have to
be masculine and young women should wield a
“no-man-can-tell-me-what-to-do-attitude.” 

Plenty of my classes spewed the same message. If courses rooting
for alternative behavior such as these are offered, why did I not
see any emphasizing the importance of the nuclear family? This is
harmful to today’s youngest generation and is hurting the
foundation of America.

Perhaps a good way to avoid my mistake is to find out the
required readings for classes before you make a decision. Go online
to look at the class syllabus and research the books or articles on
the list, or visit your campus bookstore to find them and actually
skim through the readings. If the material isn’t yet available, it
can’t hurt to email the professor and ask. 

One lesson I did learn – if a class description seems ambiguous,
the material will be as well. For all you current students who
appreciate the God-made differences between men and women and don’t
wish to challenge any norms, make sure to read between the
lines.

Cortney O’Brien is currently an intern with the National Journalism Center

 

 

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