It’s finals season! This is easily the most stressful time of my semester. As much as I love college, and I am grateful for the experience, I hate finals. It’s the worst part of the college experience. For that reason, I’m super lucky to have a wonderful professor who made this finals season a little less painful for me.
This year I’m took a Gender Studies course with Dr. Crystal Jackson, who graduated with a degree in Sociology and minor in Gender Studies. She now spends her time advocating, and teaching tiny queer people like me at John Jay College. (Also, she has rainbow hair, guys!) The course I took discussed the way people who challenge societal norms about gender and sexuality perform feminism. For our final, we had to do something that embodied Praxis and talk about it to the class.
Praxis is a cycle. It’s the idea of putting action into theory and theory into reformation. A perfect example of this is the black lives matter movement. The theory is “black people don’t deserve to be unjustly killed by police officers.” The action is the black lives matter hashtags, t-shirts, website, and protests. The reformation of the theory happens every time someone attends a protest, every time the hashtag is shared, and every time we talk about black lives matter.
Dr. Jackson gave us many creative liberties with this project. We were allowed to do almost anything we wanted, so long as it was Praxis. Some people in my class completed this by handing out condoms, or by teaching others how to be feminists without going to protests, or by writing to sex workers in prison.
Being me, loud and gay, I decided that I wanted to do a queer analysis of Steven Universe. When I presented this idea to the class, I was asked to explain how watching TV and talking about it was Praxis. My response to this was based on what I had learned about Praxis over the course of this semester. (While this is true, I shouldn’t ignore that I also really wanted to talk about gay TV and get a grade for it, and somehow it worked.)
Steven Universe is a show that exists in the same space that I am living gayly in. I watch the show. I talk about the show, therefore reforming its ideas.
Dr. Jackson seemed excited that I understood what Praxis was. Excitement to see students perform what was taught to them is a wonderful thing to see on any professor’s face. Still, deep down, I think she knew she was letting me get away with being gay as my final project.
Anyways, I wore my gay hat, my gay plaid, my gay shoes, and my gay flag as a cape for the presentation.
I analyzed Steven Universe’s Pearl, making a video, that I posted on YouTube, of all the moments I read as queer over the last few seasons. I spoke about her having very toxic, dependent relationships with other characters on the show and why that was okay. I’m not mad it. It’s great writing, and even better representation. Pearl is a Baby Gay, a term I defined as “any newly queer person who is awkward and unsure of themselves in relation to their sexuality.” I think Pearl is a super important character on TV at the moment. It’s important that young, queer kids, have someone they can relate to. I think Pearl is even more important than Garnet, who’s existence is the literal embodiment of the love two gay women have for each other. Garnet is the face of queer relationships on the show. She presents as very sure of her love and of herself, which is wonderful, and a great example of what relationships should be, but her confidence is not necessarily something Baby Gay kids watching the show can relate to.
Overall, this was the best project I had the opportunity to work on, and I’m thankful Dr. Jackson allowed me to share with everyone.