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Here and Now

So much has happened in the past month that has made many of us cry, feel furious or afraid, venture into despair, but also become radicalized as we try to figure out how to move on from here.

By “here,” I mean a lot of things. Two years of living in a pandemic has taken its toll on everyone; we are yet to grieve the losses and reckon with the disabilities caused by COVID-19. There are different kinds of losses as well. Since May, three UIC students have died; the upper administration (not the individual departments) still has not acknowledged the loss to our community.

The “here” is a moment of tampon and baby formula shortages, yet another gendered crisis in late-stage capitalism. It is also white supremacy consolidating its power through the simultaneous attacks on African Americans, reproductive rights, books, transgender folks, drag queens, LGBT pride events, along with the overt defense of guns in the wake of each massacre. Using an intersectional feminist lens, we can readily see the connections between these forms of violence and what they aim to do: all of them seek to eradicate forms of difference which they believe are a threat to white Christian patriarchal heteronormativity, and aim to maintain a racial order that assigns white straight men dominance in all spheres of social, political, and economic life. That is the order we currently live in and which marginalized groups struggle against, despite what James Patterson says. We also know that wherever there is mass gun violence you will also find misogyny as an antecedent. The attacks on a grocery store in an African American neighborhood in New York, the hospital in Oklahoma, and the elementary school in Texas, despite the difference in contexts, gives us an opportunity to talk about the narrow range of masculine identities that are offered to straight men and which are expressed, too often, through guns and harming other people. We need to be having these conversations with the young men in our lives.

The “here” also contains resistance and accountability. Reproductive rights groups and abortion providers are engaged in intense organizing efforts to expand access and infrastructure, all to ensure that abortion care is accessible to whomever who needs it post-Roe. Gender & Women’s Studies and WLRC are involved in some of that organizing work here at UIC as well. This Pride Month, there is a growing number of LGBT parade organizers who are daring to ask police not to march in pride parades while in uniform. There are as many criticisms of the idea of building “gender responsive” jails in New York City as there are jokes about men crammed into the back of a U-Haul. And, Lizzo listened to her fans when they told her she used harmful ableist language in her newly released song “Grrrls.”

As we settle into summer (August is right around the corner) and catch up on writing, reading, administrativa, and planning courses for the next academic year, we should remind ourselves that there is still a lot of hope here at UIC. The work of making our classrooms, departments, and campus units into spaces for critical conversations and action about inclusion and justice is ongoing and takes many forms. We hope the items on the summer reading list inspire you further. As WLRC plans its programs for the upcoming year, we welcome your input about the conversations that you want to have, and look forward to inquiries about how we can build spaces of learning and engagement together.

In solidarity,

Natalie Bennett