Students speak about race, gender, sexuality

Race, gender and sexuality play an important role in many aspects of society.

March 16 marked the Eighth Annual Race, Gender and Sexuality Conference at UVM. The event, composed of student panelists presenting their research and work in these fields, was free and open to the general public.

“The Burlington community is interested in the intersection of race and gender and this [conference] supports that,” Gregory Ramos, director of ALANA U.S. ethnic studies said.

The conference also provided students with a real-world opportunity to present their work, and gave them experience in research, Ramos said.

The panelists presented on a wide range of topics from global issues, such as sex trafficking in Israel, to gender perceptions and equality on UVM’s own track and field team. 

Audience members asked questions that led to discussions across the three areas of interest, while panelists who had covered the different topics collaborated to develop a well-grounded response. 

One panelist noted that the issues of race, gender and sexuality are rarely discussed when considering globalization, yet they play a prominent role in how human beings interact with each other. 

Panelist, senior Gaelan Chutter-Ames, focused his presentation on contrasting the social mobility of the white, upper class women of “Sex and the City” with the restrictive relationship between an African-American man and a Caucasian woman.

Chutter-Ames noted that the public reception of the black-white couple in the movie was negatively charged, while the white-white relationships of the women in “Sex and the City” are portrayed in a positive light.

Panelist and senior AJ Habib presented the story of sex trafficking in Israel. 

Women brought over primarily from Russia are smuggled into Israel’s sex trade, where they are forced into working to repay an initial “debt” to their employer, Habib said. 

Customers can pay premiums to have sex with women without protection, drastically increasing the transmission and prevalence of STIs, she said. 

One audience member mentioned radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s comments about a student who supported President Obama’s insurance law covering contraceptives for women, which triggered a heated discussion.

In response, the panelists theorized that there would be a net loss of money if contraceptives were not covered by insurance. 

They noted that limiting access to contraceptives would create a higher incidence of unwanted pregnancies and enable STIs to transmit more easily. 

The conference’s unification of race, gender and sexuality led to a host of new viewpoints, providing insight and bringing attention to issues sometimes not examined.