Girl, seeking inspiration

I’d like to think of myself as a creative person- the kind that can come up with interesting and different ideas or can see things in ways that other people can’t. I’m a creative person and this project is really stumping me.

My intial reaction is that I am approaching this with too much of a creative edge. I am very hopeful that my finished project will provide some sense of accomplishment and as I am completing it, I will be inspired to make something really cool. But I really don’t know where to begin. My first problem is that I have a extremly large range of interests. In choosing my history honors topic I bounced from studying the witchcraft trials in medieval Italy to analyzing motown music as a social construction in 1960s US. When asked to apply for jobs, I   don’t even know where to begin because I don’t have one direct interest.

So what gets me passionate? What scares me? This seems like the ultimate question I’ve been trying to figure out for years- unsuccessfully at that And even though I’m sure this will change, one idea or topic comes to mind.

I’ve found that gender really interests me. The one thing that was in common in both of my thesis topics is that they are centered around women and how they are understood in those moments in history. From this, I think I might like to explore something different than my historical studies of women. I am good at research and understanding the social constructions in history. What I have not really explored is the present. I have been firmly situated in the past for most of my college career, and I would like to apply my understanding to my own life. I think it would be a cool topic to apply what I know about history of gender and try to understand how personally am effected by it. How have those events influenced me? The people around me?

So now that I’ve picked an interest, I’m not sure where to go from here or how to explore this in a project. Any ideas?

10 thoughts to “Girl, seeking inspiration”

  1. This is a great place to start. It sounds like you went from having so many interest and really narrowed it down to something that would work for the project. It was a good idea to think about what you are a good at in relation to the project. I think applying the history of women studies to your current life and maybe the lives of women at U of M would be great. Maybe an observance and relation between today’s actions and the past’s events.

  2. Hi Caroline,

    I am really intrigued by your thoughts and ideas regarding the project. Specifically, when you said that you would like to apply the understanding of the past to your own life. I think this goal, in combination with your passion for the topic of gender, will make for a really interesting project that has both historical and personal relevance. I think your guiding question “how have those events influenced me?” could make for a really cool area of discovery. I think picking a specific event within the realm of gender to examine would be a great starting place. Then, you will be able to see what you find there and discern any patterns to help you move forward. Good luck!!

    -Emily

  3. Great start! It sounds like you have a good grasp of this knowledge and have passion for it (which will definitely help down the road aka when Senioritus kicks in). I remember Ray mentioning that someone a few semesters ago did a project where she examined what she knew about the Holocaust compared to what her parents knew, and why that might be. It could be cool to do a similar type of project and relate it to gender. Maybe you can analyze an event or a topic and compare what you know about it compared to your mother and grandmother. That way, you can showcase the progression of women over time or what it means to be a woman in this society today, compared to previous generations.

  4. Hi Caroline,

    I like the idea of you focusing on how gender effects YOU especially considering with history you’re so often studying other people. One way to do that may be poetry – or some other creative outlet that feels different than thesis writing. What if you keep a journal with you and write down every time you think gender has influenced your experience. I’m thinking in the moment reactions – and in your poems or whatever form you choose you could potentially write about other historical women you know of through your studies and have a sort of lyrical conversation with them about gender politics.

  5. Hey Caroline,
    You’re definitely on the right track. Reflecting on how your particular knowledge base has affected your life is a really unique idea and one I hadn’t ever thought about before. In addition to this reflective element, since you also said that you have not really explored present-day women’s issues, maybe your project can incorporate that somehow as well. So maybe it can be part reflection and part research paper. How has your research experience affected the way you and those around you live? And, though we’ve come a long way in affording women with equal treatment, there is still a lot of work to be done. What will the future of gender and women’s issues look like? This could be something worth exploring.

  6. Caroline,
    This is actually something that was discussed in a sociology class I took last semester and I think the possibilities for this topic are endless. There is some really cool articles I could point you to if you want, especially regarding the way in which society saw gender in relation to homosexuality. Some theories reference the “third sex,” meaning that gay men are actually women trapped in men’s bodies, and stuff like that. Any way, I think this would be a really unique topic to apply to a history paper/historical analysis. I know you probably have written dozens of those types of papers now, but tracking the evolution and theories about gender and how society sees gender and how it relates to identity based on historical context and event would be much different than witchcraft in Italy. Either way, there are certainly a variety of theories on gender, as well as a huge shift in perspective from decade to decade, which I think would make for an interesting topic. Keep it up!

    -Sam

  7. I think that if you are intrigued by gender you should follow that route. There’s definitely a lot I think you could explore on this issue/concept. I think a big question to ask yourself is what mode you wish to use. I think if you want your work to be unique rather than a research paper, you should think of interesting modes to introduce your content with.

    Best,
    Levi

  8. Hey Caroline,

    I think the topic of gender is full of a lot of interesting issues to unpack, and lot that we often overlook in our own lives. Maybe you could start with some of these issues from a personal standpoint, such as how gender identity is formed, what the societal impact on it is, where your interests lie in this topic etc. One of my classmates in English 225 did a project on gender constructions in people from different cultural backgrounds, and ended up writing a final paper in which she included some interviews from these people. It’s up to you whether you want to do interviews, but I think incorporating some other viewpoints could be really interesting.

  9. Hi Caroline! This is definitely a great start! Looking back at historical, hindsight is 20/20. We are more aware than ever before of the social problems of the past, but I think the real question is whether we’ve put that retrospective insight to use. I don’t know if you want to go into exploring the methodology of such research, but it seeing the ways in which it has changed over the decades could shed some light on the way we look at gender today. Do we pay attention to the same issues? Do those same issues still exist? Have they taken on new forms? It seems as though you’ve looked at history through very specific lenses. Use the project to pull all of these lenses into one large window, analyzing history from a macro scale.

  10. Hey Caroline,

    I wonder if you could look at your wealth of interests and passions as the “inspiration” for your project in a way. After all, the problem that you’re presently facing isn’t the sort of issue that many young women would have to deal with 50 years ago (I say this as an English major who’s most familiar with the middle ages…so I may be talking out of my ass a little bit but I don’t think I’m all that far off). My point is, in looking at what sorts of challenges you face now, a young woman on the brink of graduating in 2015, what does it say about the role of women in our society? I’m not proposing that you do a project that amounts to you pointing out that how you, a young woman with a variety of talents and interests, are “We’ve come a long way, baby!” personified, a symbol of female progress over time, though that may be a component of the project. I think it could definitely be made more complicated than a simple success story by addressing such questions as whether or not there’s a dark side of telling young women that “they can do anything” (this is taken from a Sarah Silverman bit*), do you feel that there’s pressure on young women like yourself to conform to new gender stereotypes that didn’t exist previously, or do you see any signs of your gender playing a role in what you were/weren’t drawn to during undergrad? I’ll admit, I may be projecting on to you a little bit with that last question; it’s something that I think about as a female, cis-genered English major who considered taking on a math minor, but eventually decided against it.

    I hope that you find some of these questions helpful, and please do contact me if you ever want to bounce ideas around!

    *Sarah Said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I think we should stop telling little girls they can do anything. I really do. Because it would have never occurred to them that they couldn’t otherwise. It’s like telling someone, ‘Hey, when you go to sleep, I’m not gonna read your diary.'”

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