Intro to Feminist Evolutions

After a long semester of work, I’m so excited (and nervous!) to debut my capstone project to the world.

“Feminist Evolutions” explores how people come to be feminists and how they perceive feminism today. I really became passionate about feminism in college, and I wanted to explore why that might have happened. This project was also inspired by the different versions of feminism that I had seen manifesting on campus, and how people were sometimes in conflict with their ideals.

The first part of my project is a photo essay about my own journey to becoming a feminist. I juxtaposed text and photos that meant something for my journey to becoming a feminist. The second part of my project is a collection of photos and interviews with feminists from around the campus of the University of Michigan who I know from various organizations. I hope to update the second section as time goes on, so it is a work in progress!

To T, thank you so much for giving me the flexibility to do this project, and working with me when my original plans got upended by the COVID-19 crisis. To all of my classmates, thank you for your support, encouragement, and advice along the way – the project wouldn’t be as great without all of your help!

Here’s the link to my website: https://maryjkel.wixsite.com/writing-capstone

Advice to Future Capstone Students

I began Capstone not knowing what to expect for my project. I wasn’t sure exactly what sort of topic to do, and I had done so many projects in so many other classes that I sort of thought what else can I do? It turned out that I followed something that I was passionate about and it turned out great in the end! 

I definitely didn’t envision spending the last day of class looking at my computer instead of in North Quad, but it actually turned out okay. As a graduate of online high school, I know that I prefer being in a classroom, but I also didn’t want to catch COVID-19. The transition for this class to online went pretty smoothly! We all shared our ideas in the same way that we would in the normal classroom, and class didn’t feel too different, other than my cat, Koa, coming to meow at me every so often. 

To future Capstone students: 

  • It might be overwhelming to have to jump right in to topics, but you will figure it out! 
  • Pick something that you’re passionate about or that you don’t get a chance to do a lot with in your other courses. I’m a Communication & Media major, so I’m constantly engaging with media in my courses. While I’ve done things with feminism and media, I rarely got to engage with only feminism. 
  • Change your project if you need to! While my topic stayed the same, I had to change the way I presented it due to COVID-19. I’m still proud of how it turned out. 
  • Get interviews done early if possible. I had a hard time getting people to respond to interviews, which might have had something to do with COVID-19, but it helped when I reached out to people early and gave them plenty of time. 
  • Don’t get overwhelmed — I know this is easier said than done, but it’s definitely easier to take a step back from your project and tackle one portion at a time than it is to try to tackle each part simultaneously. 
  • Most of all, try to enjoy creating your project! At the beginning, I felt like it would be so difficult, but I actually had a lot of fun putting time and effort into this project. 

Capstone is truly what you make it, and I know all incoming Capstone students can make it great! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions! 

My Project

A lot has happened with my project since I last posted here. My idea has stayed pretty much the same, but I’ve gone through a lot of different ways to do this in my head, and I’ve landed on doing it almost the same way that I originally envisioned it. Sometimes that happens I guess!

My capstone project will be a photo book. I’m recruiting feminists around campus right now. The plan is then to interview each feminist and take their photo. I’m then going to compile those photos into a photo book and include their answers from the interview on the opposite page.

I talked to T about the best way to do this project. The reason I thought this project was a good idea now is because of the upcoming election and how people are really sharing their views. Even with groups like liberals and feminists, everyone is trying to say that their way is the right way. So, I’m framing this whole project now based on the upcoming election. I’d really love to see people’s different viewpoints and how the election is informing those viewpoints.

I’m very nervous about getting enough participants for my photo book! I’m planning on drawing on my communities on campus for students and faculty to interview, because I really would like this to be a project that represents as many people as possible on U of M’s campus. I really, really hope that people will want to be a part of this, because the photo book can’t happen if people don’t want to be.

https://tenor.com/view/cute-pout-puss-adorable-please-talk-to-me-gif-13085361

Now, I just have to do even more research about photo books and feminism. After spring break, I’m going to start taking photos and doing interviews! I’m hopeful that this is going to turn out, but nervous that it won’t. I’m focusing on the positive now!

Reflection Time

Having to do pitches for what I would spend so much of my time on for the next four months during the first full week of the semester had me like this:

Alas, I did not run away, but instead somehow managed to write four semi-decent pitches. I’m someone who’s really hard on myself, but I was proud of myself that I was able to figure out some good ideas that I would be excited to work on for the duration of the semester. My potential topics are diverse, so I have to pick a topic before I even think about picking a medium for my topic — but one thing at a time! I’m a person with a lot of different passions, so making a decision is always the hardest part for me. 

Once I finally got my pitches done (phew!) someone in class compared this capstone to writing a thesis. I’m already writing a thesis. I can’t write two. Ahhhhhhhhh!

My thesis and previous research projects definitely came into play when I was thinking about my pitches. In the Communication and Media department, I did formal academic media research in my capstone, and I’m currently working on a thesis about celebrity children on social media. So, I knew right away that I wanted to spread my wings with this project and see what I can do with it instead of playing it safe — so, no topics like my thesis topic or my previous research topics. I want to be personal in this in some way. But, hearing that this is like another thesis scared me. 

The fear went away a lot when I got with my group to listen to pitches. I realized that everyone is nervous, and this is a big project for all of us.

I was really surprised when I presented my pitches to my group. The pitch that I wrote last and came as an afterthought — exploring people’s relationships with feminism — is the one that my entire group liked best. I almost didn’t even include that pitch because I thought that no one would be interested in hearing about it. I’m a bit nervous because I did a lot with feminism in my gateway course even though my final project ended up being only loosely based on it, so I don’t want to repeat myself. I have to figure out how to make this new and different if that’s the topic that I end up going with. 

I also really enjoyed hearing my peers’ pitches because it gave me inspiration of my own. I realized the diversity possible in this project and how much I’ll be able to learn from my peers who will likely do such different projects from me! 

Right now, I’m both excited and nervous for the rest of Capstone. I know it will end up being great in the end!

Introduction to the How-To Article

Today, I’m going to describe how to… write a how to article. I know, it’s ironic, but bear with me. How to write the how to might be helpful for all of us to see the origin of the content when we google “how to cook an over easy egg perfectly” (thanks Alton Brown!) or “how to fix the thing that is broken.” I love how-to articles, because it’s like calling my mom but in detailed, written form!

 

Thanks Alton Brown for your step by step guide that helped teenage Mary Jo perfect making an over easy egg! (My mom makes perfect over easy eggs and tried to teach me, but somehow this article stuck more.)

After talking with Julie, I realized that I needed to narrow my focus for this experiment. In Experiments 1 and 2, I focused on overarching ways activist work could be done and how it could help. We realized that I needed to focus on my own personal experiences to make Experiment 3 something that had meaning to me and could develop into a final project.

I am a facilitator for Feminist Forum, a one-credit course in the RC that is very activist based with the topics we discuss. I was very much thrown into being a facilitator of Feminist Forum, with a short online course my only training. This led to some confusion and growing pains among me and my co-facilitators in the beginning. Now, having a year under my belt as a facilitator, I want to write a how-to article to help future facilitators of Feminist Forum (and other forums) be the best they can be. This can include simple aspects like leading a discussion, and more complex ones like dealing with students who dominate the discussion.

According to Writer’s Digest, a how-to article requires 6 steps:

  1. Select Your Topic – Pick a topic that interests you and write a rough draft!
  2. Address Your Audience’s Needs – Decide who your article is intended for – is your rough draft appropriate for this audience?
  3. Research – Look for facts, statistics, definitions, and quotes that can make your article more authoritative
  4. Tighten Your Draft – Write another draft with the information you’ve found in steps 2 and 3
  5. Make It Specific – Make sure your article stays to the point and includes thorough information
  6. Read, Revise, Repeat – Keep revising, get advice from other people, and try to make your article the best it can be!

WikiHow is a website that has an array of different how-to articles on what seems to be every subject imaginable. The front page of WikiHow gives a multitude of examples of how-to articles, with everything from How to Boil Carrots, to How to Create an iOS Developer Account, to the Halloween-themed How to Hide Candy in Your Room. This shows the breadth of the topics how-to articles can cover. How-to articles also have room for fun and creativity! Related to my topic, NBC had an article titled How to be an Activist for Causes You Believe In. My how-to article will probably be more nuanced than these examples, but these provide a good starting point for me to see the basics of how-to articles. I’m excited to write this!

Introduction to the Photo Essay

I have chosen to use a photo essay for my second experiment. Photo essays convey a story or a topic through visual means, with minimal text. Ideally, a photo essay should use images to evoke the same, or a more powerful, response than a traditional written essay. A specific topic or theme is important for a photo essay so that it can evoke meaning and emotion in the viewer. According to Collective Lens, there are two types of photo essays, narrative and thematic. Narrative photo essays tell a story, while thematic photo essays all center around an idea or theme. I expect my photo essay to be more thematic, as I plan to include photos that I take or that I edit surrounding activist work.

The organization of a photo essay is also important. There should be one or two lead photos that introduce the topic of the photo essay to the viewer. Then, the creator of the photo essay should use discretion of what other types of photos to use throughout, but it is usually suggested that a variety of different types of shots should be utilized throughout the essay. There also should be an impactful closing shot that brings the photo essay together.

I became interested in doing a photo essay after seeing the emotional impact that visual images surrounding activism can have on people. For example, visual images from women’s marches across the world in January 2017 seemed to capture the spirit of the movement. I’m intrigued to make my own impact with photos surrounding activism. I also have always been interested in photography but have not had the time to study it, so this would be a great opportunity to look at one use of photography.

This photo essay is impactful to me because it creates a narrative through showing the everyday experiences of various people. It is very thematic, and also includes text to further explore the experiences of people in Addis Ababa in the past. I enjoyed this photo essay because I did not have prior knowledge of the lives of Ethiopian people in the past, but I feel as if this photo essay educated me and evoked more emotion than words could. I am very excited to see where my photo essay takes me!

Introduction to the Op-Ed

I have chosen to write an op-ed for my first experiment. I became interested in writing an op-ed because I often feel like I cannot share my own opinions in the academic writing that I do in college, especially as a Communications major. I also previously took a poetry course in which sharing feelings was encouraged, but I felt as if I had to obscure my own opinions for my work to be truly poetic. I am hoping to use an op-ed to more freely discuss my opinions in a manner that seems more natural. I also love to debate and back up my opinions with facts in formal settings, so an op-ed is a reasonable choice for my personality.

An op-ed is an opinion piece that is published in a newspaper, often alongside the newspaper’s editorial page, that is less than 750 words. It reflects the opinion of the writer on a particular topic, in which the writer often has experience.  It is conventional that the opinion of the writer also be supported by facts. The entire op-ed, including facts, must be accessible enough to the average newspaper reader, since an op-ed is meant to keep the conversation between a newspaper and its readers going. Thus, experts suggest that jargon should not be included to keep the piece accessible, but personal examples that solidify the argument are encouraged.

Neil Diamond’s op-ed written for The Los Angeles Timesis an especially interesting example. He fuses the personal with the political to argue that Congress should enact the Music Modernization Act. He draws on the personal effect that not being paid royalties for his pre-1972 recordings has on him and other artists to argue that denying recording artists royalties is unfair. He uses the personal to urge for a community change, which is very compelling. While I may not be able to use quite as personal of a story for my op-ed, I can draw from this example and utilize the power of the personal as well as facts in making my op-ed the best it can be. I am excited to write this op-ed!

Here are some links about how to write an op-ed:

How to Write an Op-Ed Article

Click on the photo for The New York Times guide to writing an op-ed.

 

Introduction – Mary Jo Kelly

Hi everyone! My name is Mary Jo Kelly. I’m Michigan City, Indiana, which, yes, is a town in Indiana and is named due to its proximity to Lake Michigan. My hometown is so ironic that I usually just describe myself as from “near Chicago,” even though I’m really not from Chicago at all, although I do spend a lot of time there. If I tell people in Michigan that I’m from Indiana, I’m automatically from Indianapolis, and that’s a good three hours from my hometown. Apart from my hometown that is very strange to Michiganders, I am an only child. I have a 4-year-old cat named Koa, who is really the baby of the family.

I’m currently a junior studying Communications. I chose Communications because media is such a center of life and culture, and I am really interested in its effects on people. After college, I’m hoping to go into PR or possibly attend graduate school.

In my free time, I love to travel, go to concerts, write, and read. I stay busy on campus through my co-ed service fraternity APO, as a facilitator in Feminist Forum in the RC, and the Disney Interest Group.

The Minor in Writing seems that it will really allow me to bring together my passion for writing with skills that will help me in my future career. I am so excited for seeing how much I can grow with everyone in the Minor in Writing!

 

My cat Koa!