My name is Zoë Wallis and I’m one of the spring 2018 interns. I attend University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) and will be graduating in May 2018. (Two months to go!!) I will graduate with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Gender Studies. I will also receive my Gender Studies certificate. I am a St. Louis native and I am honored and proud to intern here. I truly feel that I am making a positive impact on the Down syndrome community and hope to continue doing so for the duration of my internship.
Since declaring Gender Studies as my minor nearly two years ago, I’ve received many questions about it as an academic discipline. Most of the questions revolve around the idea of “Well, what exactly is it?!” After a laugh, I typically explain that it is a discipline that deals with the intersections of biological sex, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic class. It also has intersections of (dis)ability.
Basically, Gender Studies focuses on the notion that being a combination of two or more of the aforementioned categories can raise or lower your status in society. This directly relates to a person’s level of privilege. As Gender Studies scholars, we analyze these levels of privilege through feminist theory and literature. We also work to create new scholarship that breaks down stereotypes and barriers and helps to cultivate a more open-minded and inclusive world.
Gender Studies has changed my life. Not only has it helped me to become more culturally aware, it has challenged me personally (and the people around me) to become more inclusive in everyday life. I am much more sensitive about the way I present ideas and make sure to always use person-first language. Working with and for individuals with Down syndrome, I feel this is especially relevant. First and foremost, people are people. As a society, we must work towards always remembering this when we speak. Language is important and when we do not acknowledge individuals as people first, we take away their ability to have likes and dislikes, things they are good at and not so good at, hobbies and interests, etc.
I am lucky to be surrounded by such amazing staff and mentors at DSAGSL who allow me to bring my Gender Studies knowledge into my work here. I am learning so much as I go and I could not be more proud to be able to represent the Down syndrome community in my work!