Coffee Conversation: Do drag queens support or subvert normative gender?

Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Dr. David Gudelunas, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Tampa, led a coffee conversation on Thursday on the disruptive possibilities of drag culture. Coffee conversations ask students to participate in a dialogue rather than listen to a lecture; this one was organized around the question: Do drag queens support or subvert normative gender? As part of this event, students talked about much more than just drag, addressing issues such as “Who taught you to behave ‘like a girl’ or ‘behave like a boy,’ and what were you taught that means?” They debated whether or not shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race reified, challenged, or complicated gendered expectations.

Dr. Gudelunas leading a discussion on drag culture.

Dr. Gudelunas researches in the areas of emerging media technologies, gender, sexuality, and communication. He is a widely published scholar and the author of “Confidential to America: Newspaper Advice Columns and Sexual Education” and co-editor of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Shifting Visibility of Drag Culture (Palgrave). Gudelunas serves on the editorial boards of Sexuality & Culture and QED and has appeared in local and national media including MSNBC, The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

Coffee Conversation- Alisha Menzies

Dr. Menzies laughing with the bright and involved Honors students in attendance (November 12th)

Dr. Alisha Menzies, assistant professor in Communication, championed a fascinating discussion on the burden of moral culpability faced by the famous few. She asked: “Should we hold what celebrities and public figures say to a higher moral standard? Are their communication mistakes worth more?”  The conversation spanned a great distance, first attempting to define which celebrities had a greater obligation than others. One student wondered whether professional athletes should have opinions of the same weight as political figureheads; another scholar questioned the impact of words versus actions (i.e. the Colin Kaepernick protest). Dr. Menzies funneled the discussion through various relevant scandals, from the Valium-induced tweets of Roseanne Barr to Megyn Kelly’s blackface scandal. Unfortunately, time was called before we could shift focus to unpacking rapper Kanye West! Overall, it was an intriguing look into the standards we hold celebrities to and, in turn, the standards we hold ourselves to. 

Coffee Conversation – David Stern

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On October 16th, UT’s Provost, Dr. David Stern, led a Coffee Conversation with Honors Program students in the Honors dorm. The conversation was focused around the following question, “What do nationalism, populism, authoritarianism, sovereignty, and even illiberal democracy mean and why are they so important in understanding our contemporary world?” The conversation was wide-ranging, covering instances of populism and nationalism around the world.

Coffee Conversations – Bridgette Froeschke

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On April 4th, Dr. Bridgette Froeschke, Assistant Professor of Biology, led a Coffee Conversation on the questions “Who does water belong to? Should water be privatized?” The conversation covered a lot of topics relating to water, from the quality of bottled water versus tap water to who should own water rights and how water consumption and regulation (or lack thereof) affect environmental quality.

Coffee Conversations – Dr. Cheri Etling-Paulsen

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Dr. Cheri Etling-Paulsen led a Coffee Conversation on March 20th in the McKay Hall common room exploring the question, “What is causing major swings in the stock market – and does it really matter?” The conversation explored what the stock market is, what factors influence stock prices, and explored how a variety of factors contribute to market volatility.

Honors Symposia – Coffee Conversation with Dr. Laura Kane

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On Monday, February 5th, Philosophy professor Dr. Laura Kane led a Coffee Conversation in the McKay Hall common room. The topic of the conversation was, “How does social media use affect the way our relationships are formed or maintained?” Twenty Honors students discussed this topic with Dr. Kane for about an hour, exploring the dynamics of relationships in the social media age.

Honors Symposia – Alisha Gaines

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On September 22nd, Dr. Alisha Gaines, Assistant Professor of English at Florida State University and author of Black for a Day: Fantasies of Race and Empathy, spoke to UT Honors students. Dr. Gaines’s presentation was arranged and sponsored by the Department of English & Writing as a Scholar’s Symposium and was co-sponsored by the Honors Program. Dr. Gaines discussed some of her work examining efforts of White people trying to understand what it means to be Black in America by trying to pass as Black, typically for a very short period of time.