Monday, December 20, 2010

Meet a Falcon Feminist: Sarah Rainey

Meet our first falcon feminist-- Dr. Sarah Rainey; women's studies instructor and undergraduate studies coordinator.  She advises all the majors and minors in the women's studies department.

It's a tough gig.  Even within the university, there's plenty of people who think women's studies is a useless field-- a bunch of chicks talking about chick stuff.  However, the study of gender is essential to understanding humanity and can be observed through multiple lenses.

Dr. Rainey thinks women's studies is important because it's interdisciplinary.  Professors and students from all over the university come together in this department to discuss the social implications of gender, as well as class, race, age, and other intersectionalities.  The dialogue is as diverse as the participants.

After obtaining her BA, MA and Ph. D in women's studies at Ohio State University, Dr. Rainey settled down in Bowling Green.  While finding the university that best suits you is "a horrible, horrible process," she's happy to be here.

"I liked BGSU, my partner actually went here, so we had family here, and it was just a good fit."

Dr. Rainey's areas of expertise are sexuality and diability studies.  Her dissertation considered couples in which one person has a physical disability and the other does not.

"People see that relationship as kind of sexless, kind of doomed, as sad.  And the people in that relationship, however, viewed it as an asset and they were able to incorporate the disability in their sexual self expression and make it a strong part of their relationship."

Her next research project will cover same sex parenting, focusing on the parents of lesbian moms.  And she's located a good niche-- right now there's no books about it.

"I found this out the hard way because my mom was having a hard time with her new role as the non-biological grandmother," she said.   But this frustration created a need and an opportunity.

"So I'm really excited to collect those stories about how other grandparents have constructed those identites and to publish them, to help other women. 

At the university, she teaches classes on disability, health and sexuality, as well as many sections of intro and some feminist theoy.  She has goals to grow the program and make it more visible, visiting classrooms, sending out recrutiment letters-- she even organized the Socially Responsible Careers, Internships and Networks Fair to disprove a discouraging myth about non-business majors.

"It was specifically geared towards students in women's studies or ethnic studies-- fields where there's a false perception that you can't get any kind of good job.  We had a career fair just for those students.  And it was very successful.  We had about 30 organizations attend from all over the United States--with representatives there to talk about opportunities available at their organizations."

People who study people, instead of numbers or market trends often question job placement.  This was the answer; non-profits as far as the eye could see, hoping to scoop up some do-gooders before they graduated.

But that's not all Dr. Rainey's done.  This year she helped organize Triota; the women's studies honors society and there's never been a more rewarding time to be women's studies nerd. 

Director of American Culture Studies, Radhika Gajjala, was the Interim Director of Women's Studies last year and she credits "a very disciplined and hard worker" with her smooth transition into a position of administrative leadership.
"[Dr. Rainey] made it easy for me to assume authority without having to be authoritarian.  She was a collaborator who was a colleague working shoulder to shoulder with me in trying to continue the good work done by other faculty, staff and administrators in women's studies."

Her efforts are unparalled.  "In her work as undergraduate coordinator, [Dr. Rainey] put in unending amounts of energy and enthusiasm in developing and re-developing courses, building connections between graduate students and undergraduate students; between community organizations and the women's studies program, etc.," said Gajjala.
Women's studies major Sara Myles, 21, is also a big fan of the falcon feminist.

"Dr. Rainey is great because she is relatable," she said, "and her willingness to help her students is awesome." 

This particularly awesome professor changed Myles's life when she presented her with a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend Feminist Summer Camp in New York City with Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards.  Dr. Rainey then encourage Myles to apply for the scholarship that helped her make the trip.

"If I had never met Sarah Rainey, I would never have taken a women's studies class and my life would be totally different.  She is just really cool, nice, informed, and intelligent," said Myles.

Dr. Rainey kick-started falcon feminism with the falcon feminist awards handed out during last year's women's studies symposium.  She wanted to acknowledge the people who were changing the world by changing the world around them.  Local activism is strong in Bowling Green-- and it keeps growing.

"One thing I was really impressed with, coming to BGSU, was the feminist community here. 

She appreciates the campus-wide teamwork.  The women's center and the women's studies department are allies, working closely together to bring speakers and organize events.  And collaborating to foster the best possible environment for students has enabled some pretty incredible things to happen.

Playwright Bobbi Ausubel from That Takes Ovaries led a discussion about sex trafficking and a student-presented reenactment of some of the boldest stories in her collection.

BGSU was also visited by Feministing blogger Jessica Valenti to talk about her adventures in online feminism and the many books she has written. 

Dr. Rainey publicizes, and partipates in every event.  She created an official women's studies calendar that traces the history of women at BGSU though historical photographs.  She even makes buttons and magnets to earn money for departmental scholarships. 

"She forged ahead with planning events and fundraising and did not let the low resourced nature of the women's studies program hinder her enthusiasm or efforts at sustained curricular development in the program and mentoring of students," said Gajjala.

She gives 110% to all her students and she is the best person to kick off "Meet a Falcon Feminist," a regular feature that introduces members of Bowling Green's feminist community to readers everywhere. 

Stay tuned-- there are many more to come.

Now watch Dr. Rainey tell her story in her own words:

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