Senior project explores gender and discrimination

Courtesy Photo / Anna Bennett 
Anna Bennett

Courtesy Photo / Anna Bennett Anna Bennett

Eric Higgins

As long as equality has reigned, discrimination and oppression have continued to plague generations of forward thinkers. Grand Valley State University student Anna Bennett hopes to progress societal constructs with the focus of her senior project: gender and the intersection of oppression and discrimination.

Bennett’s project, titled “Beyond Words: Performing Gender,” stemmed from a variation of the Vagina Monologues she had seen in Egypt. The show, to take place at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Cook-Dewitt Center, ranges from hilarious to serious in tonality.

“I mean, it kind of goes all over the place,” she said. “There are a couple that are really, really funny. There are a couple that are really sad. There are a couple that will probably make people uncomfortable. But I think it’s really important to have the full range just to give people an idea that it’s not clean cut. There’s so many different experiences, and I really want to emphasize that.”

To help Bennett, many people have created and submitted pieces for her show. Kirsten Zeiter, who submitted a piece that she will also perform, said Bennett worked hard on her project to make it the best that it can be.

“Ever since Anna first started talking about this project, she’s been so excited and so ambitious to make this something larger than anyone that we know has ever worked on alone.”

Lindsay McNally, also contributing to Bennett’s project, said the show and its topic are important because they will bring awareness to why society needs to break down discriminatory barriers.

“I know that she is really dedicated to raising the awareness for breaking down those kinds of barriers and the things that she’s trying to do, and I myself feel that it’s really important to break those down and to kind of break away from all the stereotypical ways that we view people and the ways that we discriminate people and separate ourselves into groups,” she said.

Bennett said people who attend the show can expect a lot of talent to onstage.

“I was blown away by all the submissions that I received and how good they were,” she said.

The show will contain scenes, monologues, poems, dances and other performances such as one by Jina Vincenti, which incorporates sign language. Vincenti said the show will not only apply to the deaf community but other communities as well.

“Anna’s willing to let us do one of the pieces in sign language, you know, not to have an interpreter only, but to do the piece in sign language, and I feel that even thought the deaf community at Grand Valley is really small, that it’s also showing that any of these experiences can also be applied to the deaf community or, you know, these communities that we also don’t consider on the fringe of the general population,” she said.

After the performances are over, Bennett, authors and performers will answer questions.

“It is definitely going to be eye-opening. It’s going to be very interesting,” she said. “I really want to bring awareness to Grand Valley’s campus that there’s more than just male, female and straight and gay and, you know, all these dichotomies that we talk about. But there’s so many more shades of grey.”

[email protected]