Studying Girl Talk/Women Speak: Women’s Stories of the #MeToo Movement

Collage of women's faces

Every Wednesday at 3pm, five female Honors students meet with English professor Dr. Elaine Lawless in Memorial Union. Reading responses in hand, the students arrive eager to discuss the week’s assignment and analyze the topic of the day. Their discussions are intelligent and fervent; it is obvious that the students and professor alike are passionate about the subject matter. This is the Honors Tutorial titled Girl Talk/Women Speak: Women’s stories of the #MeToo movement.

This tutorial focuses on women’s stories through the lens of today’s cultural moment, specifically the #MeToo movement. Each week, the students read an assigned essay, speech or writing and compose a two-page reflection. Some of the readings include chapters from Rose McGowan’s “Brave”, transcripts of the Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas hearings, and selections from Brandy Taylor’s book, “Disrupting Fraternity Culture”.

Dr. Lawless has taught a variety of courses over the years, mainly focusing on women’s narratives and oral traditions. Last semester, however, Lawless had an idea for a new type of women-centered course.

“I wanted to offer an Honors course with a different twist,” Dr. Lawless said. “With the #MeToo movement, suddenly women’s stories are in the news, I thought it would be really cool to do a course about women’s stories related to the #MeToo movement. The topic is really important right now to study, but also to bring it home to the Mizzou campus.”

One of the five students enrolled in this tutorial is Sheridan Powell, a junior studying strategic communication. Powell said she chose to enroll in this tutorial because she is passionate about women’s rights and anticipated this course being very eye-opening.

“More than anything, this course has taught me a new way of thinking about women issues,” Powell said. “Before this course, I certainly would have considered myself a feminist, but I think the readings and discussions in this class have taught me to take a different perspective and see how society has conditioned a lot of these differences, injustices, etc. into us as females. It’s no longer frustration directed at individuals but at institutions and regulations.”

However, Powell added that the readings aren’t the only part of the course that offers her new perspectives. She said that Dr. Lawless’ expertise and interest in the topics discussed makes the course even more enjoyable.

“I think it’s so cool to get the opportunity to talk to Dr. Lawless about something she is so knowledgeable about and something we are all so passionate about each week,” Powell said.

Like Sheridan, the other students in the course have had positive feedback for Lawless. Because of the positive feedback like Sheridan’s, Lawless said she would consider continuing the course for future semesters. Lawless said that as long as the students enjoy the course, she’ll be happy to continue to teach it.

“No one in the class has been bored,” Dr. Lawless said. “Plus, they’re honors students, which is a joy for teachers.”

With a class as relevant as this one, Dr. Lawless said there are a number of important lessons for her students to take away from the course. She encourages her students to be observant of the women in their lives and how they use their voices.

“I want my students to notice what’s going on around them and pay attention to women in the room,” Dr. Lawless said. “Are the females in the room speaking? Are they being listened to? I want my students to observe this, and then to be able to find their own voices.”