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April 14, 2005

Progressive Profiling: John Hellman

Katie Unger

      John Hellman, a sophomore in A&S, is a Sociology and Political Science double major with a Women's Studies minor. A consummate liberal, he is the first male TA in the Women's Studies Department. We at the Patriot were so excited to hear about all the great work John does, that we just had to pick his brain! So move over GJP-the progressive profiling section is expanding.

      Who is your favorite politician?

      "Howard Dean! After all, he signed my sweater."

      Who is your favorite political comedian?

      "Lewis Black, by far."

      What organizations or issues are you involved with on campus?

      "Mostly, I'm involved in either women's issues or issues surrounding sexual orientation. I have participated in Allies and LGBC, and currently am the director of public policy for the GLBT leadership council."

      What has your experience as the first male TA in the Women's Studies department been like?

      "At first, I felt a little pressure, mostly coming from myself. I felt as though I had something to prove, since I am the first TA to go through with this. The experience has been very educational, the other TA's in the class have taught me other ways of thinking about feminist issues and I feel as though that my opinions have been respected, since I believe I can offer a different perspective on the issue. There have been many issues where I have felt uncomfortable, like women's health, but I am starting to understand all aspects of women's issues more and more."

      How and why did you become so enlightened? Or how and why did you become so involved with women's issues?

      "Well, the first time I was even confronted with any issues of feminism was during my sophomore year of high school. I used to be a debater, and one of my debate coaches was a feminist. My partner and I were doing really well for being first year debaters, and our coaches decided that we should go to a varsity tournament just to see how we would fare. Well, needless to say we didn't do too well, especially after one specific debate when we conceded half way through. When the debate was finished, we went out to discuss what had happened, and I proclaimed "oh man, we just got raped." Well, my feminist debate coach pulled me aside and explained to me why that was a very offensive comment and how it minimized actual rape. After this, I started becoming very interested in feminism as a whole, so I picked up books, did some research on feminism for debate, and that's where I am at today. Also, I went to an all-boy high school in Texas, and I don't mean to be stereotypical, but it wasn't the most feminist or liberal atmosphere. Women were insulted ALL THE TIME, and I think that this environment served as a huge catalyst in my development as a feminist. I would argue with some guys all the time and people would ask me, "Why do you care so much?" That question seems so stupid. I always counter with "Why don't you care at all?" Women make up more than half the population. I think it's pretty careless to not be feminist. Feminism should be the default; people should be questioned and ridiculed when they don't support the women's movement."

      Why do you think gender studies are important?

      "People don't realize how important and how transcendent gender issues actually are. From the clothing that people where, to what they say around certain people, to what classes they take, gender structures encompass almost every issue. It's kind of like Marx, but instead of means of production, masculinity is the way people are controlled. Anyway, gender studies are extremely important because we are missing half of the world's history, half of the world's knowledge, and half of the world's experience. We all have had to read Locke, Aristotle, and about other important contributors to western thought. Did you know that Aristotle thought women were deformed? Or Locke was sexist? Or even some of the great revolutions of our history, like the scientific revolution, or even the US revolution. Women were still thought of as anomalies even though science advanced in every other respect, and despite pushing for liberty and freedom, the US revolution didn't really do much for women. So it's important to know these things."

      Do you consider yourself a feminist? And what does that mean to you?

      "Absolutely. I think the feminist movement is extremely important for all people across all demographics. Feminism to me isn't just some theory that gets thrown around, it's a way of life, a way of making choices, a way of acting. I constantly view things through the feminist lens. For example, I saw the movie Robots the other day, and I was just so appalled at the messages it was sending about gender. How could people make a movie like that?"

      What has been your most satisfying experience while here at BC?

      "My most satisfying experience here would have to be during coming out week this academic year. We had an event called Opening Boston's Closet. I was able to share my coming out story to the BC community, and I felt as though I finally belonged. Even though I wasn't necessarily shy about my attraction to men, the whole "BC is the 5th most homophobic school in the nation" really brought me down. I didn't really see where that came from, but it still made me feel marginalized. After that event, in which I cried my eyes out, I finally felt the love that the BC community has for everyone else."

      What has been the most disappointing?

      "Ann Coulter. I respect everyone's opinion, and I believe that discussion is the most important aspect of solidifying certain beliefs. Even if reason and evidence proves that some of my opinions are wrong, I will accept those and move on until new evidence proves the contrary. However, when people who have no concern for discussion or the other side, like Ann Coulter, they are not worth anyone's time. I was appalled at the people who actually supported her too. It's really sad."

      What do you think is the most important issue facing the Boston College community today?

      "I believe that more of a community needs to be established. The BC community after a whole mess of stuff has become so polarized. We need to remember that our goals are the same, so we can still be one community."

      How has BC's Jesuit mission impacted you and your service within the community?

      "Well, this isn't the first time I've experienced the Jesuit mission. My high school, Jesuit College Prep in Dallas, was also (obviously) a Jesuit school. Even though I don't really consider myself religious or apart of any specific denomination, I really respect the Jesuit mission. I believe community service and social justice should be pursued in any circumstance, and this attitude has shaped my identity very much."

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