By Charles McCrory
This has been a landmark summer for conversations on race, sexuality and gender. It has seen nationwide controversy over public use of Confederate symbols; the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality; and Caitlyn Jenner’s public coming-out as a trans woman. Oxford has been no stranger to these conversations; Lafayette County held its first same-sex marriage ceremony on the steps of the Oxford courthouse in June, and the city has temporarily suspended the Mississippi state flag, amid disgruntlement from local flag supporters. While not the first city in the state to take down the flag, Oxford has been first in requesting the state legislature change the flag.
With these new developments comes a change familiar to us at UM: the fall semester is upon us. One can feel the sleepy earth beneath the Grove tremble at the prospect of its imminent trampling by loafers, high heels and tent spikes come football season. We at the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies are trembling in anticipation of our upcoming Sarahfest 2015. Kicking off September 18, Sarahfest spans a week of rousing performances, documentary screenings and brown bag lectures, culminating on the 27 with a benefit concert by Neko Case at the Lyric. Even if you’ve never heard of Case, chances are you’ve seen her staring back at you from posters around Oxford: flaming-haired, brandishing a sword, bare feet braced against the hood of a 1967 Mercury Cougar, a hard-scrabble landscape behind her. This image, similar to the cover of her phenomenal 2009 album Middle Cyclone, conveys the toughness and vulnerability juxtaposed in her music, which draws from the wellsprings of folk, country, Americana and indie rock to craft an entirely original aesthetic, shot through with tornadoes, murders, birds and classic cars. For homework before the show, listen to Case’s gender-bending manifesto “Man” off her latest album, her haunting elegy “Star Witness,” and my own late-night-on-the-back-porch favorite, “I Wish I Was the Moon.”
The first thing one learns as a gender studies minor is that gender is a performance, and one could hardly hope for stronger performances than those being delivered by our incoming and returning students. Move-in weekend, campus and the Square served as stages for pageants of calculated masculinity and femininity—khakis meticulously pressed, hair elaborate as any Game of Thrones wig. If, in your walks around town, you find yourself questioning how we learn to project these attitudes and appearances, how they work in our society and in others past and present, you may be a gender studies minor in the making. Stop by the Isom Center (002 Lyceum) for more information, and mark out your calendar for Sarahfest 2015. There are exciting times ahead. To borrow a Case lyric, “Don’t let this fading summer pass you by.”
About Charles McCrory:
Charles Ramsay McCrory is a senior English major and gender studies minor at The University of Mississippi. He is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and an opinion writer for the Daily Mississippian. His creative writing has received the 2015 Mississippi Review Prize for fiction, and has appeared in The Cossack Review and Plain China: Best Undergraduate Writing.