The Core Scholars program invites students to submit a reflection on the Core in virtually any art medium, and submissions are due for this year’s program on April 15. To aid in your inspiration, Bwog caught up with Gabriela Pelsinger, CC ’15 and self-proclaimed Vagina Warrior, who was one of last year’s Core Scholars for this amazing spoken-word piece.
Bwog: What was your Core Reflection about?
Gabriela: My Core reflection tried to reinterpret Genesis and problematize the ways in which women’s equality was portrayed in Lit Hum, particularly around sexual assault. I was struck by the parallels between Eve’s story and the patriarchal American culture I’ve grown up in, and wanted to explore that in my poem.
B: What was the inspiration for it?
G: So many things! I took a long time to write this poem and countless personal experiences fueled the writing process. I suppose the short answer is ‘reading Genesis while being a woman,’ particularly at a time when the political debates over womanhood and sexuality happening in my community were so horrifying. This poem gave me a way to react against a culture in which hostility to women and our bodies seemed to be permanently entrenched, whether in the GOP’s attempts to redefine rape, the anti-choice legislation popping up all over the country, or personal experiences with it myself.
B: What did you use your prize money for?
G: Food! The money was a much appreciated help with the general—but significant!—expenses of being a student in New York City.
B: How has becoming a Core Scholar changed your experience with the Core and Columbia (or your life)?
G: I have felt much more comfortable approaching the Core as a set of classes that are there first and foremost to facilitate personal growth and introspection. We really get what we give in these classes, and so I’ve tried to use the Core as a lesson in figuring out what it means to be a good human. Also, I’ve learned that we should not be afraid of calling out the parts that we find problematic or hurtful (Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, I’m looking at you!).
B: Any thoughts on Barnard’s commencement speaker, Leymah Gbowee?
G: To borrow from Maya Angelou, she’s a phenomenal woman! I’m so glad she’s speaking; she’s a fearless leader and true role model. The way she brought about peace in Liberia is an inspiration—she even organized a Lysistrata-style sex strike!
B: What part of the Core would you change if you could?
G: I would challenge the Core’s attachment to the West as the main producer of valuable ideas about human life and society, and create new syllabi that sought to take guidance from many different human communities. Especially as the geopolitical dominance of the West is being challenged, and as we find ourselves facing environmental crisis, it is increasingly necessary for us to learn about alternative ways of living amongst each other that are both peaceful and sustainable. There are so many worldviews and perspectives to learn from – why continue to limit ourselves to the traditional “dead white men”? Let’s add Chinua Achebe and Audre Lorde to Lit Hum, Gautama Buddha and Ibn Khaldun to CC. And speaking of the late and great Chinua Achebe (may he rest in peace), he once said, “until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Come on, Columbia—let’s add some more lions to our Core.