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Get Your Sex Positive Education on!

Hi everyone,

It has been a wonderful semester and our group is finally proud to present our finished blog (at least for now until finals are over!).  Our main objective in creating this site was to bring a critical perspective to social and political issues that impact the lives of sex workers. This project has been a wonderful learning experience for us and we hope that it will be for all of you too! Below is the link to our blog (which also has the results of the “Sex Work Values Clarification Survey” for those of you who took part):

Please let us know if there is anything that you would like to hear blogged about. Good luck on finals everyone!




Rafaela’s LOA

I have to say that this course (WMST488A) was probably the most interesting that I have ever taken during my college career. We were given the freedom to come up with a project on whatever topic that was of interest to us. Because this is a WMST course we were asked to develop a project that would involve feminist activism through social media. I was very intrigued by this opportunity because I am very interested in social media and its affect on my generation but it became even more intriguing to use this social media with a feminist perspective.

In my group we chose to develop a blog that incoming freshman at various UM system schools could use as a resource for LGBT events and issues happening on their campus. Before this class I had read various blogs but I have never developed one myself. Our blog was on a website called Blogger. The website is very easy to navigate through and made the process of developing the blog for our project fairly easy. This project helped me see how easy it is to advertise through social mediums. Our blog was linked to Tumblr so that both Blogger and Tumblr could be updated simultaneously. We also created a Facebook group for our project and linked the blog URL to the page. This made it easier for the audience that we wanted to reach to access our website.

During the symposium we received positive feedback for our project and a few suggestions on how to advertise our website even further. I learned through the symposium the various ways that society uses social media in everyday life. For example Danah Boyd spoke about Facebook during the conference and the various boundaries that it creates. Her portion of the symposium was very interesting to me because I feel that my life is immersed so much into social media that I never realized the effect it has on me and my relationships.

The university has a set of requirements that each course has to fulfill and without a doubt I would say yes this course fulfilled all of the requirements. The class was broken up into specific processes so that each student could successfully develop their project. And we were asked to document our progress through the class blog. Through the assigned reading and class discussion we were able to use this information to further the development of our projects but also expand the knowledge that we have learned in our WMST college career. Before this class I never realized the impact that social media can have on feminist activism. But with motivation and drive I believe that social media will continue to be used for great social issues. The project that I participated in and the other various projects in the class have shown the power and voice that social media can provide. So when asked if this course should be offered again, I will always say “Yes of course!” because it has taught me so much.


In Class Brainstorming

Goal: Resolution

Action: Teach

Continuing work: Create a post survey fact sheet

– Take Original questions, do individual research to find the real facts which will then be distributed to survey takers and posted to our blog. Hopefully this will challenge their original assumptions and make them question the ways in which knowledge is created.

Goal: Support

Action: Learn

Continuing work: Contact a sex worker advocacy group in New York

– This organization has a blog which is similar in aim as Sex+++. We could use this blog for supporting evidence as a way to learn. We could also build a greater support network

Goal: Change

Action: Create

Continuing work: Posting the results of the survey

– Creating an actual blog entry which will make people question/challenge their assumptions

-Creating social awareness which leads to a change in consciousness

Anjalee Sharma’s LOA Packet

I found this class remarkable in the way it was structured. Not until I really look back at the five points of this LOA do I really understand the impact it had on me. Firstly, this class is the first of its kind that I have encountered at UMD. It was so open that each group could employ its own learning style in order to complete their project. As I think back on the course, I realize that I have not only learned a lot about sex work in world, but also different ways in which to work with one another to reach a common goal.

I can easily look at the topic my group picked and see how it relates to women’s studies. Sex work, especially looking at sex work without a negative connotation is basically up to people in women’s studies. Otherwise, many people have a negative view of it, and it wouldn’t be explored further. But what’s cool with our topic is that our specific goal was to destigmatize and educate about sex work because of the heavy negative stigma associated with it. This was a perfect way, to me, to bring in social media. What better way could my group and I try to reach so many people about a topic that’s so negatively looked at? We tried to figure out how to educate people about what sex work is using a blog, a world map of sex work facts, and a survey that we promoted through Facebook. Even though I already knew how to use Facebook and WordPress, I felt like I was using it for better reasons than just to stay connected. I think I finally felt productive with social media, which seems like a feat to me.

Even through using these social media connections, I still felt that the three of us in the group could never be exactly on top of things we were doing for the project because of changing our minds on what we wanted to do. But what helped a lot was keeping a Facebook thread, texting, emailing, and also sharing all usernames and passwords for our project in order to stay connected with one other. I, especially, felt a little behind on this issue because both Kara and Jana have experience with HIPS, and just know more about the world of sex work. But I also think that because we were able to stay connected, they could explain things that were useful in research and general knowledge.

I think what I got most out of this project, including understanding a more productive side to social media, was to learn about aspects of sex work I didn’t know existed. I knew women’s studies would be related to this topic, but I just didn’t know where to begin with it. I thought that the stance we took was amazing because it called for human rights, which people question when it comes to sex work. I got to read legal documents from different countries and look at media in different countries in relation to sex work that was interesting and informative. In doing research for this, it was critical to site properly and read careful to really understand the legal implications of sex work in different countries of the world. Without proper documentation, our point of being “sex positive” would be lost.

What really pulled our project together, I thought, was the conference. We got to talk about our project with others familiar and unfamiliar with sex work. I felt that this helped us look at our project in different dimensions and also poke holes in it and make it stronger. This was a great way to learn about what we were doing because of the questions people asked us. Further, I think that in presenting our project to other people, we understood the implications and statements we were making.

As I read over this reflection and think about this semester, I now see how important a class like this is. It allows students to come up with an issue they really care about and actively try to make difference. This is hugely important to me because I don’t think any other UMD class lets you pick the issue and have hands on access to making a difference. Even though we are a research school, most classes are very much theory. Having hands on experience like this is so relevant for real world work experience because of the process and prototyping that we go through. This class taught me how to go through processes and the prototyping stages that will be integral to my career in advocacy.

Survey and Results!

Sex+++ Blog Screen Shot

Anton LOA

This class motivated me to think about social media, social networks, and their larger connection to issues of inequality and access.  First and foremost, this class made me realize that social media encompasses more than new social media like Twitter and Facebook. Megan Boler’s Digital Media and Democracy has a chapter in which community radio serves the role of progressive social media within New York (Boler and Schmidt, Community Radio, Access, and Media Justice: An Interview with Deepa Fernandes). The Theorizing the Web conference had a presentation by Daniel Greene, who argued that weekly newspapers such as the Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore Afro-American served as sites of social communication for white and black communities in Baltimore during the early 1900s.
These alternative sites of social media and learning more about how people interact has taught me to critically look at issues of access. The aforementioned Boler chapter brings up the problem of access to the Internet. While financial districts are inundated with free wireless hot spots, the poorer sections of town do not have good access to the Internet, even when they pay for a high quality broadband connection. Furthermore, Daniel Greene’s presentation highlighted how race and class played into access to the editorial page of the Sun and Afro. The Sun was primarily targeted towards middle class, moderate whites while the Afro was targeted towards poorer blacks and radicals. Due to the radical politics of the Afro, advertisers were less likely to support the paper. So, the ad contents of each paper differed. Likewise, the content in the paper differed as well based on what was considered “appropriate” for the paper.

Paper Prototyping…again

We were asked to make a model of our project on paper. Since our project is a blog we were asked to make a paper version of the website and run tests with other students in the class to see how successful it is to navigate the website. We asked the other students to go to the about me page and to post a comment on one of the blog posts. When running the test with other students in the class we ran into a few things that we might want to change. We realized that we needed to put a note on the front page to encourage visitors (preferably first time visitors) to check out the About Me section of our blog. This way visitors will be able to know what the mission of our blog is and what they should post if it is desired. But other than this the other students were able to post a comment to one of the blog posts successfully. The students commented that our blog was very easy to navigate through and was esthetically pleasing.

Paper Prototyping

During the paper prototyping exercise we had to think about our audience that we wanted our project to address. The type of people that we want to come to our blog are college students throughout the UM system, incoming freshman, and staff/faculty in the UM system. We wanted our blog to be a place for community building and to be from the student’s perspective. The main topic the posts for the blog would be LGBT events and issues on the various UM campuses. This will give the incoming freshman who are reading the blog an opportunity to know what is going on at their school.

Eva Steinhorn LOA Packet

The pilot course, WMST488A “Senior Seminar: Feminist Social Media: Activisms and Analysis” encompassed all the strategies the department wants us, as students, to learn.  For me, the course was divided into two parts: the knowledge and learning section and then the “doing” section.  In the beginning of the course, we were introduced to the idea of social media and using it as a tool for activism.  I am very involved in social media; I use many sites and communicate with my friends mainly through social media.  However, the concept of using social media as a means for other than socializing and communicating with people never occurred to me.  This course is appealing to college students because we are the “social media generation.”  I’ve grown up talking with friends on Myspace and Facebook so I was very interested to see what this course could offer me.

Share This! by Deanna Zandt and Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out both offered glimpses into the world of social media in regards to activism.  What are the different uses of social media?  How do feminists use social media?  How can social media promote activism amongst individuals?  These women answered these questions and showed me new ways people are communicating and sharing ideas.  Our class was also given the chance to see danah boyd speak at the “Theorizing the Web” conference and she spoke on the trends in teens and their use of social media, mainly Facebook.  Listening to her lecture was very beneficial to my complete understanding of her book.  It also helped me to better understand the research and effort put into investigating the uses of social media.

When discussing social media, it is important to recognize accessibility.  Not everyone in the world has access to the internet or a computer, therefore not everyone can use social media.  Who is using social media the most?  What are their uses?  Are there common similarities between those who are not using social media?  It is important to look at the divisions between race, class, and gender and who is in power in regards to social media.  Critically analyzing Zandt helps us become more aware of cultural and social divides.  As a class, we discussed how Zandt sometimes forgets who her audience is, and that not everyone has access to the internet.  She assumes that everyone can get on the Internet, when in fact, it’s just not the case.

Our final projects were a culmination of the class and demonstrated the theories and concepts we’ve learned not only in this class, but in all of our women’s studies courses throughout our time with the department.  We were able to choose the topics ourselves, so we could work on one of our careabouts.  This was important to me because we were able to show everything we’ve learned throughout our four years through a final project about something we were personally invested in.  I worked with Anton, and we sought to find a way to better document radical student activism at Maryland.  We created a blog, and began researching past and present activism on campus.  We cited our research with proper citation format and documentation.  I have learned citation practices in my previous women’s studies classes as well, and it is always good practice to do again.

As a class, we presented our projects at the Theorizing the Web conference.  I had not attending a conference before and am already not the most confident public speaker.  However, our presentation was workshop style, people could walk around, look at our different displays, and then ask questions.  Instead of standing in front of a large group of people and presenting our project in lecture form, we had intellectual conversations with people.  We were able get their feedback on our projects, an incredibly helpful tool, and then utilize their feedback to make our projects ultimately better.

This course should absolutely be offered as a senior seminar class in the future.  The course readings are interesting, relatable, and involved.  Social media is a new means of communicating, sharing, interacting and this course analyzes the role of activism within social media.  Personally, I have a summer internship for the summer and one thing they said they were impressed with was that I had taken a course on activism within social media.  More and more organizations are using social media and looking for young individuals to hire.  This course is not only a great addition to the senior seminar but also to the women’s studies department as well.