I had a very interesting discussion with a lot of my friends the other day about how many of them have never had a female-identified professor at Harvard. I began to wonder why that may be the case; do departments consciously think about gender when giving professors tenure and undergraduate classes? And what about the gender gap in many fields, particularly mathematics and computer science?
I realized that I’ve been particularly blessed to have had so many wonderful, strong women as role models at Harvard, and one of the ones that I admire most is Professor Genevieve Clutario. As an Asian American, I have never really had many role models, academic or cultural, that look like me or can identify with my lived experiences. Professor Clutario was my first Asian American female teacher in any capacity, and I’m thrilled to have taken two classes with her: Gender and Empire this semester, as well as Colonization, Globalization, and Cultures of Asian Diaspora[s].
Professor Clutario is amazing for many reasons, but the one that I’m really thankful for is the fact that she takes it upon herself to educate her students about vocabulary that is often tossed around without much thought. For instance, in both classes she took a lot of time to explain what intersectionality is, a word that I haven’t learned about in an academic setting, what gender is, and how to use gender and intersectionality as lenses to view history (and events today). She also makes sure to explain a lot of references because she does not assume that everyone will know what she is talking about– for instance, when discussing Christian imagery in ads for adoption, she described the image of Madonna and Child and why it is significant in our culture.
However, what stood out to me is the fact that Professor Clutario made sure that everyone, regardless of gender, knew what exactly a tampon is and what each type of birth control does. I’ve never had a professor or teacher talk so explicitly about birth control or even tampons in my classes, and that is after nearly fifteen years of school and four years of health class.
Even if Professor Clutario talks about some really heavy subjects, such as sexual assault in history (ex. spending a great deal of time going over the plight of Korean comfort women, a chapter of history that is often erased or forgotten), she does so while being relatable and lovable. Every person I know who has taken one of her classes gushes about them because she is approachable, funny, and passionate.
Outside of the classroom, Professor Clutario continues to engage with undergraduates, working as an advisor to the Asian American Studies working group. She’s truly one of the biggest role models I’ve found on campus and my #WCW every day!