Q: What made you want to become a professor in sociology? Was there ever like a career path you considered before that?
DR. SHAH: I actually debated between law school and the PhD, and between the two, I really enjoyed both teaching and research, and knew that if I went into law school I would either be a defense attorney or a constitutional lawyer. And I wasn’t convinced that I would be 100% happy doing that, but I knew I would be as a professor.
Q: Yeah, I could see you being a lawyer, but I could also like [having you] as a teacher.
SHAH: Yeah, that’s been my life battle. [laughs]
Q: I know you taught the course on Joss Whedon and feminism. What pushed you to teach a course on feminism. Like, why do you think it’s an important thing for students to be taught?
SHAH: Because I think it gets a bad rap. It’s something that I don’t think people really understand until they’ve taken the time to really look at what exactly does feminism argue, what are the different branches of feminism? Most people, when they critique feminism, I think they focus more on radical feminisms, and the idea that, y’know, ‘we don’t need men’. But that’s one of many, many, many different versions of feminism, and many individuals don’t abide by that, and so I wanted to teach it because A.) I think it’s interesting, and I think it’s important for students (and people in general) to understand the arguments behind the fights for equality and whatnot. But then also just to, sort of dispel the myths and the…not necessarily inaccurate critiques, but the assumption that there’s only one kind of feminism, so that if you’re going to critique feminism, you at least know what exactly it is you’re critiquing.
Q: I know I kind of considered myself a feminist before I took the class, but I was kind very much a “white girl feminist”, it was a very basic understanding, but now I have a much deeper understanding of it and I’m very, very appreciative of that.
Q: Feminism is very clearly important in today’s day and age…is there a particular reason you think it’s important in the situation we’re in right now?
SHAH: Because I think the idea that women and men are…really the only differences that exist [between men and women] are the ones we put upon ourselves. But those differences have been around for so long that it’s really hard to acknowledge that they don’t actually exist biologically. And so I think feminism – especially today – is important because until we start breaking down the assumed differences, we’re never going to get to a point where we can truly have men and women and anyone else who identifies as any other gender identity outside of the binary as truly being equal, as truly being respected, as truly viewed as an individual with worth, who we need to truly consider that the policies we make are not disrespecting people, are not placing people in unequal positions, are not somehow creating a society where a group of individuals are viewed as less than in law because of assumed differences that don’t actually exist.
Q: It’s so sad to see your office all packed down, because I was going to ask you… like, I know you’re leaving and it’s so depressing, but what do you think you’re going to miss most about being here specifically?
SHAH: The people. I mean, I’m going to be a place that’s going to be much larger, and so…I have no doubt that I will find students and faculty and staff that I will connect with and be close with, but it’s not the same as having a handful of people in every class, even only thirty students in every class, where I can get to know you on a first name basis, on an individual basis, where we can have conversations like this in my office, just hanging out, and really get to make those connections. And Etown has some truly amazing faculty and staff that work here who are just some of the most kind-hearted, hardworking, brilliant people you’ll ever meet, and they bring the warmth to Etown, and I will definitely miss that.