Advocating “Dissent”

Advocating “Dissent”

I come from a rural community that has a decidedly conservative perspective on most social and political topics. I establish this not out of criticism, but for clarification of the background that first shaped me, and to contextualize my academic and publishing experiences. When I embarked on my career as a student of English, to the best of my knowledge, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor was not even available yet at the University of Central Oklahoma. If it had been, I would not have been interested at the time; while I acknowledged the inherent value of all critical inquiry, I had never experienced more than glancing exposure to women’s studies and feminist criticism in survey courses. There was no room beside my modern language studies to pursue topics that I couldn’t even be sure held particular interest for me.

This was the place I found myself in when I began working here at New Plains Student Publishing last fall. Publishing and editing were things that I soundly knew I wanted to learn more about—things I have contemplated doing for the rest of my life—and I could not have asked for a better opportunity to finish out my degree. What I wasn’t expecting was the additional opportunity to engage with topics, ideas, and issues that I would not have directly encountered otherwise. Each of New Plain’s three journals—New Plains Review, 1890, and The Central Dissent—is entirely unique, with its own focus, purpose, and personality; and I have been fortunate to work directly with all of them during my time here.

Because I generally love being helpful whenever I can, and I value scholarship of all kinds, I volunteered to join the small team working on The Central Dissent: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality last semester. New to editing and largely unfamiliar with the journal’s field, I had no idea what to expect. Categorically, I knew from discussion and from the mission statement that Dissent features a combination of research, creative works, and academic writing meant to “explore gender theory [and] gender identity, as well as how race, class, and ethnicity shape society’s expectations of the individual.” Working on the selection and editing process and watching as the new issue took shape, I quickly came to understand that, in practice, this stated goal synthesizes a result that exceeds its individual parts with an ability to reach people from any background. The journal features thought-provoking and relevant pieces in an eclectic mix of genres that eloquently harmonize to voice diversity.

From a neighborhood where the validity of gender or sexuality as academic topics would never be entertained, to a workshop editing and proofing a personally relevant article about bisexuality for publication, I could have never anticipated the effect that Dissent would have on my identity as an editor, as a scholar, and as a citizen in a community of writers. As a senior editor for the journal, I find myself not just in a minor position of power, with a degree of influence over publication selections and editing choices, but also in a humbling position of advocacy. The awesome team that makes Dissent possible works to create a platform for discussion that is invaluable as the first journal in the state devoted to topics of gender and sexuality. Perhaps at a time when they have more to say than ever before, our authors and artists reach out to us and, through us, to others. This meaningful platform of outreach, and my small role in its development, will always be one of the things I take pride in as an editor at New Plains, an alumna of UCO, and a member of this community of diverse and beautifully individual people.

Sarah Chambers
Sarah Chambers

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