Cinema and television arts major Alex Attanasio ’18 examines the post-competition comments of Chinese Olympian Fu Yuanhui regarding her menstrual cycle and the attention the swimmer’s interview received.
As part of her first assignment for Associate Professor Naeemah Clark’s “Entertainment Media” course, Elon University junior Alex Attanasio penned an op-ed essay highlighting a topic she felt might resonate with young females.
The class assignment required students to submit an essay to a print or online publication for consideration, and Attanasio selected the Hartford Courant, not far from her Connecticut home. A few days later, the cinema and television arts major’s essay, titled “Why Swimmer’s Menstrual Mention Was A Breakthrough,” was published on Sept. 14 in the Courant’s Opinion section. In fact, the essay led the section’s website.
Based on post-race comments by Chinese Olympian Fu Yuanhui regarding her period and menstrual cycle, Attanasio’s essay explored the attention the swimmer’s interview received as well as how it elevated an often avoided subject into the media spotlight.
“I wrote about Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui and her comment about her period because I felt that it was not only timely and relevant, but also that it was something that was important to me personally, as a young female who grew up in a world and a time where it wasn’t OK to talk about that,” said Attanasio. “I loved having an assignment where I could speak my mind.”
In the essay, Attanasio wrote that “Fu is just one of the many influential women today who are speaking up and becoming role models for young girls everywhere. She is showing girls that it is OK to talk about their bodies.”
The junior said she appreciated that Clark let her students select their own topics, allowing them to write about issues that they were interested in. And because Clark required students to submit their essays to newspapers as part of the assignment, the professor acknowledged that the students’ work was worth sharing publicly, Attanasio explained. “Knowing that I would be sending it out also made me take the assignment more seriously,” she said.
Born and raised in Connecticut, Attanasio noted it was “surreal” to receive an email from Peter B. Pach, associate editor for the Courant’s Opinion section, commending her op-ed essay.
“I knew Dr. Clark had said that some students had been published in the past, but I assumed the chances that my piece would actually get picked up would be slim to none,” Attanasio said.
Clark explained that she enjoys the assignment because it allows her students to reflect on media-related topics and social issues they might otherwise not consider.
“I write opinion pieces about my personal relationship with the media because I think it’s a good way to find my own voice and think deeply about how the media influences my feelings and thoughts,” said Clark. “I hope my students find the same thing. Putting their thoughts on paper help them really think about how they interact with the media. When a student gets published that’s icing on the cake! Alex’s piece was so honest to her experiences. She really got the gist of the assignment.”