Many people have pondered the meaning of love. Shakespeare crammed love into iambic pentameter in his sonnets. Scribes wrote about the love of a shepherd boy and village girl in the bible. Perfume ads claim to sell love in a bottle. Teen queens can be heard crooning away about love on every top forty radio station. It’s always the same type of love: one girl and one boy, one love. How can love exist in such a small area?
This past year, Iva Dubyak, a senior at Mills College, challenged the ideas of love and romance myths with her panel series Queering Love: Re-imaging Power. The project was originally meant to be part of her independent study, but quickly turned into something bigger.
“I realized I wanted to write a book that could critique our society and the way that all these machinations of oppression take up all this space and construct our lives,” Dubyak said.
The panel was held in a large lecture room in Lucie Stern Hall and the seats filled up as panelists Charles Arpe, Iva Dubyak, Kim Garcia, Professor Priya Kandaswamy, Rebecca Luisa, Professor Ajuan Mance, Taijhet Nyobi and April Peletta discussed their desire to interrupt romance narratives, queer the confines of how love is defined, and expand possibilities for humanizing spaces.
Although the audience was very large, the panelists engaged them in the conversation, creating the feeling of a collective community. Luisa poignantly remarked that love is a muscle that has to be exercised. Allowing love to be free of societal confines is powerful.
When asked what she wished to achieve by doing the panel, Dubyak responded: “My idea is that the panel be a moment similar to the idea of falling in love. The moment where people feel that everything is possible, a collective movement of feeling that anything is possible and we do not have to be defined by our categorization and relationship to power.” Many people lingered long after the panel was over to bask in what seemed to be a very special moment. The word “love” intermingled with laughter and echoed through the hallways.
Looking back, Dubyak successfully created a safe intellectual space for discourse in queer love for the Mills community, and turned her independent study into a tangible practice that made an impact this year.