Adjunct professor encourages feminist ideas among students

By James Mercadante
Reviews Editor

Right now, humankind is in an epoch-making period where movements like #MeToo and fourth-wave feminism are growing further embedded within many discourses across the nation, and Tina Tormey is employing her feminist aptitude to help students add to the conversation.

Tormey teaches ‘All the Single Ladies’ (tcnj.edu).

Tormey, the director of Residence Education and an adjunct professor at the College, works to unite the campus community by promoting more than just feminism, but also alliance and understanding.

Since becoming the Residence Education director in 2014, Tormey’s day-to-day life consists of developing how the College can educate students on how to live in communities with peers, such as abiding by their shared living agreements and housing policies like fire hazards.

Tormey is also in charge of the residential curriculum, which involves assisting students who are discovering their identity by stabilizing a mentally and physically healthy life that will help amplify their potential. One of the ways Tormey and her staff achieve this goal is through programming and the “digital signage” that is displayed on the walls.

“We might put some posting that is meant to help students to think about something,” Tormey said. “For example, we might say, ‘hey, be wary of who is coming in residential houses,’ just as a reminder to be cognizant of their surroundings, or statistics of how many students work out within a week, which may inspire students to live a healthier life. It is so subtle but can be effective.” 

In addition to her position, she teaches two classes at the College, both of which contain crucial topics for developing students who are unaware of everyday prejudices against women. 

Her Writing 102 class, “All The Single Ladies,” focuses on the social and cultural perceptions of single women, a specific topic that leads to a myriad of thought-provoking discourses. Tormey said that in her class, she and her students ask the following questions ?— “what is the identity of a single woman, what are the stereotypes, and why is this a topic of discussion?”

“And it’s not just the Beyonce song,” she said.

Tormey utilizes music videos from artists like Lizzo and Taylor Swift and television shows like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” to analyze the representations of single women through a feminist lens. 

“It’s weird too, because there’s no one show or one song that everyone’s listening to,” Tormey said. “When I was in college, ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld’ were everyone’s obsession. So I’m always looking to change the pop culture pieces.”

Tormey’s students also look at Aziz Ansari’s book, “Modern Romance: An Investigation,” which includes relationship studies through Columbia University and other institutions about changing trends in how people find a partner — and her class points out how feminism plays a significant role in that. 

“For women, being married is not necessarily the definition of success that it used to be,” Tormey said. “And they are oftentimes getting joy or satisfaction in their career, their parenting role or their side hustle than they are getting from a relationship. So there’s a lot of research on mental load and women are observing that. A lot of women are choosing not to be in relationships because it gives them more work.”

Prior to joining the College in 2007 as the assistant director of residence education, Tormey wrote for Hartford Advocate. 

But as print journalism began to struggle with devising a business model on how to get news on the internet, Tormey feared for the dissolution of journalism — which she studied for four years at Ithaca College — and thought that she would need to find another job.

Luckily, her friend, who was the resident director at Ithaca, informed her about a job opening at the college. Tormey’s familiarity with Ithaca and the work ultimately helped her get the job. 

“I realized everything I liked about journalism,” Tormey said. “(I like) meeting new people, learning about other people’s experiences, and educating people was exactly what I was doing in residence life.”

Over a decade later, Tormey continues to use her passion for working with people to work for the College’s community together, whether it be leading her staff or teaching her students.

“We talk about the daily messages that we get, and these biases that we have that we might not even be aware of,” Tormey said.

She firmly believes that it’s significant for everyone, not just students, to come face-to-face with these tendencies so that people understand how to navigate and interact with others respectfully within communities. 

“This class puts me in a position where I have to identify and confront my biases every day,” Tormey said. “I think the class allows students to question the messages they are getting and not just about gender, but about race, social class, ethnicity, religion and so forth.” 

As she grapples with dense topics through her teachings, she struggles to assess a way for students to engage in conversations while knowing they are all at different places with their own understandings of their and other people’s identities.

However, through her multiple positions at the College, she tries her best with helping students to engage with one another in learning communities. 

“I’m a nerd and I love learning,” Tormey said. “And I want everyone to love learning.”

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