Junior Alex Attanasio never thought twice when deciding to write about Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui for her Entertainment Media class, but is now receiving lots of recognition over it.
This fall, Attanasio enrolled in Professor of Communications Naeemah Clark’s "Entertainment Media" course, required for her cinema and television arts major, wich focuses on the media industry, where students watch up and coming television shows
"The class challenges students to critically look at the world of entertainment" Tommy Mackey, a classmate of Attanasi says. "As consumers of the entertainment industry it is important to discuss what it exactly is that we are consuming."
A few weeks ago, the class was presented with their latest assignment: to write an op-ed and submit it to be published. Students were allowed to choose their own topic and were urged to write about a subject important to them.
“At first I kind of had no idea where to begin. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed a couple days after the assignment and I kept seeing people posting about the [chinese] swimmer Fu Yuanhui,” Attanasio said.
Attanasio was intrigued how American media was giving the young swimmer seemingly positive coverage regarding her “confession” on live television. Yuanhui felt she had essentially lost the gold medal because she was on her period and not feeling her best.
“I was interested by that because people kept making it out to be a controversy but no one said anything bad about it,” Attanasio said. “I was just fascinated by the whole thing.”
Dr. Clark told the students to write about something they were kind of an expert in, Attanasio thought, “I’m an expert on being a girl so that works.”
Growing up, Attanasio admits she struggled with menstrual pains — even fainting during class as a side effect. She remembers having to go to the nurse’s office only to be met with frantic middle schooler’s questions when she returned the following day.
“And I would say I was just sick and wouldn’t talk about it because society tells us we aren’t supposed to talk about it,” Attanasio said.
Yuanhui’s openness on an international stage regarding her period resonated with Attanasio.
“When I heard that an Olympic swimmer was like, ‘Oh yeah I missed the gold because I’m feeling kind of weak because I’m on my period’ I was like, ‘Yes! Thank you for admitting that it effects your day to day life.'” Attanasio said.
After hours of writing and revising, Attanasio finally had a finished project that she was proud of. The next step would be to submit it to a newspaper of her choice. She chose the Hartford Courant, a paper based in Connecticut where Attanasio is from.
Almost immediately after she pressed send, Attanasio learned that her piece would be featured in the paper’s op-ed section.
Since publishing, Attanasio has been overwhelmed by the positive support from her family, friends and Elon community.
“I had a lot of friends from home sharing the link on Facebook. It was cool just to have that kind of support,” Attanasio said. “And Dr. Clark mentioned it in class the next day and everyone clapped for me. It just felt good to be recognized.”
She received an email from her grandpa following her article’s publishing telling her that it was a very brave subject to write about. Attanasio said she has, to her surprise, been met with that response more than once.
She never thought of it as a personal or brave subject matter as she didn’t think talking about periods was that big of a deal.
“I guess I’m just a very open person," she said. "I wasn’t phased by it. I wasn’t worried about the world reading that. Anyone who’s ever been in a girls locker room anywhere knows that it sucks."
Attanasio feels that often time essays are assigned in the classroom to be graded, and there is never anything beyond that. She really appreciated the faith Clark put in her students’ work by requiring them to submit them to reputable publications beyond Elon.
“That kind of meant a lot to me because I’ve never had a teacher say, ‘You guys are capable of producing legitimate content’ in that blatant way before,” Attanasio said.
Though Attanasio’s article has been the only op-ed published thus far in her class, Clark said her turn around was surprisingly fast and other students’ could still get an offer.
Since the paper is based near Attanasio’s hometown, her mom made sure to pick up a hard copy of her daughter’s first published article.
“[My mom called and said], ‘I told everyone in the gas station that you’re published in this paper,” Attanasio said. “It is a big deal, but it is still surreal to me.”