I’m so excited to be ramping back up the Parents Who Inspire series by introducing you to Dr. Marni Brown. Marni and I only met recently, as we send our kids to the same school, but we quickly connected over our shared passion for social justice and our desire to raise socially aware children.
But Marni has much more than passion to fuel her approach to parenting: she has a doctorate in sociology and specializes in gender, sexuality and social inequality. She currently teaches two courses called “Social Inequality, Birth and Parenthood” and “Sociology of Gender” at Georgia Gwinnett College, a public university outside of Atlanta.
Marni is a fierce advocate for marginalized populations as a professor and in her personal life. Without further ado, let’s hear from Marni herself!
Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Marni Brown and I am an assistant professor of sociology. My areas of teaching and research are gender, sexuality, and social inequality. I work at Georgia Gwinnett College, where I primarily work with first generation and working class college students. My pedagogical style is to complicate the ideas we all hold about society – including gender, sexuality and race in the United States. As a researcher, I use an intersectional lens for the examination of gay and lesbian experiences.
I have been married to my wife for almost 7 years. We have two children, a 4 and 1 ½ year old. We have pet children too, two dogs and a cat. We live in Decatur, Ga (one of two counties up until the Federal Marriage Law that allowed second parent adoption).
As a parent, what’s your favorite part about living in your city?
I appreciate living in Decatur because my children see and witness various family structures, shapes, and forms. I adore the variety of food and relative preservation of green space. However, class shapes where we all live and that matters just as much as who we see (individuals, families, groups) in certain contexts.
What are your passion projects or in what ways do you engage with your local or national community?
I feel passionate about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It is clear that systematic racism is deeply embedded in our social structures and on the communal level. I am also committed to anti-sexist movements and transgender equality. I carry these passions out in my work.
I am committed to teaching my classes through an intersectional lens, shifting the center from dominant narratives to marginalized voices and challenging the production of knowledge. On campus, I have led the charge for all gender bathrooms, faculty diversity training, and social awareness reading initiatives.
I stay current in sociological research covering institutional discrimination and attend regional and national conferences. When I attend the annual conferences for these organizations I try very hard to understand the community we are staying in, often by connecting with a local non-profit. I have previously organized non-profit fundraisers, silent actions, and donation collections for domestic violence and homeless shelter as well oppressed single mothers.
Here are links to some of the associations/conferences with which I’m affiliated:
What’s your favorite part of your civic engagement activities?
I like it when a student feels as if their experience has been validated or made visible. I also very much appreciate it when a student or individual becomes accountable to their identity or rather understands unearned privilege. I also feel that I am constantly learning and being challenged to question the world around me.
What inspires you to engage in these activities?
I feel compelled to make society more fair and just. When I listen to women from previous generations talk about sexist behavior as normal, or some of the Black male students I work with reference harassment in department stores, I feel sucker punched. When I am referred to as “honey” or Mrs. Brown at work, even though I have my doctorate, I feel angry and hurt.
These kinds of discriminatory behaviors, shaped by fear and lack of knowledge, are not based on any fact but rather a false reality. I believe that if we are accountable to our country’s past, develop plans and policies to remedy institutional prejudice, and develop a culture of social awareness I will be able to look at my daughter and son and feel that I have equipped them with different tools to be successful in society.
Any words of wisdom for parents wanting to create space for civic engagement in their own busy lives?
Read, listen, and engage with your children. It is never too early to talk about gender, race, class, and sex. These are social factors of life. I believe children want to understand the society around them and we need to assist them in a thoughtful way. What this is means to me is this: I may be white, as are my children, but Black history is American history and therefore it is important to my children’s education and the relationships they will make throughout their lives.
Marni is doing such fascinating and important work! I’m so appreciative to be connected with someone who is deeply invested in dismantling systems of oppression via a career in education deeply rooted in active research. Her students are very lucky.
Marni inspires me with her expertise and her approach to parenting. She believes in directly naming race, gender and sexuality with her kids, while also making sure to name the ambiguities that lie within each of these topics. I’m excited to have a parent like her at our school to advocate and push our community to be as inclusive and thoughtful as possible.
Thank you, Marni!