Professor Angie Willey Presents Her Research on Types of Relationships at Pizza & Prof
UMass Amherst Professor Angie Willey of the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies gathered with students and faculty on Thursday evening to deliver the Commonwealth Honors College’s first Pizza & Prof lecture of the semester. Willey presented her studies on monogamy and other types of relationships, offering a forum for Honors students to analyze conventions that few had studied in the classroom before.
“I have a friend who's [polyamorous], and she tried explaining it to me, but I didn't really understand it,” said first-year operations & information management major Ella Slavin-Reker before the lecture. “I wanted to come to just educate myself and keep an open mind.”
Willey began the lecture by explaining the different definitions of monogamy, as an ideal and an institution.
“Simple monogamy means that when you're dating one person and you're sleeping together, you're not sleeping with anyone else,” Willey said. “Super monogamy is the ideal of a soulmate or a relationship that ultimately lasts forever.”
“This idea of lifelong monogamy assumes that we get all of our needs met, and we get to express everything about ourselves with one partner for our whole lives,” Willey noted.
“We usually think about monogamy just as one of these two ideals, but monogamy importantly is part of a legal system in which rights and resources are distributed.”
Willey established the connection between capitalism and monogamy, arguing that monogamy normalizes capitalist conventions that limit universal access to resources. Monogamous partners often obtain healthcare through their relationship instead of benefiting from a universal healthcare system. This partnership may also be a means for accessing family inheritances, which contain generational wealth within bloodlines rather than allowing for redistribution to the commonwealth.
“We love our families. Then, because of that love, we can't really see capitalism clearly because capitalism is not about love, right?”
“We need to look at the role that compulsory monogamy plays in organizing our society and naturalizing stories that make the status quo seem inevitable,” Willey said. “We need new stories about who and what we are in order to imagine new ways of relating and belonging.”
Willey ended the lecture by opening a thought experiment on love stories that exist beyond interpersonal relationships. She asked participants to consider places, hobbies, and possessions they love, gathering in a circle to share what these things mean to them.
“The thing that came to mind was cooking,” said Andrew Simonton, a senior psychology major. “Learning how to cook is a constant newness and something you can share with people.”
Sophomore psychology major Niki Gudiel Winter praised the book The Body Keeps the Score, which explains how generational trauma can take physical manifestations.
“It was really enlightening for me and just kind of eye opening to what actually [I want to] study,” Winter said. “I really like [the book] because it talks about trauma and how it affects your brain.”
Honors College Dean Mari Castañeda also joined the activity, describing her passion for running.
“That love of running started in junior high,” Dean Castañeda explained. “The gloriousness of feeling my body as I ran felt free, and it felt like flying.”
A University of Massachusetts students talks with Angie Willey of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department
Angie Willey talks with an attendee. Photo: Sophie Hauck
Willey thanked students and faculty for their willingness to share and noted her gratitude for the intimate group discussion.
“Can I just say how much I appreciated that share in so many ways,” Willey remarked. “The way you just casually talked about generational trauma in this space made me feel like the world is getting better.”
Chiruza Muhimuzi, a first-year biology major, encourages all Honors students to attend future Pizza & Prof events.
“It will be good for everyone to come just to learn about something new which you never thought about,” Muhimuzi said. “I'm going to come just to be surprised again.”
Join us in the CHC Events Hall on April 21 at 5:30 pm for the next Pizza & Prof event. Public Policy Professor Karl Rethemeyer will speak on his research.