Obstacles of womanhood
The university's focus on oppressed women and gender equality continued Tuesday with an event entitled "Ain't I a Woman?" at the Student Union.
The event began with a panel discussion of womanhood, identity and challenges to universal or societal ideas of womanhood. Contributions were made from a variety of women including President Herbst, professors from the Human Development and Family Studies and Linguistics departments and students in undergraduate and doctoral programs.
Each woman had unique challenges facing their womanhood, whether that is being in the world of academia, being deaf, being a minority or surviving assault.
Marysol Asencio, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, focused her discussion on wondering, "where [she] fits in" to the societal norms. Being a Latina woman from a poor background she faced many obstacles, especially when her looks or attitudes were not representative of what people perceived they should be. Through out everything she said, "do not give people the power to treat you less."
The women also commented on the balance between being assertive and being perceived as an abrasive woman. President Herbst focused on the need to be outspoken, but also having the credentials to back up your statements.
After the panel discussions, attendees were able to participate in a small group discussion with their table. Each was given a story from "Half the Sky" and had a facilitator to help guide the conversation through questions regarding gender inequality and possible solutions to the problem.
A common theme across the small group talks was the stark divide between the problem being far away, and the separation from "here." By donating to the organizations listed at the end of "Half the Sky," Americans are not getting into the real problems of these oppressed women, but merely creating a quick-fix solution.
As Caryl Nunez, a political science PhD student said, the aid "comes from a great place, but manifests itself in a problematic way."
She focused on the fact that as a supporter of organizations such as Global Giving or Plan International, you cannot fully know where your money is going within the organization. This can be especially true if it is an international organization with it's own agenda.
The question of how to really help and reverse the problem becomes complicated.
One of the few males at the event, Andrew Stewart, a social science and psychology graduate student said, "[the movement] has to incorporate men alongside women... until men realize their liberation depends on women's."
Many of the women in the room applauded his though and agreed with this statement.
A culminating thought came from a staff member of the Dramatic Arts department, Nisha Joshee Hardnett. She said that equality needs to "not just be an event or cause," but that you "need to incorporate it into your life."
She feels that through living and teaching the principles discussed at the event, you can generate the most impact, as she does with her own family.
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