Monday, October 29, 2012

Reflection of Motherhood

Being a mother is something I've always envisioned in my future. When I was a little girl playing with dolls I frequently played the mother “role.” When I started having play dates with other kids I would often play the mother. Even in high school I loved working with kids and would often feel that “maternal desire” to have a kid of my own some day. But, more recently I have questioned the root of this desire. When I came to Colgate I started taking women’s studies and sociology courses. I learned that I have been, to a certain degree, socialized to be a mother ever since I was given my first doll. When I finally embraced my feminist identity in college, I started thinking about what was expected of me as a student, woman, and feminist. I questioned whether my desire to become a mother someday was something I learned or something ingrained in my biological makeup. I questioned whether it was acceptable for me to be a feminist that would love to be a stay-at-home mom in the future. Furthermore, I wondered at what age and at what point in my career would it be best or acceptable for me to become a mother. All these questions and more have been swirling in my head regarding what it means to be a feminist mother.
One thing I don’t think we talk enough about is what it means to be a feminist father. I attended a Women’s Studies Brown Bag in which there was a panel of fathers who to a certain degree identified their parenting as feminist (see Gloria's post below). One of the prominent observations I made was that none of them had really given much thought into what it means to be a feminist father. In fact, it was mentioned a few times that they were unsure as to why they were asked to be on this particular panel. They all talked about how they were more involved in their children’s upbringing than what is “expected” of fathers in our society and that was looked upon favorably. However, they all realized that even though they didn't do much in terms of child rearing, they did more than what was expected of them, which is not something mothers get praise for. One of the dads brought up a cartoon that highlighted the fact that dads these days are doing more than their fathers and they are getting praise for that. Moms, however, are doing “less” than their mothers and are made to feel guilty about it. I thought this was a very interesting observation about the privilege fathers have in our society. Fathers get praise for the things they should already be doing, whereas mothers get very little acknowledgment of all they things they should and already are doing. If a father is absent in a child’s life because he is working that is socially acceptable. If a mother is absent in her child’s life because she is working that is socially unacceptable. I think this speaks a lot to the emphasis we place on motherhood that should in reality be placed on parenthood. 
All this information keeps on swirling in my head and questions keep forming as I try to look towards the future. Should I look for a partner that will actively engage in equal parenting? What am I willing to compromise on if that isn't possible? Should my career search be based on whether or not I can have a family in the future while working? Is it alright if I want to be a homemaker? That being said, the thing I want the most are options. I want the option to either find a job or stay at home. I want the option of having a family when I want a family. I want my options to make the best and most informed decisions on what will eventually shape my future. I want a life with a partner that will support me in terms of my career and play an equal role in parenting. Am I asking for too much?

-Michelle Van Veen '14

Sunday, October 28, 2012

10/23 Brown bag response: Feminist Fathers

In many families, kids are raised with gender roles playing a big part in the daily activities within the home. Girls help their mothers with chores within the house like cooking and cleaning while the boys and fathers do the work that requires more physical energy such as mowing the lawn, taking out the trash and shoveling the driveway.

On Tuesday 23 October, a panel of feminist fathers, 3 of whom are Colgate professors: Chris Henke, John Palmer and Andy Rotter together with Dominik Pangallo who works with the partnership for community development within the village of Hamilton led a brown bag discussing how they practice feminism and embed it into their parenting skills and techniques.
One of the feminist fathers, Prof. Chris Henke, mentioned that being a feminist father starts with being a feminist oneself and embracing feminism within one’s personal life. As they shared different stories as to the different ways each of them raise their kids, they did mention the difficulties they face at times especially when trying not to affirm to societal gender norms for example not wanting their kids to “throw like girls”. Despite this, they discussed the different ways they try not to affirm to the norms that dictate parental roles and behavior of a father within a family. Sometimes, they consciously see gender playing its roles within the family, as Prof. Palmer said, but at least he wants to see his kids grow up aware of  the existence of feminism and be able to incorporate it in their lives. They encourage their kids to do things that they enjoy and also expose them to a variety of toys, colors, clothing to enable them make the choice as to what they feel most comfortable with.
It’s great to have feminist fathers so kudos to all the men out there practicing some extent of feminism- be it first, second or third wave feminism!:)
For more information on feminist fatherhood, check out this website:

-Gloria Kebirungi ‘15

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10/25 Brown Bag Response: "Identifying as a Mormon Feminist"

                Today’s Brown Bag was titled “Identifying as a Mormon Feminist” and featured Joana Brooks, author of Book of a Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith. Brooks is an award-winning scholar of religion and American culture and is a twenty-year veteran of the Mormon feminist movement. She describes her book as a coming of age story. It is a story of how she came into her feminist consciousness. Oftentimes, she says, she was made to feel weird by mainstream culture and felt marginalized because of her Mormon faith.  I found it really interesting to learn that there is a century old tradition of feminism in the Mormon faith. In fact, women once commanded priesthood powers in the Mormon Church.  I went into the lecture pretty clueless about the Mormon faith so a lot of what was said was really enlightening. One of the most interesting things I learned was that God is a mother and a father in Mormonism.  Joanna also highlighted the importance of the Mormon Church talking openly about controversies within the Church like racism, sexism, and polygamy. There were and still are a narrow set of voices that are the spokespeople of the community, she says, and this needs to change.
                One of Brook’s ideas that resonated the most with me was the idea that we don’t do feminism just for us, we do feminism for a just world. Another message that I found interesting is that it is possible to push beyond the secular models of feminism. Meaning, although some of the Mormon Church policies do not align with Joana's feminism, she is still able to work through them and do great feminist work while maintaining her faith. Joana talked a lot about many of her Mormon feminist professors and role models at Brigham Young University. Several of these women were excommunicated from the church or fired from BYU in the late 70s. However, the internet has allowed these women and Mormon feminists in general, to communicate and share their thoughts and ideas in a safe place. I think the work that Joana is doing is really great because there does not seem to be many Mormon feminists telling their own stories, at least not in mainstream American culture.

-Stephanie Rameau

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

10/16 Brown Bag Response: "The Road to Seneca Falls: Who Came and Why?"

                Tuesday’s Brown Bag was titled “The Road to Seneca Falls,” and was the third installment in Judith Wellman’s series of talks on women’s rights history in New York State. Judith is a professor at SUNY Oswego and is the author of The Road to Seneca Falls: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the First Woman’s Rights Convention. She is also the Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 Endowed Chair for Regional Studies. Her areas of specialization are U.S History: Nineteenth Century, Social Work, Women’s History, and Underground Railroad History. Judy’s talk was especially interesting because many of the historical sites she discussed are local. For example, the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls where the convention took place is only two hour’s drive from Hamilton. The 1848 convention drew in a crowd of three hundred people to discuss women’s political rights. Over one hundred of those who attended signed the Declaration of Sentiments which asserted “that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inaliable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
                It was interesting to hear a brief biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton because it really underscored how much of her life she had dedicated to this movement.  It was also interesting to hear that besides the prominent figures of the movement like Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglas, and Stanton, the majority of the signers were just ordinary people willing to make public their belief in equality for all. The three movements that converged and linked these members into the women’s rights movement were Quaker abolitionists, political abolitionists, and legal reformers. All three of these reformer groups championed equality and rights for society’s oppressed so it only seems natural that they would come together at Seneca Falls at the start of the women’s rights movement.  Judy also discussed the break in the women’s movement that resulted from the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, which gave African-American men the right to vote. Some members of the movement felt slighted because while they had worked closely with the abolitionist movement, they would not see the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, until the year 1929.A video of the lecture is available on the WMST Facebook page for those who are interested!

-Stephanie Rameau

Friday, October 5, 2012

10/02 Brown Bag Response: Coming Out Stories

This week’s brown bag is another favorite. The first Tuesday of October is always in honor of National Coming Out Week and members of the Colgate community recount their experiences with realizing, revealing, and processing their sexual and gender identities. Our panels always consist of a range of identities and experiences. The take away from these different narratives is the extent of difference among those within the queer community. Each of the four speakers on this year's panel expressed different views about the ways their queer identity affected their lives and how being honest about who they are has shaped the ways they navigate the world and interpret their interactions with it. The thing about coming out stories is that they're highly individual, which is part of what gives them power, because our supposedly enlightened society would much rather overlook these experiences under the guise of "not caring" about someone's personal identity because "we're all the same." But the public disclosure of these coming out stories rejects that impulse of secrecy and devaluing difference by reminding the audience that these events in folks' lives are significant and are worth sharing.

This brown bag is one of several events that will occur this month in the spirit of encouraging openness and enthusiastic acceptance of personal identity. Look out for fliers and emails from the Office of LGBTQ Initiatives that provide more details about campus happenings this October.

- Che J. Hatter 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

September 25th Brown Bag: Women as Healers

The Brown Bag on 9/25/12 was entitled Women as Healers. This Brown Bag was particularly special because Sandy Garner, who is the mother of the Center’s Program Assistant, Kimmie Garner, hosted it.  Sandy is a Certified Healing Touch Practitioner. She gave a complete history of women as healers, explained the healing technique, “Healing Touch, and she also talked about her efforts to combine Western medicine and energy healing at a North Carolina hospital. A highlight of this Brown Bag was learning about the Chakra, which are seven primary human energy centers in our bodies. 
There is a Crown Chakra (top of head), Third Eye Chakra (center of forehead), Throat Chakra (throat area), Heart Chakra (center of chest), Solar Plexus Chakra (above navel below chest), Sacral Chakra (between navel and genitals), and Root Chakra (base of spine). All of these centers have energy flowing through them if they are fine-tuned and working correctly. Sandy taught us simple and easy ways to fine-tune your Chakra and it consists of various meditation poses to really focus and relieve pain and anxiety.
Another highlight was hearing a story about a woman who was placed into a medically induced coma for a dangerous surgery and when she was taken out of that coma she could recite word for word conversations that took place between the doctors and nurses! I always get chills when I hear remarkable stories like this one. It just teaches us that there are so many mysteries in life and that we should be open-minded and tolerant of things we sometimes cannot explain. I stayed after the Brown Bag and a few people and I asked to have our energies read with her pendulum. It was an eye-opening experience because the pendulum would actually stop and have virtually no movement if something was wrong or off with your Chakra. Sandy gladly did a tune-up for those who needed it and it was inspiring to watch.  I highly suggest that everyone watch the Brown Bag and even do some research about your own Chakras.  Have a great break!
~ Natalie George