Thursday, December 12, 2013

Positive Sexuality at Colgate

 This week's brown bag focused on positive sexuality at Colgate. The panelists were Mel Grover –Schwartz’14, Evan Chartier'14, Marvin Vilman'14 and Zoe Huston'15. Mel and Evan have been involved in the positive sexuality movement at Colgate since their freshman year through their involvement "Yes Means Yes," seminar and Zoe joined the movement last year. Marvin is "boss" of Bunche House. They were also involved with the production of the play, “This is not a Play about Sex.”
            In their reflection, they noticed that the positive sexuality movement is not inclusive of everybody at 'Gate because various sexual experiences are not part of the conversation. For instance, in "This is not a Play about Sex," the voices of women of color were not represented when their sexual experiences are different. Some of their hopes of the movement are incorporating the intersectionality of all identity, race, and class and how it can be used to reduce sexual violence. Marvin stated that since the positive sexuality movement is evolving, we all have to learn from one another. The panelists included the audience in a conversation, asking for their view points as to how the view the movement, how it can be inclusive to all, and ways to attract different groups of people who are not often present at these types of conversations. In addition, Prof. Stern and Dean Brown offered their input how, as faculty, they view and understand the sexual climate. Prof. Stern states that most professors are unprepared to have certain conversations with their students especially in regards to the sexual climate and also the boundaries that exist between teacher and student to have reciprocal conversations about it.  Dean Brown also mentioned how the faculty is unprepared to have conversations about the sexual climate. He asked of the audience, “What can we be doing as an institution that allows you to make decisions that make sense to you?”
            I thought the reflections were crucial because as a student who partook in both sections of the “Yes Means Yes” seminars and a member of the play, there are multiple ways to be part of the positive sexuality movement at Colgate. I, like my peers would love to have multiple voices heard and represented because even with my involvement in the positive sexuality movement, because I am a woman of color, I don’t necessarily feel like the movement is for me. However, I am positive that a result of this brown bag will be finding ways to include all identity, race, and class in the movement. I think it is important to have these conversations as a community to find a solution that is inclusive off all.

Noufo Nabine'16

Thursday, December 5, 2013

To be a Woman Leader

The following reflection stems from a SORT discussion about the challenges women in leadership positions often encounter and why there are few women in position of power. I have often wondered why there were not numerous women in leadership positions. This question always bothered me, especially when I was attending school in Togo, Africa. I recall only having two female teachers, from kindergarten through high school, and the principals were always male. Growing up, the more I worried about the lack of women in leadership positions because I wanted to be a leader but this seemed almost impossible. However, when I moved to the United States, my high school year, I realized that here, being a woman with a leadership position was likely and possible. I noticed more women in leadership positions, as the chair of their departments and as a principal and in various organizations. These women served as my role models, as I applied for various leadership positions in multiple clubs, such as the President of French Club and Student Council. I applied because I wanted to know what skills were required of a leader and that these positions came with challenges. For instance, when it came to make decisions or distribute projects, I often found my authority challenged by the vice president, who was a male. I noticed when we held our meetings; the members’ questions were mostly directed toward him, and less likely toward me. Somewhere along the way, I ended up taking his position and him mine and this was a result of several things.  One, I realized, I was not outspoken or as passionate as my counterparts. Two, along the way, I started to believe that I was not fit for the position because I realized that at meetings even with the teachers in charge of the clubs, they always turned to the male at the table for answers, regardless if the teachers themselves were male or female. These events made me more aware of myself as a person more importantly as a woman, so when I applied for a position; I always applied for a position that allowed me to work in the background not in the forefront especially when there is a male in the group.  Now, at Colgate, I noticed that I did not run for leadership positions as much as I did in high school and this stems from realizing that I was a new environment and did not know the system. Therefore my freshman year, I became a member in the various clubs where I knew I wanted to have leadership roles in the future and this year, I am applying for those positions. I also expanded my group role models as they are my motivation because they too have encountered these challenges and they have found ways to work in the system. Finally, I realized that being a female leader whether in the United States or in Togo has it challenges but it is a necessary and important because, the more women in leadership positions now  will encourage future generation of women to be leaders in the fields.

-Noufo Nabine'16 

Response to “Esto Si Se Dice: Women's Experiences with Illegal Abortion in Highland Bolivia, 1952-2010” Brown Bag

            Tuesday’s BB consisted of a discussion and personal reflection by visiting Professor Tasha Kimball on her work in Bolivia. Professor Kimball’s research revolved around the controversial topic of illegal abortion and unwanted pregnancy in Bolivia.
            According to the talk, there are high rates of abortion and unwanted pregnancies all over Latin America, and especially in Bolivia, where about 40% of births are unwanted. This is an important issue to research and discuss because illegal abortions are often followed by complications in women and/or high maternal death rates. As one would expect, the topic of (illegal) abortion is a highly stigmatized and controversial topic, although it is a topic that needs to be addressed since women may find themselves in dangerous situations or face the serious, horrifying consequences of medical complications and/or death. For her research, Prof Kimball wanted to construct the history of abortion from social, medical and political perspectives, as well as learn about women’s personal experiences with unwanted pregnancies in Bolivia. While it is important to research the structural issues that cause high rates of illegal abortions and unwanted pregnancies, listening to and sharing the stories of women who personally experienced an illegal abortion/unwanted pregnancy is crucial information. It gives a voice to these women and creates a space for them to openly discuss these stigmatized issues. Although some of the anecdotes were very sad and horrifying, I appreciate these women for sharing their stories with Prof Kimball. It also allows Prof Kimball to share the information she gathered and give insight as to the reasons for high rates of abortions/unwanted pregnancies and their consequences, information that can benefit the state and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
            Something that interested me the most was when Prof Kimball talked about the differences between women in Bolivia and women in the U.S. In the U.S., the language of personal choice and personal rights surround the topic of abortion, while in Bolivia, women feel they have a communal and social responsibility. Prof Kimball connects this to the fact that about 70% of the population in Bolivia is indigenous. Although I do not know about the Aymara people, and I know not all indigenous peoples are the same, I often hear about how indigenous peoples prioritize the needs of the community over individual needs. It is interesting to see how this idea is used in the context of reproductive rights within the Bolivian communities where Prof Kimball conducted her research.
            While her findings were very interesting, her self-reflection and critique as a researcher was also a major aspect of her presentation. She was insightful and candid about her research process, expressing the limitations and challenges she foresaw and the possible ways to address them. Some of these limitations include issues with language and translation or her personal identity. But no amount of preparation can fully prepare researchers, as Prof Kimball explained in her talk. One challenge and ethical dilemma that Prof Kimball shared with us was a mistake she made when talking to the press about her work. Although she made sure to protect the anonymity (and identifying details) of her participants and allies, the press manipulated Prof Kimball’s research in an unforeseen manner, that put a lot of scrutiny on NGOs and other medical organizations that provide reproductive health services to women, since abortions are illegal in Bolivia. Many people in the audience appreciated Prof Kimball’s honesty and willingness to share this experience that led to serious consequences. I am also glad to hear that she is mending her ties with her participants and allies.
            Overall, it was a very good brown bag that addressed a controversial issue, illegal abortions and unwanted pregnancies in Bolivia, as well as the controversies that may occur with conducting research with people.

-Valerie Garcia ’15 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Brown Bag Response: Equity in Higher Education

Today’s Brown Bag, entitled “Equity in Higher Education, was a presentation from the SOCI 303: Sociology in Higher Education class. The students presented the research they have been doing throughout the semester on the myth of college degrees placing students on equal playing fields. While there are many people who knew that part, there are definitely enough people that don’t to make these conversations continually relevant. Even as someone who may be aware of this myth, It is also nice to hear actual research on why this may not be the case.

The students went through different aspects of the college process from college prep through graduation, making sure to reference all the important moments in between. Interestingly enough, most, if not all (I think), of their data was taken from research of Colgate’s student body. Here were my main takeaways from the Brown Bag:
1. Social factors are often overlooked in the entire college process! We’re always told that networking is important, arguably more so than any other single factor, but what does that mean for someone with no network?! I’m a senior and I always read that networking is absolutely NECESSARY for me to get a job. If I didn’t go to Colgate what would my network look like? I don’t have a family involved in any industry I’m interested in and I don’t know “people.” Many students just don’t have a network within which to network and that contributes to everything
2. Student athletes are less socially satisfied? This surprised me! I always thought athletes were really into social life here, but I guess appearances are deceiving. I believe the research the students presented said that athletes weren’t all that into “the hookup culture.” There’s also a difference in high profile and low profile athletes and their social satisfaction. The differences are pretty much exactly what you would expect.
3. There’s a stereotype that sorority women are not smart? Ok apparently I’m the only who didn’t know this stereotype, but every sorority lady I’ve met is usually pretty smart. The research, however, suggested that not only are they smart, but they’re smarter than you. The sorority average gpa is higher than the general Colgate gpa.

4. Many men are baffled by sexual assault on campus. “What? My brother isn’t a rapist!” says every man in a fraternity and I’m not surprised at all by this. Not only do these men mostly disagree that women are being sexually assaulted, usually at the hands of men, on this campus, but they also don’t know what to do in the event of an assault. In a survey of fraternity brothers, only one knew the proper protocol in response to this situation.

Overall the Brown Bag was great! I love hearing about issues of inequality not necessarily in a broad sense, but in relation to my specific community. It's also nice to support other students in their academic work since we usually work hard and no one but our professors get to see it.

Eat, Pray, Love,


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Brown Bag Reflection - Feminist Social Entrepreneurism

Yesterday’s Brown Bag’s (11/12/13) topic was about feminism and social entrepreneurism. The panelists included Viktor Mak ‘15, Caitie Barrett ‘14, and Ariel Sherry ’15 who all are involved with the Thought Into Action (TIA) program at Colgate.

Viktor Mak spoke about the initiative that he started called “Vern Clothing.” The organization sells products made within a particular region and markets them towards a larger international audience through a website. The products that are sold are by artisans (who tend to be women) and ten percent of the profits are donated back to education programs within that particular community. His start-up began when he went to Guatemala the summer after his first year at Colgate. While he was there he set-up a website and taught the local women how to sell their products to a larger international audience through the website. However, when he returned the following summer, he found that the website had been fairly neglected with a few structural problems within the site. Thus, during his second summer, he fixed the website and further established the legitimacy of the program. Check out the Vern Website!

Caitie Barrett shared with us her evolution of her idea and gave us some insight into the difficulties of implementing an idea. During her time in Kenya a few years ago, Caitie wanted to start a pen pal system with the girls in the orphanage she worked at and girls in the United States (specifically in central New York). She realized the value in getting to know people different from oneself which is often difficult to number reasons, most notably financial limitations. Thus, creating this pan pal system would allow girls to get to know each other personally without the burden of travel. However, Caitie ran into some difficulties with the administration within the Kenyan orphanage and a lack of support for the project. Thus, her project took a turn and now she is started “Hello From Here” which still tries to connect girls and young women from the United States and around the world (specifically Kenya). Although she hasn’t fully implemented her idea, the goal is to start Skype sessions in which students from Kenyan University will be able to communicate with students from the United States.

Ariel Sherry spoke about her idea to improve the general welfare of the elderly through a program called “Age Together.” With taking Professor Loe’s “Sociology of the Life Course” in conjunction with her desire to work with the elderly, Ariel realized that many communities within the United States, including Madison County, are not elder friendly. According to Professor Loe’s research many elders feel isolated and undervalued which contributes to a decrease in general welfare and life satisfaction. This is the problem Ariel is trying to solve though her start-up. Going forward she is going to assess communities on a continuum of how elder-friendly they are. Through interactions with the elders in that particular community, Ariel will then approach the community leaders and give them suggestions of programs that have worked in other communities to make it a more elder-friendly environment. She hopes that her programing will “make changes that promote positive aging and can even make it a more enticing place for people to live and grow old.”

Overall it was a very interesting Brown Bag that touched upon both the challenges and the benefits of social entrepreneurism.

Want to learn more about TIA? Visit their website!
Want to watch the Brown Bag? Watch it on YouTube!

- Michelle Van Veen ‘14

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Brown Bag Reflection - Gender and Climate Change with Joyce Barry

Last semester, I took a geography and women’s studies course taught by Professor Hays-Mitchell called Gender, Justice, and Environmental Change.  The course really piqued my interest in examining environmental concerns with a feminist lens, and I was so excited to learn that this week’s Brown Bag was going to be given by Joyce Barry.  Students in Professor Hays-Mitchell’s course read Barry’s Standing Our Ground, which is about women fighting to end mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. 
Barry talked about Appalachia being a “sacrifice zone” in that a few (the people of Appalachia) suffer for the benefit of the whole (the majority of America).  This goes hand in hand with the idea of a resource curse, as living in coal country has been detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the people of coal mining communities in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. It is upsetting that our capitalist society is so far removed from the means of production that this issue does not seem to be on many people’s radar since most Americans do not think about where their electricity comes from. In her book, Barry touches on most of America’s general sense of apathy towards Appalachia and she devotes a chapter to explaining the negative images Americans have of “hillbillies” and “hicks” who live in the region.  These words are negative white racial constructions that generally perpetuate the stereotypes of Appalachian people being poor, backward, and violent.
Another large part of Barry’s talk was explaining the importance of gender roles.  Women oftentimes see issues and encounter them firsthand, both biologically and because of conventional family structures, as most women in Appalachia are around the house more with their children.  This makes women more attuned to environmental changes as she gave the example of one woman spending time with her grandson when they noticed that all of the fish in a river near their home had died.  Part of her book also talked about the idea of motherist politics and mother hen syndrome, which holds that women are inherently aware of dangers to their young, as motherhood comes with a greater sense of responsibility to children. After reading Barry’s book and hearing her talk, I have come to believe that the burdens and interlocking oppressions women face in their lives do make them more aware of issues regarding climate change and environmental justice. 

-Lindsey Skerker '14

Feminist Playlist

I have a feminist confession to make. This past summer I could not get enough of Robin Thick’s song, “Blurred Lines.” When I first heard it I though it was the catchiest things I had ever heard and LOVED it. It wasn’t until a friend made me read the lyrics did I realize that the song pretty much went against the moral fiber of my being (don’t get me started on the video). Well, that might be a bit dramatic, but I did experience an internal moral dilemma. Do I listen to the song that I can’t help but dance to or do I boycott the song to make a point?

Anyways whether or not you like Robin Thick’s song isn’t the point, there is a bigger picture here. We, as feminists, are quick to point out when the media portrays something that is degrading to women. We see it all the time in the news, music, pop culture, movies, celebrities, etc. The “media” is inherently sexist. But, what can we as ordinary, seemingly powerless, and wrapped up in our own lives students do to help the media’s image of women?

Here’s a start. We can listen and promote female artists! I’ve created a playlist of female vocalists that are some of my favorite artists out there. You can listen to it here! And, if you like what you hear, promote these women! Buy (don’t pirate) their albums and show your support. It’s a simple, painless, and fun way to practice feminism.  Sound like a plan?

Here’s the playlist:
  1. 365 Days – ZZ Ward
  2. What I Wouldn’t Do – Serena Ryder
  3. Royals – Lorde
  4. Home – Gabrielle Aplin
  5. You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse
  6.  I’m Not Calling You a Liar – Florence & The Machine
  7. Hotel Song – Regina Spektor
  8. Cold Shoulder – Adele
  9. Finders Keepers – Miriam Bryant
  10. This Love (Will Be Your Downfall) – Ellie Goulding
  11. Jar of Hearts – Christina Perri
  12. Wings – Birdy
  13. Shake It Out – Florence & The Machine
  14. Soon We’ll Be Found – Sia
  15. Gather and Run – Natasha North
  16. Hold On – Alabama Shakes
  17. My Moon My Man – Feist

-Michelle Van Veen '14

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Feminist Guide to Halloween

I know Halloween was officially yesterday, BUT we are Colgate students so I know festivities will be continuing throughout the weekend. I haven’t even worn any of my costumes yet. While Halloween is supposed to be a fun time (for people who participate) to dress up and have fun, it’s also a time of serious contention among feminists...and for good reason. Costumes are incredibly gendered and sexist and it pisses many people off. All women’s costume are small and sexy, despite the fact that some women live in Central New York and can’t wear the little sexy pirate costume because it’s freezing outside AND some women actually want to be, I don’t know, scary for halloween. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scary woman’s halloween costume. Absolutely everything is sexualized.

Here is a perfect example:

We’ve sexualized bacon, ya’ll. Bacon.

Party City even introduced their new “Body Shaper Costumes” this season...because costumes weren’t sexualized enough. With all this nonsense surrounding Halloween, what is a feminist supposed to do?! No fear, I’ve created a 2 step guide to doing Halloween appropriately that will keep your Halloweekend fun and exciting.

1. Pick a costume. Any costume.
Just because I’ve criticized the sexualization of women’s costumes for Halloween doesn’t mean I won’t be wearing one. And it doesn’t mean you can’t either. If you want to be sexy bacon, work that sexy bacon. The same applies if you choose to be Freddy Krueger. Not sexy Freddy, but actual terrifying Freddy. Work that metal claw and burnt skin. I’m a feminist BECAUSE I believe in a woman’s right to choose...her Halloween costume. Don't wanna wear a sexy costume to make a political stance? Go right ahead. You don’t get extra points for not wearing sexy costume and you don’t get to shame women who do the opposite.

2. ...Unless your costume is offensive.
Because part of being a feminist is being an overall decent human being, I have to include this in my guide. Your costume is offensive if it meets any or all of the following criteria:

a. You are in black or brown face. No, you cannot do this ever in any context and no I will not elaborate on why. Be proactive in your own education. Ignorance is not an excuse for university students in 2013.
b. Your character is a trope, stereotype or any generalized depiction of a group of people (extra negative points if this group of people has been historically oppressed significantly by any institution, anywhere, at any time). No, you and your friends cannot be Mexicans or Native Americans.

c. You are parodying a significant event that most people have decided is not funny. No, you cannot have a Jews and Nazis themed Halloween party or dress up as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

We’re feminists not animals (unless that’s your Halloween costume)! Don’t be offensive. Don’t costume shame (unless that costume is offensive then please shame away).

Have a fun and safe Halloweekend everybody!

Love Actually,