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,