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