Thursday, November 20, 2014

Practicing Feminism

How do I define feminism? How do I practice feminism?
My  working definition of feminism is that of bell hooks’ as “the eradication of all forms of oppressions which are not only limited to sexism, classism, racism…“

The way I practice feminism different daily depending on the space and place. At Colgate, I practice being a feminist by partaking and creating spaces to have conversations whose missions are to challenge the power hierarchies that exist on Colgate campus. The main space for these conversations is the Women Studies Department lounge through brown bags series, a feminist group called (Sisters of the Round Table)SORT and an LGBTQ and allies group called Advocates weekly meetings. Regardless of the topic at hand, these events attempt to create conversation to expand our understanding of the construction of gender roles, the effect of living in a capitalist society and how race, and class functions on this campus.  In SORT, one of the ways in which I practice my feminism is being conscious of the language that we use in the during these meetings spaces , of who is not part of the conversations and finding a way to further change our collective understanding of what it means being a feminist group on campus. Similar to SORT, in Advocates, I am oftentimes aware of the bodies that are not part of the conversation therefore I attempt to create a space to challenge our own understanding by looking at our intersectional identities. Therefore, I practice my feminism by engaging in conversations with whose goals are to create safe spaces to discuss and challenge the heteronormative, sexist, classist, racist, and privilege campus in which we live. Yet the most important ways I practice feminism is taking these conversations from these meetings to the classrooms and to my friends groups. Therefore, for me my practice of feminism encompasses the work of the collective and of the individual in order to eradicate all of forms of oppressions.  

-Stephanie Nabine

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Gift of Self Love

This week's brown bag focused on how students, professors, faculty, and staff practice self-love and self-care in their lives. The panel included Professor Rios, Professor Loe, Professor Page, Professor Benson, Dawn Lafrance and Emily Khazi. The brown bag began with each panelist describing what they see as self love and how they themselves find a sense of self love. Some agreed, that for them, self love is found with other people and through communities. In order to achieve self love, they felt that it needed to complicate the notion of self by seeking self love with others. Additionally, a panelist noted how this process of self love is not static and needs constant introspection. The audience had a chance to share the ways they practiced self love, which included exercise, listening to music, the outdoors, and cleaning. The panelist reserved the last few minutes of the brown bag to engage the audience in ways they practice self-love, which included a walk outdoors, breathing exercises, card writing, massage/heat therapy, and Reiki. I had the chance to participate in the Reiki session which was a very spiritual session. Overall, I think there was an overarching message that self love and self care is necessary within an individual's life, especially here at Colgate. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

What is solidarity?

For the past weeks, my mind has been consumed with the idea of solidarity and what it truly means within movements for social change, and more specifically groups of marginalized backgrounds on Colgate's campus who are fighting for equity. The online definition of solidarity is as follows: the unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest. Essentially solidarity is defined as mutual support within a group. However, I get stuck on the word support, especially because the word cannot be universally defined and looks extremely different given the group and context of the individuals. I have spent this past semester reading the work of Lorde, Moraga, hooks, Anzaldúa, Davis, and many many more feminist writers, which has pushed me to think of what solidarity could look like amongst groups who are different.  

To me solidarity does in fact mean support, but more specifically support that acknowledges difference, validates the individual experience and realizes how these experiences are interconnected within a larger systemic conversation (white supremacy) in which we are all implicatedWe must moved beyond "I hear you," "I see you" or I'll send an email to my members about your event and ask the hard questions that we fear will tear us even further a part. Lorde states in The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House that "difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of difference strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters." Merely acknowledging one another is not enough, in my opinion, and further creates a larger gap between one another.

So then my question because how can organizatons like Black Student Union, Latin American Student Organization, Sisters of the Round Table, Brothers, Advocates, Organization of Asian Sisters in Solidarity, Colgate International Community, African Student Union, Anti-Racism Coalition, Hawaii Club, Korean Cultural Association, Chinese Interest Association, and so on come together to enact change on this campus? I understand the importance of our organizations and the spaces that these pockets of hope, healing, and love provide but it worries me as a student leader and marginalized identity that we (excuse my generalization) do not understand each others struggles, concerns, and histories especially in the context of Colgate. I am also aware that we are students with lives and have to perform academically, but I cannot help but feel that idea that we must pick our battles is constructed within the white racial frame as well. Why is that I have to chose between my identity as a women, Latina, and feminist? Why is it that we have to teach our campus about our identities, that we have to do everything for our clubs to have a presence on this campus, why is it we have to fight to be seen, and especially why is it that this campus does not support us? Again, the burden is placed on us, marginalized identities, to make a space for ourselves, to educate the larger community about our struggles, strengths and histories. 

But to bring it back home and leave the idea of teaching the majority about our existence for another conversation, I simply don't buy it. I think we can fight for it all. Maybe I am too optimistic but I have witnessed it. I have seen individuals who are so different come together to fight against one thing despite their own experiences and opinions to make a place they love better and equitable.

Solidarity to me looks like love. It looks like emotion whether it be happiness or sadness. It looks like that moment when you gaze into someone's eyes and they actually feel you. It looks like tears and laughter. It looks critical and conscious. It is political and personal.  And most importantly it looks like an agreement that I cannot fight this without you. I end this post with another line from Lorde's piece that summarizes my thoughts on solidarity, "in our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower."


Celebrating 20 Years of the Center for Women's Studies

This Tuesday’s Brown Bag was a reflection of the history of Women’s Studies and the Center for Women’s Studies at Colgate. All six interns created original Stand and Speak pieces on specific topics pertaining to the history of women’s studies at Colgate. Some of these included Title IX, the creation of the Women’s Studies major and minor, and the women’s resource center.  While doing research in preparation for this presentation, I found it incredibly frustrating to realize how much of the same issues pertain to the Colgate campus in 2014. However, meeting past women Colgate professors at the symposium brought a bit more nuance to my understanding of their experience. For example, my topic of coeducation and co-curriculum and some of the concerns that I found in the archives were further explained. The women on the panel discussed their difficulty acclimating to the campus culture and the pushback they were met with as professors. are The discussions which I had really showed me how much progress has been made. In the archives, women students spoke of feeling like they need to represent the views of all women in the classroom. This feeling of isolation is still relevant today for students who's experience . It makes for a less safe learning environment. In 1986, a Committee on Coeducation and Co-curriculum was created as a review of the past four years of the WMST program. The questionnaire included shared student perspectives on housing, academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities. On the topic of academic life at Colgate, women professors and advisors were perceived as being more open and available for counselling. Women were not as satisfied with their experience as their male peers. I think the questionnaire was point to some sort of balance in equity if the needs of women. I think this is still relevant today. The idea of needing to represent the voice of all women in the classroom is something that students of color deal with daily.

 On the topic of coeducation and curriculum, student dissatisfaction with a male dominated campus climate making it difficult to learn was a reoccurring theme. While the earlier committee transcripts and maroon news articles reflected some of the needs of women students, the official proposal for the program written in 1989 elequently explains the need for a Women’s Studies program. “The Women’s Studies program is built on the assumption that women’s experiences are sufficiently different from men’s past experiences. Both must be fully recognized and acknowledged if we are to fully understand human experience.” As a WMST minor, it’s interesting to see the reasons for the inception of the program and why they are still relevant today. I'm grateful to be a part of this community and think it creates a culture that is incredibly important to the creation of a better learning environment. In short, studying history and culture from a women’s perspective is important as is the need to re-examine traditional concepts so that more voices are included. Attending this weekend’s celebration of 20 years of the center further drove home this idea. While talking to Wanda Warren Berry, one of the first women professors to teach at Colgate in 1962, she explained the deep strides she made to become a full time tenured professor, and the decision to eventually leave Colgate. Being part of discussions on the change in departments and the different values given to programs and departments was also interesting. I think one of the most significant things which I learned from the Brown Bag and the celebration is that change is incredibly slow and hard to recognize. Having forty years of distance between the experiences of the women I read about and who’s stories I listened to provided much needed perspective. As a person who has just five weeks left on the campus, it’s becoming more and more apparent that this distance is very much needed. I can’t imagine how much Colgate will change for the better in the next twenty years. I really appreciated hearing from the past and current WMST professors this weekend. I think it really brought to life documents such as a the Committee to Reflect on Coeduation and Curriculum.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Feminism in Africa BB

Last week, Colgate students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Colgate center for women’s studies for our weekly brown bag. This week’s topic was Feminism in Africa.  This brown bag truly blew my mind. It made me question how feminism, gender relations, and activism is constructed in different places.
           One point brought up by our primary speaker, Professor Mary Moran, is that oftentimes, “feminism” is viewed as a white and western idea. Indeed, much of feminist history is rooted in the activism of middle-class white women. At one point it was also very exclusionary practices that did not allow for the intersections of class, race, sexuality, and gender. With that in mind, feminism has grown in its inclusivity and conceptualization, but most of it is still grounded in a western context and a western conceptualization of feminism and gender. For example, there are assumptions that gender relations as far as a man/woman dichotomy (binary) work the same and lead many and scholars to jump to conclusion that root of all things not consider “feminist is patriarchy. Professor Moran posed this idea that in fact, gender relations are necessarily based on gender expression or sex as know or not in it is entire, but rather familial relations the role of wife/husband plays a large role. It is very possible that woman per se could be in the role of husband. The Husband/wife denote power relations but not necessarily gender, as I understood. Furthermore, it it is very possible that sisters, aunts, and mothers have more power in certain instance sand differs depending on the realm of conversation like public sphere vs. private sphere.
           Another idea that Professor Moran touched upon is the theme of “Feminism as Imperialism.”  When trying to show solidarity with siblings abroad, western feminists or perhaps simply feminist who don’t live in the target areas, over-sensationalize issues that may be seen as important but no more problematic or controversial than issues herein the U.S. For example, many feminist organizations have targeted the idea of gender based violence, in particular, vaginal mutiliation. According to professor Moran, although this is a very important issue, some not all, but some see that as an equivalent how western feminist view plastic surgery.
    Transnational feminism and conflicting narratives should be the standard. There are many paths and ways to do feminism and it is time many of educate ourselves we can best contribute to conversation of solidarity when conceptions of feminism and the issues feminism addresses are very different.