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Why does my math class have so few girls?

in Caps Not Crosby/Columns/Opinions by

Why does my math class have so few girls? Why did the engineering department here have only one female professor last year? These are the types of questions many girls in S.T.E.M. at Swat tend to ask ourselves. Issues of underrepresentation of women in S.T.E.M. fields don’t start at Swat. By the time students arrive here, they have already been influenced by these disciplines’ implicit and explicit biases. It is the presence of such biases, most of which begin to heighten during middle and high school, that is constantly deterring women from pursuing computational fields, and it is imperative that institutions begin to tackle these biases head on.

In high schools across the United States, boys are dominating the higher-level classes in fields of math and applied mathematics.  Approximately 2.1 million girls and only 1.75 million boys took A.P. exams in varying subjects in 2013; however, in A.P. exams in fields of math and applied mathematics, boys outnumbered girls by strikingly large margins. Despite the fact that girls take a significantly greater percentage of all A.P. exams, boys still take more exams in all S.T.E.M.-related fields. The fact that more boys are taking these exams indicates that boys outnumber girls by a large margin in A.P. classes — high school classes usually at the highest level in any given subject — concerning S.T.E.M.-related fields.

Taking these A.P. classes in a subject will naturally increase the likelihood that a student will major in that subject in college. While some math majors at Swat do start in Math 15, it is far easier to complete the major if they come in with A.P. credit, and a student will naturally gravitate towards subjects in which they feel they possess more confidence and ability.

One of the main reasons many of the speakers cited that is keeping women out of the profession are the implicit biases — negative mental attitudes towards a group that people hold at an unconscious level.  Teachers perpetuate these biases unconsciously while teaching, and they will often go unnoticed by all until they are brought to attention. A student’s subconscious will pick up things that they do not actually know they are internalizing.  

With both information and experience in mind, I have compiled a list of suggestions for improving the ways in which institutions treat women. All schools and universities should ensure that they have 50 percent female teachers in mathematics and fields such as physics and economics which require the application of mathematics. All standardized testing involving mathematics and fields of applied mathematics must not permit test-takers to bubble in their gender until after they have already taken the test.

All students should be told two statements at the beginning of their middle school careers. The first is that brains are as malleable as plastic, and anyone has the ability to learn anything regardless of their race, class, or gender. The second is that gender plays no role in the ability for a child to learn any subject, and that the stereotypes surrounding the idea that boys are naturally better at math are 100 percent false.  

For every famous male mathematician a teacher mentions in class, teachers must also mention a female mathematician. I have heard my math teachers for years go on and on about men such as Euler, Pythagoras, and Taylor.  I have never been in a math class where the teacher mentioned the name of a famous female mathematician. Though the discoveries of the men listed above may be more relevant to the lesson than the discoveries of Hypata or Maryam Mirzakhani — the first woman to win the Fields Medal — only mentioning male names sends the message to the subconscious of females that women are lacking something instrumental to the possession of a great mathematical mind.  Simply mentioning a brilliant female mathematician will help derail this implicit bias. Elementary, middle, and high schools should have posters up in their hallways and classrooms of brilliant women in mathematics as role models for students.

Teachers and school administrators in math and fields of applied mathematics must do the following: read literature on the implicit biases that work against girls in their fields.  They must be aware of these biases so as never to reproduce or ignite them. For example, a teacher should never make the statement, “girls think differently,” or “girls show their skills in different ways.”

A teacher or professor must never say the following statements to a girl studying math: “I do not understand why you are not getting this.” “You are not good at conceptual math.” “You just don’t have the intuition.” Math teachers must never attribute the success of one student to “natural ability” while attributing the success of another to “hard work,” as that distinction implicitly conveys a distinction between the two students even if they are performing at the same level.

Finally, I believe that it is critical for teachers and professors to emphasize that natural talent, whether or not male students have it inherently, is not necessary in order for a student to excel at mathematics.

Swat, for the most part, does a better job than my high school did at trying to defuse some of the already ingrained biases against women in S.T.E.M. fields. My Linear Algebra professor freshman year did an excellent job with this, emphasizing to the entire class from day one that just because people don’t look like you in this field doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it. I am not arguing that female S.T.E.M. students need their hands held or to be told they can do it, I am simply advocating for the ability to work in a slightly less bias-ridden environment. As a Computer Science and English double major, I do not even know which field I would like to pursue after college.  I simply want the ability for girls to choose math to exist untainted by harmful societal perceptions, biases, and stereotypes.

With the changes proposed above, girls will not have to walk into a math class and feel inhibited by their gender, and I believe that every student deserves to walk into a math class without feeling like they are at a disadvantage before they even begin to solve problems.  Removing implicit biases, stereotype threat, and media influences that keep girls out of mathematics will result in more girls in the higher level math classes in high schools, and subsequently, more girls with the ability to realize their potential in mathematics.

When constantly bombarded with the ubiquitous and pernicious images conveying a lack of intelligence surrounding their gender, young girls are socialized to believe that they are inferior intellectually, and thus incapable of tackling the hard problems.  We are severely limiting ourselves and our society based on perceptions created by the media and stereotypes perpetrated implicitly by teachers and institutions.

Being smart while female

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

In the last four or so weeks of classes, I have counted three separate instances of a female academic author being referred to as “he” in my courses. Jennifer Sessions, Alison K. Smith and Judith T. Irvine, your work was so riveting and moving to the students of Swarthmore College that several of my male colleagues considered it good enough to have been written by a man. Even on a supposedly egalitarian campus like Swarthmore, the default academic is male. Even in classes taught by female professors who work to introduce us to women in course content, the only voices worth hearing must be male.

Today we are supposed to be lucky to even see female names in print. Whether you were a Brontë sister or even S.E. Hinton or J.K. Rowling, it has been a common practice to publish under a male pseudonym to avoid the judgment or dismissal that came with your female-sounding name.

What to do, then? How do girls make sure their voices get the same space as boys’, in class discussions and in writing? How do women learn to be smart while female?

My answer is to play quizbowl.

It’s basically “Jeopardy!”, but with teams (basically) and it’s been (perhaps pathetically) one of my main sources of fun throughout college and high school. It’s also not a secret that I love the game– as you may know if you have seen the posters I have put up around campus or the number of times I have shared practice times to Facebook.

Quizbowl for has been a hugely positive force in my life. If you play quizbowl, no matter who you are, I believe that you too will increase your self-confidence, start learning for the sake of learning, and meet amazing teammates and competitors who will inspire you to grow. It can cause you to discover an academic passion you had never heard of before you started playing and connect you with classmates from vastly different backgrounds. And believe it or not, it’s fun when it doesn’t turn into a sexist nightmare.

Playing quizbowl, in all of its nerdy glory, is unabashedly academic. Even for a seven-year veteran like myself, there is still something terrifying and humbling about that moment after your signaling device goes off. A shrill, game show shriek, a bright light and the gaze of the game official hits you. The flow of impossibly long words that was the question stops and you begin to reason through what your response will be instantaneously faster than you thought you could think.

Crystallized into 2 seconds of response time is the desire to make clear the entire thought process behind your answer, and prove how much you’ve studied. At the same time, you’re hoping that you have actually managed to provide the right one. Terrifying, but thrilling.

It’s less thrilling when you’re ruled incorrect by a balding grad-student who scoffs at your mistake. You cannot stop the flow of competition to explain why you thought you were right, even if the reasoning holds. Evern the best quizbowl players mixes up dates and places. Even if I wanted to, it’s pretty hard to hide behind a male pseudonym in live competition. And without that option, there’s a new set of expectations on how I should play.

As a woman playing quizbowl, you’re subjected to questions disproportionately about white men. You’re often expected to specialize in a traditionally feminine subject like literature or art even when you’re the captain of your team, even if that team is in contention for the national championships. The final round of last years high school championship was between one such team. Unlike in previous years of all-male competition, the comments in the livestream were less about the intricacies of play but instead about her looks. (For the record, she was the only girl competing out of eight players, and her school did clinch the title).

No matter the amount of adrenaline and joy that comes from quizbowl, I still wonder sometimes if it’s worth it. To be part of a community that becomes increasingly male-dominated as you get more experienced is disheartening. But coming to Swarthmore and founding a team that has turned out to be one of the few with a gender balance has convinced me to keep going. Quizbowl’s game-show speed isn’t for everyone, but I’ve felt the same pressures apply in the classroom.

In quizbowl, I have persevered despite the offhand comments and the gender imbalance. I have no intention of leaving the quizbowl community, and I work to make the space more welcoming to other women. It should go without saying that my feelings of inadequacy are mitigated by my own privileges as a white cis-woman. Academia has been working to silence not just women’s voices, but also non-white voices and queer voices among others for a long time. Discrimination can happen at the scale of classroom discussions and quizbowl matches just as it can institutionally. Just because it may be harder to see at the undergraduate level does not mean we should not start to stand up for each other. Let voices be heard, quizbowl champions be girls, and authors be women.

Rebecca Rosenthal is a sophomore and president of the Swarthmore College Quizbowl Team.

Philly Beat: Women’s History Month Edition

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

We all witnessed almost three million inspiring individuals take part in the Women’s March and celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th, but it doesn’t stop there. It is currently Women’s History Month, and there are some incredible and eclectic events happening around Philadelphia, which celebrate the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.

  1.     Women’s Film Festival

Taking place from March 16-19 at the Kimmel Center and Prince Theater, the Women’s Film Festival features and celebrates the work of phenomenal artists and women in the film industry. Tickets vary in price and start at $8.

  1.     The Philadelphia Women’s Theater Festival

Launched on International Women’s Day, the Philadelphia Women’s Theater festival is staging “Period Play: Eight Anachronisms from the Future Past.” The local playwright Hannah Sciver states that the play is about “refracting tiny glimpses of women’s history through the prism of today,” while upholding a critical eye and acknowledging the growth that is still needed. Organizers recognize the play as the hope of progress to come, and tickets are around $10-15.

  1.     The Body Wails, The Body Restores

Happening on March 17 and 18, artists and choreographers from Chicago join the Painted Bride Art Center in exhibiting a series of performances that engage in themes of race, trauma, history and womanhood, that ends with a discussion lead by Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild; a cultural historian, anti-racist activist, and performer.

  1.     Dish It Up!

This one I will definitely be attending. Dish It Up Is a fundraising event based on a food competition featuring all female chefs. Tickets can be purchased online and donations can be submitted at the venue itself. The funds raised will support Women Against Abuse — a leading domestic violence organization comprised of advocates and service providers in Philadelphia.

  1.     Amplify! Black Women of the Movement Symposium

Featuring free admission, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, in collaboration with Independence National Historical Park and the Smithsonian Institute, have put together a symposium that both features and honors the work of African-American women which are often overlooked.

  1.     Philly Film Showcase

Taking place at the PFS Roxy Theater on Sansom Street, the film showcase and Friday reception will feature four screenings from female directors including: Amy Frear, Maaman Rezaee, Catalina Jordan Alvarez, and Lisa Jiang. The film showcase attendance fee runs on a pay-what-you-wish system.

  1.     Disrupting the Patriarchy 2017: Negotiating and Getting Things Done

Taking place at the Free Library Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC), a panel will teach the art of negotiation and how to get things done as a woman in a male-dominated society.

  1.     #SpeakUpPHL: A Feminist Art Workshop

This collaborative street event celebrates anything and everything to do with Women’s History Month. Sponsored by Blur and ishknits and New Century Trust, multiple prints of Blur’s iconic abstract ‘mouth’ in a range of colors that will be on multiple displays for anyone and everyone to fill with words, feelings and thoughts. The aim of #SpeakUpPHL is to celebrate the 135-year tradition of women speaking their minds, and once the displays have been filled up with words, they will be posted around various locations around the city.

  1. Roxane Gay: Difficult Women

Take part in a conversation with Roxane Gay, an American feminist writer, professor, editor and commentator. Engage in discussion about her recent story collection called “Difficult Women,” which explores both “the privileged and impoverished, the loved and forsaken – a beautiful cross section of modern America.” The function is taking place at Parkway Central Library on Friday March 24.  

Women’s History Month Plans Emphasize Intersectionality

in Campus Journal by

If you’re like me,  all you’re doing right now is waiting for spring break — and perhaps already dreading your return to the hectic schedule that the second half of a semester brings. However, instead of starting to feel sad about coming back to Swat, get excited because Women’s History Month is happening in March right after break! Going to the preparations meeting alone got me super psyched about the cool events coming our way.

When I walked to the Women’s Resource Center on Wednesday night for the Women’s History Month planning meeting, I will admit I was feeling slightly nervous. I did not think I would know anyone there and was worried I would intrude. But when I walked in, my apprehension melted away. I was instantly greeted with the warm atmosphere of the house, a tray of cookies, and friendly faces. Irene Kwon ’17, a WRC Associate leading the meeting, invited me to sit down on the cozy couches and chairs loosely arranged in a circle as ten people trickled in for the planning.

The meeting started off with a discussion on the purpose of Women’s History Month: why women? The WRC’s intention is to challenge the everyday discrimination of women and other marginalized genders.

“We don’t have a men’s history month because that’s every history textbook ever,” Kwon pointed out.

However, it was very important to the WRC and everyone at the meeting that “women” included more than just white, cisgendered women. This intention is reflected in the theme this year: “creating and celebrating intersectional leadership for gender equity.” Kwon emphasized that this year’s Month will be different from previous years because of its specific focus on intersectionality — something she admitted the WRC has had difficulty incorporating in the past.

“We too, as a center, take issue with carving a space just for women. There’s a lot of baggage there about other genders, like non-cis women, being excluded from spaces like this and events like this. We wanted to challenge that,” Kwon explained.

For this theme of intersectionality, collaboration with other student organizations is one of the WRC’s goal for the month. Many of the people who came to the meeting came as representatives of other student groups, from Swarthmore Asian Organization to Swarthmore Queer Union to Student Government Organization. Indeed, most of the events are in collaboration with other student groups. Events to look forward to include:

Thank-a-Woman Campaign: Write a note to any woman who you want to appreciate!

Intersectional Feminist Politics: A facilitated community discussion around the question, “What does intersectionality mean?”

WRC x SAMs x Pride : Gender Dynamics in the Classroom: A panel discussion with Swarthmore professors and students.

WRC x WOCKA : Feminista Jones: A guest speaker identifying as “a postmodern, sex-positive, Black feminist woman.”

WRC x CIL : Women’s Leadership Retreat: Features workshops and alumni speakers.

Lecture: Professor Gayle Salamon: A Princeton Professor of English and Gender and Sexuality Studies who works in works in queer and trans theory, feminist philosophy, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and disability studies.  

Pubnite Takeover!: A “de-bro’ed” Pubnite with only all gender-positive music.

Hidden Figures Movie Screening: A possible collaboration with Movie Committee.

While excitedly planning what these events would look like, many at the meeting worried about making it clear that everyone is invited to Women’s History Month (WHM) events.

On one hand, some thought there may be Swatties who wouldn’t come to WHM events because they would be worried about intruding.

“There’s also a whole crew of people who may not be showing up to this type of event because they’re like, I’m not a woman, and I don’t want to invade a safe space,” said Margaret Hughes ’17 from SQU, reflecting on her own experience hearing from people about why they don’t attend queer events.

On the other hand, being respectful at these events, especially if you do not identify as a woman, is key.

“When you’re in a space to learn, it’s okay to just show up and listen. But it is good to show up,” Elizabeth Tolley ’17 expressed. “We want you to be here,” Hughes echoed.


Indeed, showing up is the whole point. “Come to events!” Kwon encouraged. “The only way we can achieve intersectional events and dialogue is if people show up for the convo.”

So whoever you are, don’t be afraid to just go and show up. Women’s History Month is going to be celebratory, intersectional, and open to all genders — so come through and join the conversation.


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When I walked into Scheuer room in the late afternoon of Jan. 20, the first thing I heard was Beyoncé. The second was laughter. The dark carpet and the large, circular tables were covered with signs, markers, paper, and people, with warm light illuminating the faces of women (and men) intent on being heard.

#SwatBeloved: Poster Making, Presence, & People was a place for students, faculty, and anyone else to make posters in anticipation for the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, or  any of the other sister marches happening nationwide on that day, but it ended up being more than that. Through making the signs, people were able to articulate their feelings toward the incoming administration and the upcoming march, and to in effect, make tangible why they were marching.

I overheard a girl tell her friend that without the Affordable Care Act, her birth control would be $200 a pack. So while she was making a sign that read “Don’t Tread on Me” with the classic snake in the shape of a uterus, she was calling for Donald Trump to please, please leave her uterus alone.

Shayla Smith ’20, made a sign titled “LIFE IS NOT A WHITE PRIVILEGE,” with a black panther fist, hoping to address the importance of race.

“I think it’s important for people to know that everyone deserves to live, not just white people,” she said.

Rachel Hottle ’18 and Emma Haviland-Blunk ’18 were working on creating their signs together. Hottle, who spent this past semester studying abroad in Australia, held up her “pussy grabs back” sign and told me about the dissonance that came with being in a foreign country during Trump’s election.

“It was really kind of weird being in a country … where everyone was like ‘this is crazy, being so misogynistic, speaking about women like that,’ and then coming back and that being the reality,” Hottle said.

Haviland-Blunk wrote  a Gloria Steinem quote on her sign: “The wellbeing of women determines the wellbeing of society.”

“I think [this] is kind-of fundamental, that women are such an important part, maybe even the backbone of society, and continually ignored,” Haviland-Blunk said. “Particularly in this new regime, or, you know, government, it’s just somehow missing the point.”

While some of the posters were large, elaborate, and visibly created by a skilled hand, many of them were not. Many of them were phrases that are not new to the eyes and ears of those of us living in these times: Black Lives Matter; Coercion is not consent; No human is illegal; Get your tiny hands off my rights; Silence = Death; Power to the pussy.

It was the solid, deep rhythm of a drumbeat. As I watched from the periphery of the room, I sensed fear, anger, anxiety, but also a determination to not succumb to resignation. “Lean on me” began to play on the speakers, and I knew that tomorrow we would march.

Reflections on a [potentially] New America: Philly in Action

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

Philly Beat-2 Philly BeatWe’re tempted not to write about “fun things to do in Philly;” it almost seems trivial. But fun is something we all undoubtedly deserve in these times. The other night, as we were surrounded by an illuminated crowd of different races and ethnicities, jumping together and shouting the words to Kendrick Lamar’s “We Gon’ Be Alright,” we felt strange stirrings in our souls — unsure if it was recognition, or realization, or resignation; maybe all three. We were at the Foundry at the Fillmore Philadelphia, a venue Philly Beat has covered before (if you haven’t read that piece check it out, it’s pretty nice), being enchanted by rapper D.R.A.M’s wide-ass smile and his ability to make dirty things sound cute and innocent. Philadelphia was a getaway. For many other Swat people, the Women’s March on Philly (or even Washington) was their weekend getaway, joined by thousands of others who came together for collective empowerment and resistance, from all walks of life. And so the question is, what now? See all of you nice white ladies at the next Black Lives Matter march, right?

In all seriousness, many people in our community have been asking for ways to further involve themselves in meaningful, progressive ways. The good news is that in upcoming weeks, there is no shortage of organizing. For many people, political activism and advocacy have been integral parts of their work and Philly-experiences since long before the march(es). We’re almost 97% sure that if you are reading this you are far more politically versed than us, but here’s what Philly Beat has for you this week in terms of how to keep up the post-march momentum:

  1. As simple as it sounds, social media is a great place to look for events (see Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, your usual go-to’s). Activism-oriented students and campus organizations will often post in the official and unofficial class pages, but if you check your “Events Near Swarthmore, PA” tab, you may be able to find other free to low-cost planning meetings, protests, and workshops open to the public.
  2. The Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility is providing transportation funding for students to attend political events via SEPTA. Here’s a recent message from Executive Director Ben Berger: “We will support students without respect to political affiliation or partisanship. We are here to help you learn and engage with the world.”


What this means is that two main obstacles to involvement —knowledge of events and accessibility to those events — are made a bit less obstacle-y. The hosts of such meetups are a wide range of stakeholders in the Philadelphia community, such as arts and cultural centers, religious organizations, and immigrant advocacy centers, just to name a few. For example, yesterday the Arch Street United Methodist Church held a public discussion entitled “Let’s End Gerrymandering.” Later today, Jewish Voice for Peace and the People United USA are co-hosting a rally to surround the Loews Hotel — the site of the Joint Republican Retreat that is happening right at this moment. This week, from Jan. 23 to Jan. 28, is the Philly Educator’s Black Lives Matter Week of Action, sponsored by the The Caucus of Working Educators Racial Justice Committee. To make your involvement easier, they’ve scheduled a calendar of free events throughout the city.

So we proceed. Tonight there is a film screening of “The 13th” and community talkback entitled “the effects of mass incarceration on Black and Brown communities” (4301 Wayne Ave). Tomorrow there is a panel discussion called “Demystify Black Women and Black Girls: Misogyny, Stigma, and Power” (Univeristy of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education). On Saturday, Temple University is hosting a LGBTQ Youth Conversation about “Pariah” and “Moonlight.” The list goes on and on and so do the chances for continued education, listening, and collective brainstorming.


Ready to get your hands dirty, and looking specifically for opportunities to strategize? Repair the World: Philadelphia is hosting a workshop this Saturday afternoon by the name of “Escalating Political Resistance: Tactics for Racial Justice,” featuring representatives from the Philly Coalition For REAL Justice, Black and Brown Workers Collective, and the Philly War Tax Resistance. Afterwards head over to Chinatown and give Asian Arts Initiative a visit. We’re all encouraged to join the Philly Catalyst Project, New Sanctuary Movement, Reconstruction Inc., VietLead, and PA Working Families Party at a discussion on “Anti-Racist Strategies to Out-Organize Trump.” Whether or not you currently consider yourself a part of the city’s action community, the doors to these events are open to you and we promise, easily findable via your Facebook search bar.


Yes, there’s a lot of work to do, a lot of causes to stand by, a lot of emotions to process. But for that very reason, we believe that now is the time to get involved, especially if you have the emotional capacity, energy, and positionality to do so. It starts with listening, and for those who want to know to get started; we have one parting quote from Muslim-American activist Linda Sarsour’s speech from last weekend’s March on Washington:


“If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color, sisters and brothers. We know where we need to go, and we know where justice is. Because when we fight for justice, we fight for it for all people for all our communities ”


See you all in the City of Brotherly [and Sisterly] Love soon.

Women’s March Floods Capitol with those who Refuse to be Silenced

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On Saturday morning, I woke up to a blaring iPhone alarm and a pitch-black sky that stretched over campus.  Ambling down the Wharton stairs, I made my way to Magill Walk where a smattering of stars was more visible than the thinning tree branches arching overhead. I arrived at the train station where six of my friends and I caught the 5:56am SEPTA to Jefferson Station. Once there, we picked up a Greyhound to D.C. that was filled exclusively with people attending the march.

In total, the Washington march required one thousand more buses than Trump’s inauguration, and over one million people flocked to the capitol to protest the new administration. Across the United States, over three million attended marches, and the protest spanned six continents, totalling to over five million marchers worldwide. This extraordinary turnout exemplifies so clearly how a substantial portion of people across the globe understand the dangers that stem from complicity towards the discriminatory policies—policies America’s new administration has promised to enact.

It is important to acknowledge that both the original name for this march—The Million Woman March—and its current title—The Women’s March on Washington—were taken from Civil Rights marches, initially without proper acknowledgment of that fact. Further, at the initial organizational stages, the march’s founders were not as inclusive of People of Color and members of the LGBTQA+ community as they should have been, adding those women to the planning process retroactively instead of including them from the beginning.  It is for these reasons that I was initially hesitant to come to D.C. Even after deciding to go, I was ready to approach the event with a severely critical eye.

But when I arrived at the intersection of 4th and Independence, the crowd was a beautiful conglomeration of Black, Non-binary, White, Brown, and Transgender women that formed a breathtakingly heterogeneous sea of femininity. There were men too—both old and young—who were protesting alongside their sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends.  This march would not have achieved the success it did without participants from every race and gender. Feminism doesn’t work unless it is intersectional, and I sincerely hope future organizers of protest movements will take that fact into account.  I hope that the white women who showed up Saturday will understand how important it is for all of us to be at the next Black Lives Matter protest; we don’t win unless we ensure that none of us get left behind.   

One aspect of the march I would like to critique is the personal attacks the event spurred on the Trump family.  While I admittedly laughed a bit at the “Free Melania” signs littering the crowd, in actuality, they are extremely counterproductive.  Personally, I would not marry Donald Trump, but we cannot simply assume that the woman who chose to do so is being held hostage by her husband. Statements like those, and the SNL writer’s words concerning Trump’s son Bannon, are neither productive nor mature. Sinking our cause to the level of petty, presumptive statements only renders it less worthy of serious attention.

Swarthmore was well-represented at both the D.C. and Philadelphia protests. The Lang Center sponsored three buses filled with 144 students and faculty members to the capital. They also provided 225 round trip SEPTA tickets to students attending the march in Philly. Many who were not able to get a seat on one of the Swat buses went anyways via car, bus, train, or van. Even some Swatties currently abroad attended marches in their respective locations, such as Paris and London.

Eliza Wainwright ’19, who attended the march in Philly, thought that the protest left something to be desired.

“While it was really exciting to see so many people out there, I noticed the crowd wasn’t very diverse. The speakers were a lot of white, cis women. Overall I think [the march] was a good experience but it’s hard to have a provoking inclusive dialogue with people from all the same backgrounds. It didn’t necessarily spur any new dialogue,” she notes.  

While Shivani Chinnappan ’18, who attended the D.C. protest, acknowledges that the march was not perfect, she decidedly affirms that its successes should be the greatest takeaway.

“When people thought the march wasn’t being very intersectional, the organizers took steps to make it more intersectional, and that was huge. There was definitely diversity amongst the groups, and there is always room for more, but the fact that the organizers made motions to correct their mistake and increase inclusivity is enough for me to be fully behind the cause,” she said.  

Chinnappan also stresses that in addition to being exciting and energizing, the march sparked important, educational dialogues.

“Even for the people who didn’t think about intersectionality, you were there and you saw the signs. I saw that first hand when someone asked our group what ‘intersectionality and feminism’ meant. And we were happy to explain,” she confirms.  

Overall, Chinnappan found her march experience to be both positive and productive, despite the jam-packed crowds and inability to move.

“The turnout was unreal, and the expanse was global. It would have been nice to hear the speakers, but I was there, showing my support, and I was happy to do that,” she states.

Sometimes, all you have to do is show up. Sometimes, that’s enough. On Saturday, enough people showed up to pack the streets of DC so tightly they nearly called off the march. I felt a surge of pride when they informed us the crowds had flooded the streets, providing nowhere to walk. It didn’t matter that we were hundreds of yards from the stage. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t see the screen. It didn’t matter that we went hours without moving. We were there.

Notwithstanding, as incredible as the march was, it cannot serve as the culmination of activism concerning the Trump administration. Simply showing up was everything on Saturday, but it is imperative that we continue to do so and begin to do more. It is critical that all of us resist governmental decisions with which we disagree by way of writing letters, signing petitions, campaigning for 2018 Congressional candidates, and getting to the polls at every possible opportunity.

It was past 2:30am on Sunday morning when my friends and I finally returned to Swat. Campus was as dark as we left it, the sky a deep blue crosshatched with streaks of black. We could barely keep our eyes open, yawning frequently while shuffling sluggishly back to our dorms. We had been gone 21 hours and were exhausted. Still, climbing the stairs to the third floor, my smudged, tattered sign dragging listlessly behind me, I couldn’t help but smile. It was a glorious exhaustion stemming from hours of exhilaration.

Regardless of whether those presiding over the buildings around which we marched take our protest into account, January 21, 2017 will be a day that over three million Americans will remember and one that will, undoubtedly, go down in history. Maybe it will change minds, maybe it won’t, but it will be noticed, and that is a fact of which each participant should be proud.

As Audre Lorde reminds us, “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

The words of many are not welcome in our new president’s administration.  On Saturday, we spoke.  And that was just the beginning.

Women, where do we go from here?

in Columns/Opinions by

As I paced between rooms on the third floor of Trotter, I sensed the rising tide of uncertainty. The New York Times had just altered their forecast; only an hour ago, Secretary Clinton had a 93 percent chance of victory, but over the course of a few minutes, the prediction had dramatically shifted, now forecasting that Trump would win the race. As more swing states turned red, and the students and faculty around me slowly came to the conclusion that we would not, in fact, be electing our first female president, the mood shifted from what had long been cautious optimism to resigned despondence.

I woke up Wednesday morning and dragged myself to my first class, where we decided to depart from the syllabus and take the morning to share our initial thoughts, feelings, and responses. In traditional Simran fashion, I immediately began dissecting the breakdown of votes and outlining my suggested steps for the Democratic Party to rebrand and reposition itself to ensure victory in the 2018 midterm elections. As my peers shared their more intimate fears and sorrows, I raised my hand again to admit that I was afraid for my father and my brother, who are Sikhs, wear turbans, have full beards, had faced anti-immigrant sentiment post-9/11, and likely would face this resentment once more, perhaps to an even greater degree. Prior to our discussion, I was frustrated at the results, no doubt, but hadn’t yet taken the time to understand what it meant for Trump to have won. For Trump to have won also meant that Hillary Clinton had lost.

I cried throughout the entirety of Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. This woman of steel, this thick-skinned, incredible, inspiring, compassionate woman that I have looked up to for the better part of my life, stood at the podium, dejection in her eyes; for the first time, I saw her as fallible. For the first time since 2012, I no longer could simply assume that we would have a female president in my lifetime—though I certainly hope and think we will. For the first time in my memory, the candidate that I had supported and defended and fought for had lost. And for the first time in my life, I questioned whether my own hopes and dreams could ever be actualized.

“To all the women … I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” said Clinton. The reality is, nothing has made me prouder than having Secretary Clinton be my champion. Having faced setback after setback and critique after critique, Hillary Clinton has shown me that loss and failure are not elusive and are likely inevitable across a career hallmarked by success and achievement. However, those who intend to fight will continue to do so, even in the face of adversity and defeat. Decades of resilience and determination resulted in loss; yet, I have no doubt that even now, after the most painful defeat of all, Secretary Clinton will continue to work towards a more just nation and world.

“This is painful, and it will be for a long time,” Secretary Clinton said. One week later, the pain has not lessened, the hurt has not subsided, and the tears have not relented. However, the last words Hillary Clinton uttered before concluding her speech, likely the last words she will ever speak in the context of a presidential run, are now the words resonating with me most: “And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” It is hard not to doubt these things in light of a Trump victory, a seeming condonance of sexism and misogyny, and a rejection of the most qualified candidate to ever run for president, someone who happened to also be a woman. It is hard not to think that even if we are deserving and even if we pursue our aspirations to the fullest extent, we may fail to achieve what we rightfully deserve and earn. But I have decided that I do not have the luxury or quite frankly, the time, to doubt myself or my fellow women. I have never felt greater solidarity with and respect for the women on this campus and the women across the nation and world; to the 53 percent of white females who voted for Donald Trump, I may not understand you, but I stand with you, too. We all want the same things; we all have the same basic desires and same fundamental impulses and motivations; we all face misogyny and sexism in many shapes and forms each day. Now is when we must come together to push one another forward, to propel one another to scale the greatest heights of success, to elect more female senators and congresswomen and—hopefully sooner than it might seem at this moment—a female president.

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