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Philly Beat: Women’s History Month Edition

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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

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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.

#SwatBeloved

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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

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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?

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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.

Corporate environment contorts feminism

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We live in an idyllic haven of equality here at Swarthmore. On a daily basis, we are surrounded by extremely accepting and intelligent peers, who generally do not discriminate against one another on the basis of characteristics inherited by birth. More often than not, we are judged on our merits and our hard work, not on our physical appearance or surface-level traits. When we think of graduating and stepping out into the real world, we expect that the world outside will be just as tolerant and openminded; as a woman, I expect that I will be taken seriously. Perhaps this is just too presumptuous.

Earlier this week, I attended J.P. Morgan’s Winning Women program, a recruiting event geared towards undergraduate women interested in pursuing finance-related careers. The purpose of these events, in my view, is twofold. Such a program gives a company the opportunity to improve their image by showcasing the female leadership in their firm and the progressivism in their hiring and employment practices, given that women continue to be vastly underrepresented in the corporate world. In addition, these events allow the company to effectively groom the next generation of businesswomen by providing them with exposure to the industry and the foundation for a set of skills that can equip them for future success in finance.

The event began with some of the top executives giving us an overview of the work they do, followed by a series of panels, the second of which was titled, “Personal Branding.” The moderator, a campus recruiter, was female, as were all the panelists who were speaking and all of the undergraduate students attending the event. Three questions into the panel, the moderator approached the subject of emotions in the workplace, asking the female employees how they overcame balancing their feelings with their work. The next few questions and their subsequent responses seemed to imply that there was some truth to the notion that female employees are more emotionally unstable than their male counterparts, and as such a conscious effort needs to constantly be made to put aside feelings in order to perform their duties.

I hoped that despite the fact that this line of questioning had rubbed me the wrong way, the remaining responses could still redeem the corporate culture of these firms. That was the case until the moderator asked if the way in which these female employees dressed and spoke affected their personal brand in the workplace. The panelist to respond delved into an anecdote to illustrate her point, citing the example of an intern who had worked at the office during a previous summer. The intern had supposedly worn the same outfit to work two days in a row, which caused her supervisor—the panelist who was answering the question—to assume that she had gone out with her friends and stayed over at someone else’s place. The outfit-repeater seemed to slightly underperform at work on the second day, causing all other employees that she interacted with to lose respect for her and her work ethic. As I heard this high ranking employee of J.P. Morgan directly attack the character and diligence of a girl, I looked around to see if any of the girls around me were as concerned about the implications of this as I was. These girls, mostly accounting and finance majors from various local universities, were just shaking their heads in apparent agreement. These girls may go on to one day inhabit the very same seats that these panelists were currently in; the deeply rooted misogyny that these responses seemed to exude was becoming further perpetuated by brainwashing the next generation of corporate women to think that the stereotypes women face must be accepted rather than vehemently combatted.

It was disheartening to me to see that the women who are in the best possible position to uproot the prejudice faced by women were the very same women to appear most complacent. Instead of using their position of power to reject dated notions and gender roles, they were instead furthering the same misconceptions that have oppressed women for centuries. The idea that women are indisputably affected by feelings more so than men, and that these sentiments indubitably hinder their work, is not only demeaning and horribly offensive, but also just downright inaccurate. Condoning the practice of judging the capability and caliber of an individual due to their presumed actions outside of the workplace, actions which are neither morally nor legally reprehensible, further embeds the impression that a woman’s actions ought to be judged in the first place; quite frankly, it is no one’s business. Would anyone insinuate that when the boys go out for a round of drinks after a long day at work, they are proving themselves to be less worthy or competent as employees? Are men eternally emotionless and unfaltering workhorses? Would either of these issues have even been broached if this event wasn’t supposed to prepare women for the corporate environment?

These employees were provided with an invaluable platform to play a significant role in inspiring and shaping the lives of young women; instead of empowering my peers and I to break through the glass ceiling that is sexism in the corporate environment, these corporate leading ladies reinforced these twisted stereotypes and encouraged acquiescence. Conflict aversion through concession is not what we women must strive for; if we are being deprived of opportunities and fair treatment, we must look at oppression square in the face, acknowledge it as a problem, and then work to systematically dismantle it.

Despite rich history, WRC experiences growing pains

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“The WRC… I should go there more…”

Many have made the first trip of their Swarthmore careers to the WRC in the last month: just in March, the WRC hosted a discussion on Hillary Clinton, co-sponsored over 5 Women’s History Month talks, organized a community-building dinner, and co-led Healthy Sex and Relationships Week. The WRC also regularly partners with multiple student groups, supports survivors through regular events, boasts three floors of meeting space, and maintains a paid staff of nine students and three administrators.

Still, “what is the WRC?” remains a popularly-uttered phrase on campus. Well?

Nora Kerrich ’16, a WRC associate, calls the the WRC a “revolutionary space.”

 

Women’s spaces on college campuses have a long history of political and social importance and Swarthmore’s is no different. Established in 1965, the WRC was created as a space for the safety and service of women on campus.  It has existed that way since, regularly serving as an open space and creating programming related to gender and women’s issues. Lightning struck the space in 2013 causing a fire that destroyed most of the WRC’s library and necessitated significant rebuilding.

Despite this fiery setback, the central vision and purpose of the WRC has withstood its 50+ year long history.

 

“The WRC is a space that is politically oriented towards highlighting the achievements of women and supporting the political cause of equity for women and gender nonconforming folks,” said Kerrich, who has been involved in the WRC for 4 years.

“Colleges and universities are patriarchal institutions”, Indigo Sage ’16, another WRC associate, pointed out.  “The WRC exists to be a space that is aware of that, and tries to support students who aren’t supported by it”.

It is that vital political and cultural purpose that drives her and most of the staff to each put in a full 8-10 hours a week working on programming, planning, hosting, and collaborating with other groups on campus.

Eliza Henneberry ’19, another associate at the WRC, discussed the importance of the WRC as a nurturing space that fosters people and conversations. The space, while political, also fills a community need.

Staff advisors, too, are motivated foremost by the necessity of the WRC.

 

“You can see this [need for the WRC] in the campus climate study where nearly 1 in 4 respondents said that they personally had experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct on campus and 29% of those respondents said that this conduct was based on their gender or gender identity,” Becca Bernstein, staff advisor of the WRC commented.

This year, there’s been a concerted effort to be intentional and strategic about events and programming. Staff members hope the chosen programs and collaborations directly speak to the mission. In keeping its tradition of emphasizing community, a new Anti-Pasta Bar dinner will be held every Sunday to build friendships and offer a safe space for discussion.  The recently started Tea with the WRC centers a weekly discussion on a topic, and WOCKA (Women of Color Kicking Ass) meetings take place in the building every Thursday.

Even though fundamentally much remains the same, a lot of the WRC’s structure and scope has changed with this year’s new team. Gone are house sitters and in are a paid, semi-specialized staff of 10 students and 3 administrators who oversee vision, plans, and programming.

 

“The new formalized model, of weekly meetings and direct links to administration through staff will keep student-workers accountable”, Kerrich added.

There’s also an increased emphasis on collaboration. The new “project-team model” has created a Community Outreach group which solely works to develop collaborations with other groups.  Both in terms of providing space and organizational planning, the WRC currently works with WOCKA, SwatFems, the Title IX office, and OSE, amongst others.

The WRC also hopes to be explicitly and intentionally welcoming of trans and gender nonconforming students — staff members feel as though it is making progress, though more can be done.

 

“Something we are cognizant of, with the history of women’s resource centers as a whole, is that they aren’t racially inclusive, they aren’t inclusive of gender nonconforming people”, Hennebery said.  “The WRC has the potential to foster a real transgender community.”

Still, the WRC faces both new and old challenges.

“One challenge is in maintaining a sense of student leadership and power over the WRC, which I think is key to the space remaining relevant and active,” Kerrich explained.

 

With the staffing changes, she identifies this as a key consideration going forward.

“The staff is also trying to be more public in marketing so that everyone that needs the space knows about it,” Sage added. “I hope the forward momentum continues after graduation.”

Another challenge is in achieving additional institutional support.

 

“It is disheartening to not have the same kind of staff support that the IC and BCC have”, Kerrich said, referencing the lack of a full-time staff support.

Henneberry discusses a key issue that the WRC team has been working on: making the WRC space fully accessible. “There’s a lack of support that shows itself in small and big ways,” they said. “We need a ramp.”

 

The space is currently struggling with both funding and instituting a wheel-chair accessible ramp. It seems additionally difficult to handle given the marginality of both disability issues and women’s spaces.

“It can be draining to not feel supported by the school,” Henneberry said of these challenges.

 

“To say that the WRC has experienced growing pains this year would be an understatement, but the fact that we are emerging from this year with so much hope for the future is really the most important thing,” Bernstein concluded.

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