In celebration of March’s nationally recognized Women’s History Month, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) decided to organize its own week to recognize women’s rights and issues. Running from Friday, March 22 to Thursday, March 28, the week consists of 12 events that focus on various topics regarding women— ranging from faculty panels about women in transnational media to student spoken word to a women’s luncheon. While WRC board member Kassandra Sparks ’15 and WRC intern Sabrina Singh ’15 are in charge of the weeklong event, 10 different student groups on campus are responsible for running their own respective events.
“Last semester, we were talking about what large-scale event the WRC could do,” Singh said. “A housesitter had the idea of a women’s weekend, commemorating the idea of women in March. Another housesitter had the idea to reach out to other groups and see what they think as well. You expect the WRC to talk about women’s issues, but we wanted to hear what other student groups outside of the WRC think and feel about women’s issues.”
These student groups, which include political, religious and ethnic groups on campus, had the opportunity to organize whatever event they wanted, as long as it related to women.
“People involved in the WRC would be interested in women’s issues anyway,” Singh said, “but reaching out to the groups outside of the WRC is important, because it doesn’t just broaden our understanding of women’s issues but shows that women’s issues pertain to everyone, to religion, to transnationalism, to different racial and sexual identities. We thought feminism was a good base to link different groups on campus.”
Sparks also felt that involving various student groups would help change the perception of feminism on campus.
“I’ve been surprised by how many Swat students find it radical and only for a specific kind of person,” Sparks said. “We were interested in finding an event that would involve everyone on campus.”
Sparks added that she hoped everyone would have a friend involved, which would increase awareness of the event and consequently make more people attend them.
Another benefit of the event, as expressed by Singh, Sparks and Anushka Mehta ’15, a board member of the Middle Eastern Cultural Society, is the opportunity for different student groups to come together and form one cohesive event.
“I think it was important for [the WRC] to reach out to different groups to remind the community that being a woman speaks to all groups on campus and can be a uniting factor and a way for everyone to engage with one topic,” said Mehta. “It’s also a really cool way for all the groups to work and coordinate with other groups, and to overlap in discussion, because there aren’t many forums for this to take place,” Mehta, who is hosting an event named “Confessionals,” continued.
Not only does the week indicate an opportunity for student groups to focus on the general topic of women, but Swarthmore Democrats and Swarthmore Conservatives also decided to come together and create a joint event.
“Danielle Charette [of Swat Conservatives] and I decided to have our groups co-host an event on women in politics as a way to reach people who want to get more involved with US politics, want to learn more about strong female political figures and want to see how women’s issues are being dealt with today,” said Swarthmore Democrats President Susana Medeiros ’14.
For several other student groups, their respective events are an opportunity to share topics related to women that are relevant to the group.
“We’re interested in looking at the media as a transnational arena and asking how women have been engaging in the arena and how that engagement shapes the representation in politics,” i20 Public Relations Officer Chayanon Ruamcharoen ’15 said. “I think this is a good opportunity for i20 to be more ‘political.’ I think it’s a good opportunity for i20 to bring in national and transnational perspectives that were missing.”
Abigail Holtzman ’16, who is collaborating with Swarthmore Hillel to organize “Women and Water: Change and Continuity in the Jewish Tradition,” sees her event as a time to share an aspect of her life that holds large significance to her.
“To me, story-telling is an important part of any holiday, because it involves sharing with other people,” she said. “Story-telling emphasizes changes and continuity at the same time. A lot of religion is about story-telling and traditions but also adapting.”
Women’s Week creators Singh and Sparks’ own event does not involve the focus of women in different religious, political, or ethnic groups; rather, it celebrates the Swarthmore alumnae and their accomplishments. Both expressed that they hope their event can inspire Swarthmore students and allow both students of all genders to recognize the accomplishments that Swarthmore graduates have made.
Regardless of the individual purposes of each groups’ goals for their individual events, everyone involved shares a common goal of conveying the importance of women’s issues and focusing on the prevalence of women in society.
“I think one problem is that women’s issues are relegated as ‘women’s issues,’ not mainstream or relevant to the overall population,” Singh said. “Since woman-identifying people are part of the world’s population, it should not be relegated to the corner. It’s equally important to realize women’s issues are relevant to the whole population.”
Mehta expressed the hope that people will have the opportunity to define womanhood and share their own experiences of what it means to be a woman, while Enlace President Dilcia Mercedes ’15 stated that she hoped the week would portray women as stronger than some people may perceive them.
“Women are still not thought of as the pioneers and leaders of important achievements for our society when in fact they put in a lot of work,” she said. “This week will help us display all of the roles we take on, and it will just give people the space for people to look at the women in their lives more closely and appreciate them for all of what they are.”
The event kicks off this Friday at 4 p.m. with MECS’ event Confessionals. More details on each event can be found at http://wrcwomensweek.wordpress.com/.