Why Celebrate Women’s History Month at PC?
March marks Women’s History Month, which can trace its roots back to Women’s History Week, first celebrated in 1978, and the original International Women’s Day, which was first celebrated in 1908 when thousands of New York City women garment workers went on strike due to poor working conditions and low wages. Women’s History Month was designated by the US Congress in 1980—a decade after Providence College began admitting women as students, and seven years before the establishment of PC’s Women’s and Gender Studies program.
“Women’s History Month is significant because it pushes us to uncover, make visible, recognize, respect, and celebrate women’s knowledge and contributions across time and space,” says Dr. Abigail Brooks, director of the Providence College WGS program and associate professor of sociology. “In truth, learning and teaching about women’s history should not be limited to one month a year…Still, Women’s History Month pushes critical awareness, teaching, and learning about women’s contributions.”
In the Women’s and Gender Studies program at PC, students study social and natural sciences, health sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Students learn and develop skills in reading, writing, critical thinking, and constructive dialogue. “Students are introduced not only to women’s contributions and struggles, but to gender as a critical category of oppression and analysis,” says Dr. Brooks, “and to the intersections between women, gender, race, class, sexuality, and other identities, categories, communities, and lived material realities that inform and shape people’s everyday lives, contributions, and struggles.” WGS majors often have other majors and minors as well, and students can pursue careers in law, health and medicine, social work, journalism, education and higher education, academia, business, and nonprofits.
Many students believe that the College has an obligation to do better in regard to women’s equality, rights, and inclusivity on campus. Here are a few testimonies from women students:
“As a woman in math and computer science, I feel like the math faculty and other math students have been extremely supportive and have not been biased in the fact that I’m a woman. But I will say that at some points, when I tutor specifically computer science, I get people who are surprised that I’m tutoring computer science because of my gender.”
“Being a woman at PC has its challenges. There are times when I am the only one of three women sitting in my economics classes; there are also times in my political science classes when the male students feel that they can speak to me differently than their male counterparts. But in terms of male faculty being supportive of my endeavors, I can’t say enough.”
“I am really reluctant to find misogyny in people. I like to always err on the side of ignorance and not malice. In my three years here, that part of me has decreased. Very very smart men, professors on campus, have said things that are really shocking to me and people I know.”
Dr. Brooks suggests that PC should incorporate “more feminist, intersectional material, research, scholarship, and contributions into course curricula.” She also recommends that PC reassess and expand the current diversity proficiency requirement. Additionally, diversifying faculty across all departments would be beneficial. Many students agree also that PC should better provide reproductive health care, including birth control, for faculty, staff, and students, as well as affordable day-care facilities and family leave policies for faculty and staff. Increasing, expanding, and improving resources and promotional support for women’s sports should also be on the College’s agenda.
In regard to the WGS program, Dr. Brooks is hoping to help the program transition to a department. They will be submitting their proposal by the end of this semester. “A key goal for Women’s and Gender Studies is to grow our student numbers, and to continue to expand and evolve in new and exciting ways into the future. Spread the word!”
Celebrating Women and Feminism for 110 Years: PC Holds Events to Honor International Women’s Day
by Katherine Morrissey ’22
Over the duration of March, the Providence College community has been simultaneously celebrating women’s achievements and raising awareness of women’s and gender issues in light of International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day takes place annually on March 8. According to the International Women’s Day website, it is a global holiday dedicated to “celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.” It also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
International Women’s Day has been celebrated ever since 1911 and has continued to gain support and attention over the years. This year, IWD celebrated its 110-year anniversary.
PC students were quick to become involved with IWD by dedicating a whole week to celebrating the holiday. This was evident through a variety of clubs on campus organizing in-person and virtual events, all of which had to do with the empowerment and celebration of women.
PC Democrats, alongside Student Congress, Campus Ministry, and the Board of Programmers staged events open to all students and faculty. Their goal was to stimulate discussion surrounding the aforementioned topics. One event that was particularly successful was the panel titled “What It’s Like to Be a Woman at PC.”
One notable panelist from the night was Tess Jacobson ’22, an economics major and German minor. On top of her studies, Jacobson is vice-president of Women Will, where she has dedicated time and effort to the feminist cause on and off-campus, as she demonstrated by participating in the panel.
When asked about what motivated her involvement at the College, Jacobson stated, “While I have always been a feminist, I decided to become more involved to better understand what feminism means at PC.” She continued, “I’ve met people at PC who agree and disagree with feminism and heard/seen some events that seemed anti-feminist, so I decided to get involved myself.” Jacobson’s involvement shows how students can be proactive in getting involved and educated about issues they are passionate about on campus. Women’s Week served as an opportunity for both involvement and education.
Regarding the event, Jacobson stated, “I think the event definitely raised awareness about the issues and discrimination women can face on campus. Especially when it comes to hookup culture, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.”
Jacobson’s sentiments show how events like “What It’s Like to Be a Woman at PC” have the potential to provide awareness of and education on even the most challenging subjects. Topics like sexual harassment and sexual assault are sometimes difficult to discuss, especially in front of faculty and other students, but are nevertheless integral in raising awareness and creating solutions for students on campus. These are real and relevant issues, especially considering the correlation between occurrences of harassment or assault and the prevalence of hookup and drinking culture on college campuses.
Concerning the success of the event, Jacobson remained optimistic but truthful, stating, “There was a good number of students and faculty that attended the event, which was encouraging to see. However, the problem with events like these is it seems to always be the same people that attend. While all attendees are always appreciated, without new faces, events can tend to be an echo chamber.”
While events are gaining more student attention, there is always room for more students to attend and get involved, and especially individuals who know less about women’s issues.
Jacobson also commented on what misconceptions or changes she thinks might benefit the PC community to support gender equality. “I think first and foremost it’s helpful to stop the stigma that’s sometimes associated with feminism, that it’s a bad word or only a women’s issue. Feminism on a basic level simply means you believe men and women should be equal.”
While stigmas about feminism and its meaning continue to be problematic, events and campus efforts like those associated with Women’s Week promote further awareness and understanding for students. However, some question if these efforts are enough and if change to the campus climate is needed for long-term solutions.
Jacobson mentioned a potential curriculum change when asked about beneficial changes that could be made. “I think encouraging more students to take WGS [women’s and gender studies], or Black studies courses, or any course that promotes diversity is always helpful.”
Although there are many issues facing students on college campuses in our world today, the efforts made by students like Jacobson during Women’s Week demonstrate the ways in which the College is starting to have the important conversations needed to not only raise awareness, but ultimately to reduce the prevalence of gender-related issues on campus going forward.
Women of the Moment: Friars Celebrate International Women’s Week
by Hannah Langley ’21
Although Providence College has only had women in attendance since 1971, women have made major strides in academics, athletics, leadership roles, and more over the past 50 years. To help celebrate and recognize women farther, PC Democrats and other clubs and organizations at the College have planned a week’s worth of events beginning Feb. 29 and ending March 6.
International Women’s Week began last year, as stated by Hannah Bone ’20, co-president of PC Democrats. Bone has been the leader working on organizing the series of events this year.
“The goal of the week is to showcase and celebrate the diversity of womanhood and how being a woman can be represented in so many different ways on our campus,” said Bone. “The events also give people a chance to learn about different identities and perspectives,” she continued, “hopefully helping us to grow in respect and understanding for each other.”
While PC Democrats are the ones sponsoring and organizing the week’s events, Bone explained that the club allowed other student groups to create their own events with the only rule being that the event had to be centered around promoting women. In regards to the events, Bone commented on how she is excited for each of them, saying, “There’s a little something in there for everyone, and all of the topics explore vastly different aspects of what identifying as a woman can mean.”
This year’s lineup of events ranges from guest speakers to dances to food runs, all of which are centered around promoting women empowerment and equality. Some of the clubs and organizations running these events include Student Congress, Women Will, SHEPARD, Asian American Association, Campus Ministry, and Women in STEM.
On Monday, March 2, the women’s and gender studies department hosted an event entitled “Women, Gender, and the Politics of Representation: An Interactive Discussion,” in which Dr. Abigail Brooks spoke about promoting equality and justice for women in the U.S. Other events include the “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” dance, “The Stigma Behind Queer Asian Women,” “Women & Porn: The Harmful Affects of Pornography,” “Women in STEM Speakers,” a cookie run, and PC Women Appreciation Day.
There will also be a weeklong event called “Our Wonder Women,” in which students got to nominate female student leaders they felt should be recognized.
“Many people submitted quotes about these women that highlight why they are wonder women,” commented Kelsey Christianson ’20, one of the students running this event. Pictures of these female leaders will be hung around Slavin throughout the week to recognize their hard work.
Throughout the week, there will be an ongoing fundraiser to raise money for the nurses at Providence Public School, who have been trying to provide free feminine hygiene products for girls attending the school. Donation boxes will be set out during each of the events throughout the week to allow students to donate, and the money raised from the cookie run held Wednesday, March 4 will go towards this cause, as well.
Bone stated that she hopes the week will shine a light on women and gender equality for the PC community. “I hope that the PC community will feel a sense of pride in its women and recognize the beautiful and wide-ranging differences between us all. All of these events are celebratory, unifying, and supportive.”
She also hopes people will take what they have learned from this week with them beyond just PC’s campus. Besides the fact that they are fundraising for the community throughout the week, Bone emphasized, “The majority of the event topics cover ideas so much bigger than PC, and the lessons taken away from these events can be turned outwards to help better understand and celebrate being a woman in today’s society both in the United States and around the world.”
Although International Women’s Week only lasts for a short period of time, Bone hopes the PC community will learn something about the issues women face in today’s society and carry these lessons with them into the future.