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.
Expanding the Echo Chamber: PC Community Attends Women’s Week Student Panel
by Nicole Patano ’22
Asst. Head Copyeditor
Imagine reporting a sexual assault to a public safety officer and having them tell your parents, “Well, she was drinking, so of course it would happen.” Imagine being picked up and pressed into a wall and having a fellow student jokingly yell, “Get a room!” Imagine being touched by a professor and then having to ask yourself if it was inappropriate or normal.
Unfortunately, for many college-aged women across the country and on Providence College’s campus, these are disturbingly common realities. In fact, these are just three of several experiences shared by female students at PC on Monday, March 1 during a student panel which kicked off the PC Democrats’ celebration of Women’s Week.
Hosted by PC Democrats and co-sponsored by the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, Women Will, Women Empowered, and SHEPARD, the student panel focused on perspectives on being a woman and doing gender at PC. The panel included seven female students who shared their experiences as women at the College, as well as their suggestions for how PC can counter these experiences.
Shannon Sullivan ’21, external co-president of PC Democrats, began the conversation by asking the panel to explain how they see or experience gender inequality on campus. Kayla Luyo ’22, who represented SHEPARD, responded with a personal story about her experience transitioning from an accepting hometown to the College as a lesbian. “I was never closeted. I never had to hide who I was. I had to go through the process of closeting myself while being at PC, and that was very traumatic,” Luyo stated.
Other panelists commented on the difficulty of navigating PC’s campus as a woman. President of Women Empowered, Talysha Rivera ’21, said, “Being a woman, I am very aware of my body and my space.” As many of the panelists emphasized, this is typically a unique experience for women on campus. Rivera explained that this is because “men tend to dominate more spaces and feel comfortable in doing so because they never had to think about their body as an object.”
Kara Berlin-Gallo ’21 and Tess Jacobson ’22, representing PC Democrats and Women Will, respectively, spoke on the particular issue of victim-blaming on PC’s campus. Berlin-Gallo stressed that all of the responsibility is on women when it should be on men: “Why do girls always have to protect each other and look out for each other…? Why can’t we hold men accountable and teach them not to look at women as sexual objects?” This was a theme panelists and attendees returned to throughout the event.
Jacobson shared her experience as a survivor of sexual assault going through the Title IX reporting process. Her story is the first mentioned in the opening of this article. She explained that it is “sad to see that the resources and the people that are supposed to help you are also bringing you down in that way.” Jacobson, like her fellow panelist and Women Will executive board member, Jobie Hereford ’23, do not think the College is doing an adequate job of creating a safe environment for survivors at PC. “It feels like the school wants [survivors] to be as quiet as possible and not tell anyone and not be proactive in seeking the justice they deserve, which I think is a major issue,” Hereford expressed.
A significant portion of the event was spent discussing ideas for how the College can create a campus environment in which women feel safe, respected, and included. Many panelists and attendees highlighted the need for a curriculum which is diverse, inclusive, and centers intersectional histories and experiences of injustice.
Berlin-Gallo explained why she thinks it is important to change the curriculum so that it elevates the voices of other departments and programs, such as the Black studies and the women’s and gender studies programs. “It is the College’s responsibility,” Berlin-Gallo stated, “to incorporate the voices of people that have been marginalized or that have been ignored.”
Dr. Abigail Brooks, director of the women’s and gender studies program, suggested an improvement to the current curriculum which would create a more welcoming culture that embraces and respects diversity and difference. “Ideally, all students would take at least one required course, but better yet, a sequence of courses, that was intersectional and interdisciplinary, wherein everyone would be in classroom spaces reading, listening, discussing, and learning about these lived histories and current realities,” said Brooks.
Some attendees unmuted and others utilized the chat to share their thoughts on the need for a more inclusive curriculum such as the one proposed by Brooks. Jenny Chen ’23 commented that “[the Development of Western Civilization program’s] inherent colonialist and white supremacist and patriarchal narratives are harmful to equality and liberation.” Dr. Despina Prassas of the theology department noted, “There is a general consensus that DWC has to change. We just don’t know how…” Savannah Plaisted ’21, another panelist and external co-president of PC Democrats, cited the 2020 Demands for Redress, which were signed by 29 student organizations, was also cited as a potential solution. Article I, Section D of the student demands offers three possible paths the College may take to restructure the existing DWC program; however, the most important consideration in creating a new curriculum is that it has widespread student approval.
Beyond curriculum, panelists and attendees suggested several other ways the College can create a safer and more inclusive community. One suggestion was to allow the Vagina Monologues, which has been forbidden from being performed on campus since 2006 under the tenure of Father Brian Shanley, O.P., to be performed on campus once again.
Sullivan proposed the College begin teaching the idea of “yes means yes” consent in place of “no means no.” Under this framework of consent, if a person receives any answer other than yes, then the answer is no. Chen emphasized that “it doesn’t have to be a sexual transgression in order to be a violation of consent”; any unwanted touches by another student, or by a professor, can violate a person’s consent.
An important conversation arose after the panel section of the event officially ended when Nick Sailor ’17, director of training and education for diversity, equity, and inclusion, voiced his concern about how “these conversations feel like they happen in an echo chamber.”
Some panelists and attendees thought the turnout of faculty and administration was greater at this event than other events regarding women’s issues, due in large part to Plaisted personally inviting a number of faculty and administration members . Rivera was disheartened as she explained that in her three years on Women Empowered’s executive board, she had never seen so many faculty and administration attend their events as she saw at the Women’s Week event. She explained that “it’s always been other women of color” attending events held by Women Empowered.
Dr. Rick Battistoni of the political science and public and community service departments thought the panelists were being too fair to College faculty and administration, writing in the chat, “I am embarrassed by how FEW of us attended this!” Battistoni also shared how he felt listening to the panelists: “I was angry. I’m angry to hear year after year women tell stories that are like these stories. And I’m angry to hear year after year people talk about changes in the curriculum and they don’t happen.”
While the student panel, a novel event which will become a staple event in PC Democrats’ Women’s Week, began the process of expanding the echo chamber surrounding women on Providence College’s campus, it is clear that there is much more work to be done to make campus a place where women can feel comfortable and represented.
For Rivera, it is “important to create spaces for women where they can talk about their experiences and feel valid.” For Chen, students “shouldn’t have to sit in violent classrooms.” For all panelists and attendees, listening to women and validating their experiences on campus does not end with this event.
PC Democrats have sponsored events for Women’s Week all week. On Tuesday, a faculty panel discussed the topic of feminisms inside and outside the classroom. The Campus Ministry women’s study group presented on the harmful effects of pornography on Wednesday. The Board of Programmers rounded out the week with an installation on women’s achievements throughout history. The Zoom recordings of this and Tuesday’s events can be found on the women’s and gender studies program’s Facebook page.
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.
Who Run the World? Girls.
Maura Campbell ’22
Providence College will celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8, and members of different clubs and organizations on campus are coming together to celebrate women and their contributions to society.
Known as “Women’s Week,” the week of International Women’s Day is set aside to celebrate and discuss women’s issues.
Nikki Silva ’19, co-president of PC Democrats, spoke about some of the sponsored events happening on campus during Women’s Week, as well as the meaning of Women’s Week as a whole.
“Each individual event was created and brought to us as an event for this week by the clubs themselves,” Silva explained.
The PC Democrats co-sponsored each of these events, but several different clubs on campus proposed them in celebration of Women’s Week.
These clubs include the 69th Student Congress, who organized the Notable Women of PC Showcase along with PC Republicans and PC Democrats.
This showcase displayed photos of women student leaders on our own campus, nominated by peers, in lower Slavin in front of the Student Congress Office.
Several discussion-based events were also planned for Women’s Week. The Women’s Studies Program will be sponsoring “Gender, Intersectionality, and Politics,” a discussion led by Dr. Abigail Brooks, the director of Women’s Studies. Silva describes this program, as “an informal and engaging dialogue on the 2018 mid-term elections and the 2020 presidential election through an intersectional and gendered lens.”
Also planned is the Board of Progammers (BOP) sponsored event “Women Undefined,” which Silva describes as “an open mic night of poetry and singing in McPhail’s.”
Women Will sponsored and planned an event for March 7 called “Girls Just Want to Have Fun Dance,” a fun and lighthearted dance party held in Moore Hall.
These events, along with several others, display the equality found among different clubs and organizations collaborating to celebrate Women’s Week. The real meaning of International Women’s Day is not lost in these events; rather, Silva hopes that they will work to shine a light on this meaning.
The goal of Women’s Week at PC, according to Silva, is to “open up and continue conversations on campus about intersectional feminism, women’s rights, and the continued need to celebrate International Women’s Day.”
She also stressed the importance of collaboration on the week’s events, explaining the PC Democrats’ desire to make sure that different voices were heard on gendered issues throughout the week. Having different clubs and organizations propose and co-sponsor these events shows the diversity of interest in women’s issues on campus.
Women’s Week also fits into a wider context. Silva explains, “With the increasing attention the #MeToo movement is creating, we felt it was important to highlight the successes of it but also the work that still needs to be done. 2018 was a monumental year for women being elected to political office, which is a success, but college campuses are still places where women, trans*, and non-binary students are still facing challenges regarding sexual harassment and assault. Therein lies why we think this week needs to fit into Providence College’s campus culture, as well as college campuses everywhere.”
Currently, the #MeToo Movement and modern American politics have put a spotlight on women’s issues. The events of Women’s Week fit into this global context and into the context of other college campuses nationwide.
Students interested in involvement with the PC Democrats, Silva says, should contact their secretary Hannah Bone ’20 (email@example.com) to be added to the email list. If students have an interest in getting involved with the Women’s Studies program, or with any of the other clubs and organizations involved with Women’s Week, the best way to do so is by contacting their presidents or directors and coming to their events.
Women’s Week is a true celebration of International Women’s Day at PC. Collaboration between different clubs and organizations provides a diverse and well-rounded view on women’s issues and allow these issues to truly fit into a national and global setting.