justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.
Every semester, right around this time, as students are stressing about final exams and research papers, the Women’s and Gender Studies students have a Social Justice Fair. Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) was the class that opened my eyes to feminism and completely molded the person I am today. The awesome trip I took to Baltimore last weekend was 100% because I took that first WGS class.
Jill, first my professor and now a close friend, invited me to her current students’ Social Justice Fair.
I was beyond impressed at the level of commitment her students has achieved. Every single booth showed forward thinking, planning, and research had been done. They called out some important social justice issues that don’t get talked about enough. It was a really insightful and interesting exhibition made even more powerful by the visual impact of The Clothesline Project.
The Clothesline Project, started in Cape Cod, MA in 1990, addresses the global issue of violence against women. I think the Clothesline Project deserves it’s own blog post, so I’ll tell you more about that in the next day or so.
Very basically, the project asks survivors of violence, sexual assault, harassment, etc. to design a shirt expressing their feelings. Families of victims are asked to do the same. There is a lot of beautiful symbolism behind the Clothesline imagery that I will definitely share with you very soon.
Another group of students focused on menstrual health and sanitation accessibility. Fadumo Abdulahi and Cony used incentives to get donations for the Center for Women and Families. Visitors were encouraged to donate tampons and pads in exchange for a temporary henna tattoo.
Rachel Wirth did an in-depth study on sanitation products on the downtown campus for Jefferson Community and Technical College. She, along with assistance from the professor, was able to convince a college administrator to purchase enough tampons and pads to stock several campus bathrooms. Rachel then went every single day and counted how many products were taken.
The school had originally argued that the cost would be too much to supply sanitation products to the entire female population, but Rachel thought it more likely would not be a huge cost, but could help a lot of students. In the course of one month, 157 tampons and pads were used.
That is 157 students who did not have to potentially leave class because of a menstruation situation. 157 students who didn’t have to suffer the public shame of bleeding on your pants and letting everyone know that you have a uterus.
I don’t honestly know what the college pays per unit on sanitary napkins. I would like to do a bit more digging and find out. Maybe Rachel will know. What I do know, is that potentially changing 157 lives for the better seems like a great pay out.
Another pair of students, Kiana Cotten and Qian Qian Li, created a booth to bring awareness to the sexualization of women in the media. Kiana said she just wanted to learn more about the issue and understand the motives between this issue. Qian Qian, being Chinese, had a different point of view because of her culture and was interested in learning more about American media. She believes mass media is overtly sexual and she wanted to raise awareness of how women are often viewed solely as sexual objects and how mass media influences that.
One booth had a great visual representation. A big flag, blue and pink, with a symbol that merges the male and the female symbols, stood behind a booth sprinkled with purple ribbons and colorful flyers. Here are a few:
Debbie Richards, the student who set this booth up, explained to me that the purple ribbons stood for the trans lives we had lost in the last year due to hate. After she told me that, the pile of purple ribbons seemed impossibly big. The visual representation was so powerful, especially because we don’t talk enough about how prevalent anti-trans hate crimes are.
The last student I spoke with, Ben Poe, had a booth that assisted visitors with registering to vote. He had voter registration forms for Kentucky in English, as well as a tablet set up for digital registration. He also had Indiana registration forms, which I thought was a great idea since so many JCTC students are from Indiana, just a short drive away. Ben had English and Spanish versions of the forms, but nothing digitized.
We talked a lot about accessibility as an obstacle for a lot of would-be voters. I found it really interesting that in Ben’s research, he found Kentucky did not have a Spanish version available, and Indiana did not have a digital version available. States should be able to meet the needs of all their citizens, especially those who may have difficulty voting in convential ways.
Been made a great point that never crossed my mind. He told me a lot of senior and disabled Americans do not get the chance to vote because they are limited in ways they can register and vote. I love how he thought of so many different types of possible obstacles to voting and how to overcome them.
The number one reason I wanted to highlight the Social Justice Fair is to show how accessible activism can be. Many of the students I spoke with expressed how they felt personally connected to their topic of choice, and how they saw there was a need and wanted to do something. Being assigned as a class project makes activism more incentivized and also more accessible. Now that these students know where to start, some may continue to carry the torch of social justice.