Social Justice Fair

so·cial jus·tice

noun

  1. 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.

    1. TheClothslineProject.info

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.

    1. From left: Cony, showing off her henna tattoo, Fadumo, and Rachel, sitting at their menstrual awareness booth.

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.

 

Kiana Cotten and Qian Qian Li, in from of their social justice fair booth.

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.

    1. Debbie Richards in front of the transgender pride flag. Take note of the purple ribbons on the table and pinned to the flag. Too many ribbons, when you know what they represent.

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.

    1. Ben Poe with his voter registration booth.

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.

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Serendipity: the Artwork of NWSA and Baltimore.

Saturday was full of art. The best kind of day.

I walked around the NWSA (National Women’s Studies Association, by the way) poster session and looked at the booths from different organizations and publishing companies, and was so inspired. I had to get a print of this amazing artwork I found at the Syracuse Cultural Workers booth.

Art by Erik Drooker, words by Käthe Kollwitz, a 1920s German artist.

You can purchase the print, as well as these powerful postcards I picked up at their website,   SyracuseCulturalWorkers.com

Saturday was a day of serendipity. I met so many completely unique and inspiring individuals. One of them, an artist named Minnie Chiu, approached me while I was writing a few postcards to home. We started talking about our conference experiences and about art. 

Turns out, Minnie was a fantastic feminist artist. She told me about how after the election, she took all the rage and disappointment she was feeling and channeled it all to make a postcard series. She then used those postcards to spread word of the Women’s March. 

She was just so inspiring and I wish I was a bit more eloquent but I don’t know how to describe the awe I felt around all the powerful, fierce women and feminists at the conference. She even gave me a few of her postcards!! 

Postcards by Minnie Chiu.

You can buy her artwork at her Etsy store Practicing Democracy.

Later that day, after going to a roundtable on publishing in feminist scholarly journals, I decided to go out and explore the Charm City a little bit.

In truth, I had heard there was a free art museum that has a very famous collection, and I knew I would be disappointed if I didn’t stand in front of an original Vincent Van Gogh painting and contemplate life when I had the chance. Not only did the Baltimore Museum of Art have Van Gogh, but they also had the largest collection of Matisse paintings in the world! 

It was an emotional experience, to be sure. Georgia O’Keefe, Diego Rivera, Andy Warhol, the list of names goes on. I actually took a ton of pictures, but I’ve decided not to post them. It just doesn’t do it justice. 

What I will say, is if you ever get the chance to go to the Baltimore Museum of Art, take it. Admission is free, but hours are limited so be sure to check their website. 

Bonus Tip: take the Purple Route of the Charm City Circulator to get to the museum from the Federal Hill area. It’s free! 

As I was waiting for the bus to take me back towards the convention center, I spotted some awesome street art. Taped to the light pole at 22nd Street, miles from the convention center, a poster for Trans Rights. Social Justice in action. Feminism hiding in plain sight. I was moved.

Found at St. Paul and 22nd, Baltimore, MD

I joked with my roommates when I got home, the word of the weekend was serendipitous. Seriously, though, the muses shone down on me this weekend. 

NWSA Round up Day 1

Day 1 of the NWSA conference is coming to a close and I have so many thoughts buzzing around my brain. I’m going to try and grab some of the slower moving ones and share them with you, because the stuff I’m learning is too important not to share.

We got to the conference around 9am and checked in. I had time to go to one session before ours at 11, so I chose Digital Transformations: Scholarship and the Public Sphere which really drew my interest because of this right here. An Adjective and a Noun. I’m always looking for ways to improve the blog and, of course, make it more feminist. 

I learned a lot about digital archiving that I really never knew. As a scholar in the 21st Century, you can imagine how much I use online databases and digital archives for research. I never really thought about how much work goes into those, and the potential politics and special interests that go into “simple” things like categorizing and tagging literature. 

I also spoke with someone from the blog Nursing Clio, which is not about nursing at all, but about feminist history. I encourage you to check it out at Here. I especially liked the post about fleas, because it made me examine something I thought I was sure of, my hate for fleas.

Next was our roundtable discussion, titled Community (Colleges) of Resistance: Revisiting Class in the Intersection of Women’s Studies and Activism. My good friend Jill moderated it while I and 2 other JCTC students answered some questions on activism projects we’ve started in the community. It felt so amazing to sit next to these accomplished individuals and talk a out something important to us– activism. We also had a great turnout, at least 15 people were actively engaged in our conversation, gave thoughtful questions and fantastic feedback. I wish I could say more but honestly, I am not far from K.O. so before my brain turns to mush I am going to bid you all good night.

Stay tuned for another Round Up tomorrow. There’s so much I haven’t shared with you yet!!

✌ Rach

Gorillaz Fictional Band Member Drops Sick Playlist

gorillaz_noodle
Photo credit: Wikipedia  

 

Mostly, Facebook is just a great way for me to waste a lot of time, but every once in a while, I find a real diamond in the rough of my news feed. This week, that diamond came in the form of an article from Bullet about Gorillaz fictional bandmember and lead guitarist, Noodle’s newest project: a playlist on SoundCloud. To be honest, I had forgotten about the Gorillaz until I saw this article. I was so excited to learn that the Gorillaz have a new album coming out, and they’ve been doing super random, cool promotional stuff, like giving each band member their own origin stories. The newest thing that’s been released in the ramp-up to their new album is this playlist I mentioned on SoundCloud, and it is everything my feminist dreams are made of.

Noodle has released a funky, fantastic, and feminist playlist to hype you up and get you moving. I have listened to the 28 minute long playlist at least 5 times since I found it a couple days ago. Every voice you hear is female and that is pretty damn cool when they’re rapping about riding low and singing about not giving a fuck. Noodle’s playlist is a fabulous reminder that being a girl is powerful!

Plus, like 26 minutes in, she hits me with the Tardis! Girl, you’re awesome. Thanks for the tunes 🙂

Ok, now I gtg find these backstories… Who is Noodle?

Listen to 私 Noodle❗️ by Gorillaz #np on #SoundCloud

Women Who Wow Us: Maria Montessori

image
found out https://creativesystemsthinking.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/let-a-childs-spirit-be-free-to-unfold-m-montessori/

Monday was WWW Us day, and it also happened to be Maria Montessori’s birthday.  Unfortunately,  I’ve been really slacking off on my blogging, so just two days late, here’s your weekly Women Who Wow us.
Maria Montessori was born on August 31st, 1870 in Italy.  She was raised middle class at a time when Italy, and the rest of the world held fairly strict gender roles. Despite this, though, she refused to fit into any boxes and, as a child and an adult, succeeded in many things thought at the time to be “masculine.”
Maria and her family moved to Rome when she was 14 and she began attending classes at a boys’ technical school, where she excelled in the sciences, especially biology. Her father never quite supported her, but her mother did. This continued into adulthood, when Maria went to the University of Rome and became the first female doctor in Italy.
Her choices of concentraion as a doctor were pediatrics and psychology, and she used these to treat children who came to the free clinic at her school. She made many observations on the psychology and intelligence of these children.
In 1900, Maria became the director of a school for developmentally disabled children and began to extensively research and observe early childhood development and education. Maria developed an education plan and practiced it within her school and found remarkable improvements in student development. She began talking and writing about her findings, and also use these speeches and paper to advocate for women’s and children’s rights.
After several years of success helping disabed children, the Italian government gave Maria the oppurtunity to help “abled” children. She was given charge of 60 low-income children from 1-6 years old. She tweaked her method where necessary and used it in her new school. This method is now referred to as the Montessori Method.
The Montessori Method refers to an environment where the teacher allows the student to learn what they would like, how they would like to learn it. One of her most famous quotes is, “The Greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, The Children are now working as if I don’t exist.
By 1925, The Montessori Method had gained great popularity all over the world, including in America. There were over 1,000 schools in the United States at it’s peak in 1925. They method eventually lost favor around 1940.
By then Maria had been forced to flee Italy and move to India, where she developed a program called Education for Peace. This program, and the work she did on it, earned her two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.
Maria Montessori died in 1952, in the Netherlands. In the 1960’s Montessori schools saw another bout of popularity, and there are many in the United States and all over the world still today. In fact, Montessori schools have recently been recognized as a major influence of many famous movers and shakers. Check out this video, where Google Founders talk about the influence a Montessori education had on them.
I’ve always loved Maria Montessori, and her system of education. I have learned a lot more about her while researching her for this post, and it’s been great! I hope you enjoyed learning, too!!
Until next time,
Stay Awesome

Women Who Wow Us: Sojourner Truth

image
Pencil on paper by Charles White-1940

Sojourner Truth was not always the outspoken woman we often hear about. You have probably heard of her famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” You may even know that she dictated her own memoirs.
Do you know how she got there, though? I am so excited to share with you the story of Sojourner Truth, and how she became a woman who wows us!

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7 Seriously Important Feminist Readings

After telling you guys all about Margaret Mead yesterday, I had someone ask to recommend some of her essays to read. This, of course, got my brain swirling with all the wonderful papers, stories, and other writings I have come across since I started studying Women’s and Gender Studies. I feel like just about everything I have read in the last few years is extremely important because there are so many different facets and viewpoints to feminism. I could list every thing I’ve read since 2012 and I promise there would still be SO much to learn, for me and for you.

So, I have shortened this down to a handful of papers and stories that I think encompasses several different topics that you can use as firepower against MRA’s and meninists and racists who say ignorant shit.

  1. Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, By Peggy McIntosh

This essay, written in 1988, is still 100% relevant. It is about privilege. Whether that be white privilege, male privilege, straight, cisgender, religious privilege, even privilege for being able to live in a Western Society. The first step in becoming a feminist is recognizing your privilege and accepting that you have no idea what people who aren’t as lucky as you go through. This essay does a great job of breaking down simple privileges that we never realize we take advantage of.

2. bell hooks

THIS is a good place to start with bell hooks, (lowercase letters intentional) but I suggest reading anything by her you can get her hands on. Her rhetoric is honest and painful, in the best way. She deals a lot with issues of race. Also, she’s from Kentucky and I think that’s awesome.

3. I Am Not a Rapist By John Stoltenburg

This essay is  written by a male feminist activist. Stoltenburg has long been a supporter of women’s rights, writes and speaks against violence towards women, and tries to reframe how we as a society perceive masculinity. Also, he’s a guy!!! A MAN who’s a feminist! Whhhhaaatttt. But seriously, he writes well and I really like this essay.

4. X: A Fabulous Child’s Story

This is a fictional short story that explores the idea of society-constructed gender roles. I actually recommend it to any of my friends about to have a child, and now I recommend it to you. It is heart warming and sweet, but remember it is just fiction. Still gives you something to ponder on though.

5. 1.5 Million Missing Black Men

This is actually a newer article from the New York Times, from April of this year. I added it to this list, though because I think it’s really important. True feminists believe any social injustice is wrong, and “the race issue” is one of the most important issues of our time. To me, this article proves that. NYT takes facts and statistics and forces the reader to realize that PoC have a harder time living “normal” lives than cis, white people. Before you disagree, or you are offended, read the article. They do a much better job of explaining this than I do.

6. Am I Blue? By Bruce Coville

This is a really witty short story that explores identity and homosexuality in a very relatable way.

7. Margaret Mead

I can’t find any direct articles or excerpts from her books, but I did find a few articles explaining why her work is important. For me, personally, her work isn’t as relevant as some of the newer pieces I’ve listed above.


These six articles and stories are the very basic “Starter Pack” for feminists, if you will. I did not discover any of these myself, but was introduced to them, by amazing professors like Jill, my mentor and feminist role model. I tried to cover a number of topics, because that’s what feminism does! It doesn’t JUST follow “women’s issues” like many people believe, because we understand that if one person is held back, then we are all held back as a society.

I would love to hear what you think about these different readings! Which one is your favorite?

What did I leave out? Is there an article or story you feel is JUST WRONG to leave out here?

I fully plan on doing another round up of important readings, so we can move forward as a society.

Peace & Love

Rach