Community leaders convene for International Women’s Day
To commemorate International Women’s Day, a panel of leaders from across the University community convened on Wednesday for an event — themed “Be Bold for Change” — to share and discuss their experiences witnessing boldness in feminism.
Women’s Studies Research Center scholar Margaret Morganroth Gullette spoke about her experiences founding Free High School, a school in Nicaragua that provides education to underprivileged adolescents and adults. She spoke of the women who attend her school and juggle the double shift of working and raising children on top of education, claiming, “They are bold for change, and they are bringing their change back into the community.”
Taylor Rippy, a master’s Candidate at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, founded the website Honey, a space for individuals who have experienced sexual violence and allies to write about their experiences and how it impacted their lives and their loved ones’ lives. Rippy highlighted that the statistics in the U.S. for sexual abuse are one in two women and one in four men — “but those are gross underestimates, and that doesn’t even account for individuals who don’t identify as either male or female.”
Rippy said Honey’s participants exemplified boldness to her in “coming forward and sharing their stories anonymously or publicly, … because the more we use our voices, … the more we are able to be bold and to change society and change the way we talk about sexual violence, which can lead to preventing it in the first place.”
“Being bold is something that women and nonbinary people have been doing our entire lives,” added Ariella Assouline ’17, current president of the University’s chapter of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance. Assouline spoke about her experiences with student activism on campus and the vast changes accomplished at the University over just a few years through the effort of her peers.
When she entered the University in the fall of 2013, there was no Rape Crisis Center at Brandeis, no rape advocates or live rape crisis hotline. However, through hours of work of her own and through her peers’ efforts, they were able to procure the establishment of the University’s Rape Crisis Center in 2015. “Activism is a product of wanting to make your community safer, wanting to leave it better than you found it,” Assouline said. “Change happens because a lot of people really stick their necks out.”
Roxie Freeman, a master’s candidate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, spoke about the role nonbinary individuals play in building inclusive spaces. “I’m here to talk about my own discomfort in women-exclusive spaces. … Knowing that my insights might help foster inclusivity going forward is very powerful,” said Freeman. “The International Women’s Day website includes nonbinary folks on its main page, asserting that not only women should be involved but that men and nonbinary folk should participate and be involved with this.” Freeman spoke of the importance of language and representation, as well as the significance of expecting constant criticism in pursuing change.
Director of the Intercultural Center Madeleine Lopez added that women must acknowledge that there is space to embrace all their identities at once. Not only is she a woman, but “I’m a woman of color, I am Latina, I am the first generation, … I am a mother. I am someone who speaks for the undocumented, the immigrant. … That’s where I see myself rooted first,” said Lopez.