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More than 100 Pacific Lutheran University students, faculty and community members gathered in Red Square to support A Day Without a Woman on Wednesday March 8. Students and faculty gave speeches to discuss women’s rights issues and marched through campus to bring awareness to a need for equity for women.
Speakers emphasized that the purpose of the rally was to show how much women of all intersecting identities participate in daily economic and social life. They highlighted that this problem is both domestic and global, and took time to recognize the women who couldn’t take the day off because of financial risk or for fear of losing their jobs.
Among the speakers were Resident Director of Harstad Hall Tess Matsukawa and Center for Gender Equity Outreach and Prevention Coordinator Tolu Taiwo. In their joint speech, Taiwo and Matsukawa noted the importance of intersectionality in the feminist movement.
“We are erasing the stories of so many people if we just focus on gender,” Matsukawa said. “We can talk about gender, but unless we look at how it intersects with other identities, sexism and all forms of oppression are not going to end.”
Matsukawa and Taiwo also noted how society often erases the stories and experiences of marginalized women, and that these voices become further silenced when they intersect with other marginalized identities.
Assistant Professor of English Adela Ramos spoke about her experiences with injustice and discrimination in higher education, both as a student and professor.
“The legitimacy of my efforts has been undermined by a male peer, who declared confidently, ‘I know you will get a job because you are a Mexican and a woman.’” Ramos said. “To some, my name does not fit comfortably on the list of Department of English faculty.”
Ramos, Taiwo and Matsukawa cited the detrimental effects of privilege versus equality, specifically in higher education. Each speaker challenged the audience members to recognize the sets of privileges they own and use that knowledge to advocate for equity on campus and beyond.
Director of the Center for Gender Equity Jennifer Smith echoed the same sentiment in her own speech. “For those of us with a variety of privileges, we have to do more. We have to be willing to risk more,” she said.
Students, staff and faculty in attendance largely spoke fondly of the event, noting the impact of coming together to participate in women’s rights advocacy.
“I think it’s important to celebrate the impact that women have had on the world, to recognize that women’s rights are human rights, [and to make] sure that everybody has a space at the table,” junior Melissa Munson said.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology Katherine Wiley, one of the organizers, was also pleased with the demographics in attendance. “I was […] happy that there were so many students there, and a lot of faculty and staff,” said Wiley. “It felt like there was a critical mass of people saying, ‘We care about these issues.’”
Some students found the rally to be an opportunity to explore women’s rights activism.
Junior Ashley Lambertson says she is excited to have a way to advocate for women’s rights on campus.“This is the first time I’ve really come to an event like this,” Lambertson said. “By going to this, I feel like I’m really showing that I care about social justice and I care about women’s rights.”
Senior Elizabeth Hamre noted the importance of coming together to recognize the extensive contributions made by women.
“Women make up so much of the workforce in this country, and we don’t acknowledge it,” Hamre said. “Being here acknowledges how women have contributed […] in our location at PLU, but also in the world.”
Smith said she was pleased to see so much collaboration from faculty and students. “I think it’s rare to see an opportunity on campus where representatives of the entire community get together because they share a common concern,” she said.
Bringing students and faculty together was one of the main goals outlined by the professors who organized the march.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies Ami Shah said she and her fellow organizers wanted to create an event that allowed both students and faculty to advocate for women’s rights, but didn’t necessarily require abandoning the day’s work.
“We needed to acknowledge that a lot of students didn’t feel like they could walk out [of class], and a lot of junior faculty felt the same way for a variety of reasons,” Shah said.
After deciding that they wanted to hold an event, Shah, Wiley and Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Amanda Taylor coordinated with the CGE and numerous members of the campus community.
“It was really the student organizers who just took it to a new level,” Taylor said. “They showed up in force and they networked with their fellow students and they crafted the message and the language in the message.”
Junior Hilary Vo, a student organizer and speaker, said she was happy to see the success of the event she helped craft.
“As someone who put a lot of time into making sure this event was actually happening, it’s really good to see people who are interested, who want to learn more, who are willing to stand in the cold for a very long time to hear these amazing women,” Vo said.
CALLING ALL MEN
While the A Day Without a Woman rally focused on issues relating to women, men were far from absent. Many male students, faculty and staff attended the march to show support and stand in solidarity with their female peers.
Assistant Visiting Professor of Philosophy Adam Arnold says men’s role in feminism is no different than women’s. He believes men’s involvement supports the intersectionality of the movement.
“Men’s role is just a subset of this larger question of representation and how we speak with each other, recognize the intersecting identities that we all have and how we can […] work with each other to overcome issues of gender, race and class,” Arnold said.
Male students at the event were just as active as any female participants. “It felt good to know that people, especially on something as immediate as my college campus, are really passionate about something like equality and dismantling systems of oppression like the patriarchy,” junior Izac Barba said.
“Solidarity is extremely important in all sorts of social movements,” senior Austin Hayes said. “Women’s rights have been ultimately ignored in a lot of struggles and it’s important to stand up for women across the world.”
Taylor said giving men access to feminism is important, and their participation only enhances the effectiveness of the movement.
“When we have difference in access to education and opportunities based on gender, it hurts everyone,” Taylor said. “When we have ideas about what women should do and be, we also have ideas about what men should do and be that are harmful to them.”
Associate Professor of Religion Seth Dowland echoed similar sentiments. For feminism to be truly intersectional, Dowland said participation from people of all identities is crucial.
“If all people aren’t represented at these events, then we aren’t doing something right,” he said. “[These] aren’t concerns that should only [affect] women […] It can’t be just female students who are engaged in [feminist] work. Male students have to be engaged in that work, too.”
Ramos felt as though even more men could have been present and actively participating at the march.
“I would really like my male colleagues, in all divisions on campus, to step up more frequently,” Ramos said. “I think there is definitely a time to listen and a time to make room for women, but there is also a time to support them, and march with them, and work hard with them. I think that time is right now.”
ADVOCACY INTO ACTION
Although many praised the rally, some feel the demonstration itself wasn’t enough. “One of the problems is not that [A Day Without a Woman] is one day, but what happens on the day after,” Arnold said. “If it’s just that one day, then it’s problematic. But if that symbolism gets people to join in for other causes, then I think it is a good thing.”
Shah, Taylor and Wiley hope to follow up A Day Without a Woman with future advocacy events. They hope to cultivate spaces where students, faculty and staff feel open to discussion and conversation.
In her speech, Matsukawa specifically challenged the attendees to leave the demonstration prepared to act.
“We should not leave this rally feeling comfortable or self-congratulatory. We should feel unsettled,” Matsukawa said. “We need to challenge our communities and families, understand ourselves and our own privilege and where we’re needed in these social movements.”
Wiley agrees, stressing that the current political situation calls for all people to step up.
“It is a time for us all to be thinking about […] being involved and thinking about what issues matter to [us] and what [we] can actually do to address them in some way,” Wiley said.
Senior Kelly Jones saw the gathering as a stepping stone to a world where women are no longer constrained by societal expectations.
“I want my daughter to grow up in a better world than I grew up in the ‘70s, where women were just supposed to be moms or teachers or nurses and that’s it,” Jones said. “When we all come together and help each other, we’re helping to build a better future, and that’s really important to me.”
Reporting was led by Paris Franklin with significant contributions from Breanna Wiersma and Brooke Thames. Dejan Perez, Amelia Brummel, Rizelle Rosales, Emily Khilfeh and Genny Boots also contributed to reporting. 🅼