Coming together in solidarity: Creating a safe space on International Women’s Day
The election of President Trump has prompted a spike in activism on many college campuses, and UD is no different.
Starting on Wednesday at 10 a.m., a sea of red and an air of passion filled the meeting room of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Newark. Throughout the day, 60 women wrote more than 150 postcards to local representatives expressing their concerns while others created posters to hold before marching on three separate occasions.
This teach-in was organized in support of the nationwide “A Day Without a Woman” movement for International Women’s Day, which was created to reaffirm the commitment to gender equality and the unity of women across the world that was established during the Women’s March in January. “A Day Without a Woman” aimed to recognize “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system — while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment and job insecurity,” according to its website. The movement encouraged women not to go to work (if they were able), and all those interested in gender justice to retract support from corporate entities that mistreat women and other marginalized groups.
The St. Thomas “teach-in” was created by professors and students during a Women and Gender Studies Diversity Research Café. The event, taking place a few minutes from Morris Library, was not affiliated with the university. However, primarily students and faculty attended the teach-in. Many students heard about the event through Facebook, diversity groups on campus or from professors during class. The aim of the teach-in was to provide women with a safe space post-election to gather with fellow community members and encourage activism within the Newark and university community.
“It is critical now, as it has always been, for women to support one another,” Devon Miller-Duggan, an English and poetry professor, said. “Events like this one keep spirits up.”
Miller-Duggan, like many professors attending this event, said she saw an influx of students who were passionate about events like this one in the fall, but has seen a decline in event attendance this semester.
“We need to engage,” Miller-Duggan said. “We need to keep asking — what if we’re right? That’s what I want to ask people. If he turns out to be a good president — we’re wrong! But we have to keep asking.”
Postcards with the slogans “What if we’re right?”and “Hear our voice” lay across the tables in the church meeting room. Sophomores Annabel Posimato and Mary Bartell said they look forward to activist events like this one on campus.
“It’s not hard to find people who care about these kinds of issues on campus,” Posimato said. “At the Unity Fair last semester one thing really stuck with me. One of the speakers said, ‘Your rights are more important than my comfort.’”
Lisa Jaremka, a professor of psychological and brain sciences, has seen herself grow over the past several years when it comes to being an activist and ally.
“I used to be very afraid,” Jaremka said. “I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. I had the realization that my comfort doesn’t matter — this was really empowering. The biggest thing is to not be afraid. We all hold a lot of power. Maybe I can’t change the recent executive order, but I can reach out and organize events to show support for different groups.”
Maryam Hussain, another creator of the teach-in and an institutional research analyst at the university, shares a similar passion for activism. She sat at a table with several students filling out a postcard with the phrase, “I stand with refugees.”
“These events are great because they give us a chance to look at our own biases and privileges,” Hussain said. “To be an ally you need to recognize your own privilege and give a voice to others.”
Some professors, such as Carla Guerron-Montero, an anthropology professor and the director of the Latin American and Iberian Studies Program, said they are trying to find ways to incorporate social justice into their curriculum at the university.
Guerron-Montero said she experienced a large cultural shift when she moved to the United States from Ecuador, a place where human rights protests were frequent.
“Events like these make me realize that we can all do a little bit more,” Guerron-Montero said. “Today was hard. There weren’t many of us protesting so I almost felt naked with my ideas — it was harder than I thought. But it was great, and I’m very glad I did it. It’s always great to make a bit of noise.”