A handful of students gathered in the small conference room in the Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution Center (SJICR) in Robinson Hall Wednesday night to discuss one of society’s oldest constructs: not race, but labels and the way they affect women.
The event was planned by students Flora Ruli, Catherine Baxter, and Jeraca Marsh. Marsh hosted the event. The other organizers, Ruili and Baxter, were unable to attend. The event was planned a month ago, after Ruli, Baxter and Marsh had a conversation about labels among themselves. The overall theme of the presentation was how labeling women affects all women, but especially those in the LGBTQA+ community.
Lively discussion on topics such as bisexuality and gender norms sparked active dialogue among the participants. Marsh shared her experiences of how people often label her a lesbian because her hair is short.
Others recounted lived experiences of themselves or people they know. One student discussed how her parents didn’t understand the concept of bisexuality and had a difficult time accepting her sibling.
Although the event focused on labeling women and the LGBTQA+ community, the conversation shifted toward labeling women and how it applies to their major and careers.
Of the seven women in the room, three of them were in STEM fields. The women told stories of how people often react upon hearing that they are STEM majors and the perceptions that go with that.
“I came [here] because I wanted to learn how labels affect women, and if labels have affected me,” said sophomore writing arts major Melanie Rajpal.
Often, they feel as if higher expectations are placed upon them. For the women in engineering or biology, they voiced how people expect them to be a knowledgeable, precocious genius with all the answers.
For those in social sciences like geography and psychology, they vented their frustration on how overlooked and underestimated their respective fields are in correlation with other sciences.
“People often don’t think that geography is a science as well, but there is major work that goes into it.” said junior geography major Catherine Viau.
The presentation closed with a viral spoken word video: I am Not Black and You are Not a White. The video calls for people to imagine a world without labels and to see people as the human beings that they are.
The video featured a plethora of people varying in race, age, sex, religion, and many other categories. Many of the closing remarks on the video were echoed throughout the room.
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