Category Archives: Activism

Choosing a Cause: A Reflection on Orlando

by Jodi Koslow Martin

It takes time to fully process any tragedy. When it is the mass shooting that happened in Orlando, we read how others respond. For many of us, reading others’ responses and listening to the news reports becomes all-consuming. It is for me.

How should I, as an individual, respond? How should the Christian university where I work respond? In reading the updates on Facebook, news sites, my twitter feed, and listening to NPR, I am left to believe that I should take up a cause. Or causes. And all are noble and worthy. We should pray. We should favor stronger gun control laws because there are more places to buy a gun in the United States than there are Starbucks in the world. We should end homophobia. We should be appalled by the possibility of the Republican candidate becoming president.

Yet, I am a pragmatic dreamer, if there ever was such a thing. So, I am choosing a cause and I invite you to join me. Let’s choose the cause of higher education.

In colleges and universities, especially those committed to the liberal arts, we see the impact of education. Students become critical thinkers and, at an even more basic level than describing the kind of skills they develop, they are exposed to new ways of understanding people that make a real difference and develop their character. It is in our classrooms, in the residence halls, in the cafeteria, in the diversity office, in chapel, and on the playing field that students experience people different from themselves. Campuses committed to recruiting and retaining students of color, students on the spectrum, students who identify as LGBTQ, students who were born in another country, students of various socio-economic statuses, students who are practicing Christians, students who follow Islam…it is in the spaces where all these students come together around the common goal of pursuing a bright future where the most impactful education takes place. It is in these spaces where students see their peers not as “others” but as friends and as community members. To stop having others feel like “the other,” we have to commit to inclusion and equity not because these words are trendy in higher education or politically correct but because it is how America the Beautiful stays home of the free. And, we may be encouraging students to consider something different than what was taught by their families or past teachers. We may be exposing them to ideas that are not their understanding of truth. Our cause is to walk alongside students as they walk alongside each other in their education and in the pursuit of their dreams — dreams that should live on in thriving communities rather than in a society desensitized to the phrase “mass shooting.”

Those at Pulse in Orlando were in a safe space. In the club, these individuals were free of being judged. Those who lost their lives lose them in utter fear. To add to the devastation, their families now have a record of this fear.

Why do we embrace feminist leadership? Because if we accept the core concepts of feminist leadership — to bring together all voices, to foster collaboration — we are preparing safe spaces. As I reflect upon Orlando and think about my work as a Christian educator, I find that God’s work can be done in memory of those who lost their lives in Orlando. We commit to providing safe spaces for our students to ask questions, to figure out how to engage in inquiry, to not be fearful, and to be their best and most authentic selves.

“We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda

(In)visibility of Sexism

by Heather Shea Gasser

In Is Everyone Really Equal? Sensoy and DiAngelo identify sexism as a form of oppression that is particularly difficult to see partially because of the effects of socialization, institutions, and culture. One example for one of the ways in which sexism is both visible and invisible in our culture is the tendency of advertisers to use feminine sexuality to “sell” products, ideas, and experiences. Sexuality in advertising is the topic of the series of videos by Jean Kilbourne called Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women. Kilbourne discusses how the use of advertising that objectifies women to sell products is so ubiquitous; we’ve nearly become desensitized to its effects.

As microcosms of larger society, campuses are not immune to these cultural messages. And, those who design and implement campus programming can unknowingly replicate these same tactics in advertising campus events. I argue in this post that our awareness and then action (or activism) can be important tools in counteracting the pervasiveness of sexist advertising.

In this post, I will share a personal case as an example of the (in)visible sexism on campus and explore how we, as feminists in student affairs, might disrupt sexist advertising within our spheres of influence. Continue reading (In)visibility of Sexism

#EqualPayNow: Do More Than Wear Red

by Heather Shea Gasser

I always find conversations with people of all genders who generally believe that the work of the feminist movement is over to be “interesting.” They say things like, “wasn’t that a thing in the 70s? Didn’t we solve all the problems then? Of course!” they cheer… “women’s liberation has been won! Women have it great these days! A woman can even run for president! No more need for protests, bra-burning (which is an urban myth anyway), and certainly no more need for angry feminists! What do you all have to still be so upset about?

I’ll tell you. For one, I am upset about pay inequity. It is indeed absurd that this type of inequity still exists.

Today, April 14, 2015 is the day we “celebrate” Equal Pay Day. A symbolic day representing the day that women* must work to make the same amount of money that men made in 2014. Continue reading #EqualPayNow: Do More Than Wear Red

My Thoughts on “Women Doing ‘Office Housework'”

by Heather Shea Gasser

This blogpost was also cross-posted on Heather’s personal blog

This article, Madam C.E.O., Get Me a Coffee: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Women Doing ‘Office Housework’, has appeared in my newsfeed several times in the last 24 hours. Clearly it is striking a painful chord and resonating – yet, in tracking who is posting about it, it is more often women than men. Some of the comments are particularly interesting:

‪Jamie Perkins‪, an educational assistant at an elementary school in Colorado writes: “Yes. And it’s not just women stepping in to these situations. I find that I am voluntold to do these tasks whereas my male co-intern gets to volunteer.‬”

‪Jodi Koslow Martin, a vice-president of student affairs in Illinois wrote: “I sent this article to a staff member at work. She thanked me and said it aligns with what I’ve said in the past – No Cupcakes! Honestly, I can’t remember instituting that rule but I’m all for it.‬”

‪Melanie-Angela Neuilly, a faculty member at a university in Washington state said to another commenter who raised the concerns about stereotypes, “Yes! It’s like: women, you are doing it wrong… Just be more like men.‬”

So, the article brings to our attention and raises awareness about a reality that I would guess many of us who identify as feminists have observed and pushed back against for some time now. Continue reading My Thoughts on “Women Doing ‘Office Housework’”

My Reflection: It’s Time to Talk About Race

by Heather Shea Gasser

My overall philosophy in serving as a host of Student Affairs Live is to bring to the forefront the topics and issues that we as student affairs educators, need to have open conversations about in order to better serve our students and the profession. Late last fall in the wake of the non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, it was clear to me that we needed to host a conversation about Ferguson and confronting racism on campus.

As soon as an opening in the schedule was available, I scheduled the episode and began looking for panelists to address the topic “#BlackLivesMatter: Confronting Racism on Campus” which aired yesterday on the Higher Ed Live network (a recording of the show is available here). Continue reading My Reflection: It’s Time to Talk About Race

On Being Silenced

by Heather Shea Gasser

In the past two days, I received two different pieces that discuss the effects of silencing. Please take a moment to read the Feminist Wire article Feminists We Love: Dr. Kristie Dotson and the New York Times piece Speaking While Female.

The arrival of these two articles in my inbox also coincides with my preparation for a Higher Ed Live show that I’m hosting on the topic of Confronting Racism on Campus, during which I plan to ask the following question of the panelists:

“As a white person engaging in this conversation [about Ferguson], I know that silence by some white people inhibits authentic dialogue with one another and with our students. How can we assist those who may feel unable to engage, for whatever reason, race being one, to enter this important dialogue? How can we draw in those who either choose not to contribute or are silent because they fear saying the wrong thing? And, how can we ensure that white people understand the implications of choosing NOT to enter into a conversation in which they need to participate?”

As a response to my proposed question, one of the panelists made the remark that perhaps some individuals are coerced into being silent. He wrote in an email “I can’t help by wonder how many of our colleagues are stifled….how can we help those who may feel/be professionally, politically or socially strong-armed?”

Continue reading On Being Silenced

#ItsOnUs to Fight Racism

By Amy Howton

The last few weeks have been heavy as our nation has experienced a steady crescendo of racial injustice embodied in the murders of Michael Brown, Tamar Rice, Eric Garner, and John Crawford and the failed response by the legal system to those murders.  With racism so powerfully rearing its ugly head, I know I’m not alone in seeking out community as I try to make sense of my own feelings and consider ways to create change.  I’ve been thankful for personal conversations, community forums, and online discussions including hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter, #FergusonDecision, #AliveWhileBlack #CrimingWhileWhite, and #FergusonSyllabus.

Nonetheless, I am also deeply disappointed by the silence I’ve also experienced. As a white student affairs administrator, I hear the impact of this silence on our community members and wonder, like others, how to learn from the past few weeks, sustain organizing efforts, and do better next time.

Tragically, there will be a next time. Continue reading #ItsOnUs to Fight Racism

Shifting Media Messages to Women?

by Brenda McKenzie, Doctoral Candidate, Kent State University

Women and girls are bombarded with messages every day from the media about how they should look and act and who they should be. These messages are often detrimental and can be downright misogynistic as has been highlighted by the work of Jean Kilbourne and the documentary MissRepresentation.

But there has been a recent shift in how women and girls are being portrayed and the messages companies want to send to women. The shift seemed to start with Goldieblox’s ad that dispelled the myth that all girls want is to play princess. Girls want to be innovators and architects and scientists and more. More recently Verizon Continue reading Shifting Media Messages to Women?

Going Grey – Reflections on Turning 40

by Heather Shea Gasser

(The featured photo on this post is of my mother, Susan Shea, and me on my 40th birthday)

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the array of women’s magazine covers at the grocery store check out line, but aging ISN’T actually the worst thing to happen to women. Consider the headlines on a recent SHAPE magazine: “Age-Proof Your Body: The Best Moves & Foods To Do It” and “Sharon Stone: 56 & Hotter Than Ever: Her Stay-Sexy Secrets Inside”. Statements like these contribute to the anti-aging, diet, and beauty mega-industry whose ads fill nearly every page inside. These products, ranging from wonder creams to hair dye, promise a more youthful appearance and are marketed nearly exclusively to women. It’s no secret that we live in a culture obsessed with youth.

Today, on my fortieth birthday, I feel compelled to share my thoughts on aging and how the blatant double standards in our society harms all of us but specifically targets and undermines women. Much of the focus on aging has to do, after all with appearance and how one presents to the world. As we’ve discussed in other posts on this site, professional dress standards also disproportionately impact women in the work place and specifically in student affairs. Regarding age and appearance – I contend that we internalize the pervasive anti-aging media messages and these in turn impact how, as we grow older, our effectiveness is perceived and judged in personal and professional contexts.

Continue reading Going Grey – Reflections on Turning 40

Lactivism: Breastfeeding Activism on Campus

by Heather Shea Gasser

I’ve written in a previous post about the personal being political and professional — and breastfeeding is a perfect example to further explain my point about how these three intersect.

My choice to breastfeed was highly personal. It was an individual choice I made on behalf of my child’s health and my personal desire. Any woman’s choice to breastfeed is likely wrapped up in her identity as a mother as well as socially constructed perspectives about motherhood. And, how long we continue to nurse is also highly personal and laden with cultural and societal expectations. I want to be clear that my perspectives on breastfeeding coupled with my personal experiences that I share in this post are not meant to alienate or exclude women who can’t breastfeed or who chose not to for any number of reasons. The personal and political nature of women’s choices around pregnancy, birth, postpartum care, and parenting are just that … individual choices to be respected and valued. Certainly there are plenty of perspectives about whether “breast is best”, just as there are about natural childbirth. While these are vital topics to explore, in this post, I move beyond the personal factors to discuss the political and professional intersections with our work in student affairs as feminists and as parents.

Breastfeeding, for many, is also political. Some would say it borders on activism at times. I identify as, know, and support many “lactavists” who see breastfeeding as an outlet for their feminist activism. For others, just breastfeeding discretely in public feels like an outrageous activist act. Continue reading Lactivism: Breastfeeding Activism on Campus