Category Archives: Social Justice

Identity, Intersection, and Collision

by: Kathryn Kay Coquemont

India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” is a symbolic anthem communicating that people (particularly those from the Black/African American community) are more than the social identities we use as labels. She sings, “I am not my hair / I am not this skin / I am not your expectations, no / I am not my hair / I am not this skin / I am the soul that lives within”. Although many found these lyrics empowering, others were quick to point out that systemic oppression often does relegate people of color to embody a single dimensional identity. As a woman of color, my permitted identity is often determined by those with more privilege and power than I have. Every day, I navigate the world trying to determine if my racial or my gender identity is more salient in the current space I inhabit. I can only imagine and listen to stories about how much more difficult it is for women with additional marginalized identities to cope with social expectations. Continue reading Identity, Intersection, and Collision

Feminist Pet Peeves-Part II (video version)

by Jennifer R. Keup

Back in November of 2014, I wrote a piece for this blog that represented a brief departure from the important posts and exchanges about equity, leadership, and feminism that take place in this forum. The piece was a satirical “rant” on the day-to-day feminist struggles and reminders of the gendered nature of our social systems and interpersonal habits. You all indulged me with that post, so I hope another one along those lines but with video clips will similarly capture your interest. As such, here is the second installation in the occasional series meant to highlight “feminist pet peeves.”

Double standards: When I first saw this advertisement for Pantene, I was absolutely, tears-in-my-eyes, and goosebumps-on-my-arms blown away. It so perfectly captured all of the terrible and persistent double standards that women face in general and that seem to be exponentially greater for women in leadership roles. I know that I have personally experienced several of these “delightful” labels and, even at my strongest and most empowered moments, they have taken a toll upon my psyche (you can imagine what they have done to me in moments when I struggle with imposter syndrome). Language is powerful. So, it is important that we use it to advance messages of equity and not reinforce double standards.

Unequal pay: Sadly, whether in the board room or on the soccer pitch women are still systematically paid less than men. There is a school of thought that this is due largely to different career decisions that are correlated with gender. However, the pay differential typically persists even when men and women are in the same position, possess equivalent professional credentials, and have followed a similar pathway to their leadership role. We have work to do so that we can stop “celebrating” Equal Pay Day each year in early April as the day when women’s earnings “catch up” to men’s earnings from the previous year.

“Like a girl”: When did doing something “like a girl” become an insult? I am not sure when I noticed this phenomenon but it seems to have been a troubling and consistent theme for the several decades of my lifetime. Should we consider it a sad form of progress that women’s performance on athletic fields, classrooms, clubs, and board rooms went from unnoticed to acknowledged but “lesser than”? Further, it seems as if there is no quicker and more effective insult to a man than to tell him he does anything “like a girl.” It is my dream that my sons may someday hear this term and think of the towering female role models in our society today (and maybe their mom too) and say “thanks!”

Feminist as a “dirty” word: As I mentioned earlier, language is powerful. So, I understand people’s caution at the labels they choose and use for themselves. However, I am baffled by how often individuals at all points on the gender spectrum shun the word “feminist.” A quick look at dictionary.com identifies its definition as “advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.” While it may denote a degree of agency and responsibility, there doesn’t seem to be anything innately offensive, upsetting, or even exclusive about the term. I agree with Justin Trudeau’s, Prime Minister of Canada, statement in this video: we need to keep using this word until there is no reaction other than “of course!”

So, there you have it, my feminist friends. Now it’s your turn. Share some of your favorite video clips that highlight your feminist pet peeves or feature inspiring messages about equity and empowerment. We welcome your comments!

Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: Intergenerational Feminism Starts at Home

This is the third post in a series contributed by Susan Albertine, Senior Fellow at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

This blog post started as a conversation with my daughter. About three years ago, I asked my daughter about feminism. She, Hannah, had just finished her first year of college. Prime time for a mother to swoop in and take temperature. Let’s be more precise. Second-wave feminist mom who at age 43 gave birth to her daughter descends on wary daughter after year one of college, bearing annoying questions. I could easily have been her grandmother, but she was under no obligation to extend me that courtesy.

I took the risk. Note: I am often too direct for my own good. Indeed, the conversation was awkward. Asked about the word feminism, Hannah said, “That’s your generation. I don’t know a single person who says she’s a feminist.” She said it genially, with a gleam in her eye. It put me in mind of her baby self, beaming with love, looking me straight in the eye, opening wide her adorable little mouth, and biting me. Her young adult conversations retain both their affection and their teeth. I felt it, but I was ready. Then followed ruminations.

Continue reading Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: Intergenerational Feminism Starts at Home

Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: Equity and Leadership

This is the second post in a series contributed by Susan Albertine, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Student Success at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

In the months since I last wrote for #SAFeminist, we’ve seen racial, ethnic, and sex-gender violence continue to flare across the country, on campuses, and in communities. For some of us, this unrest seems new, a different turn of events. Others of us–I among them–hear and feel the past echoing in the present. Many of us recognize a high-publicity phase of conditions that have simmered, boiled, and exploded all along. Perspective matters here.

Regardless of one’s experience, regardless of the ways one recognizes origins and continuity, social unrest now is impossible to miss. Reading an opinion piece by Danielle Allen, a political philosopher at Princeton, I found myself stunned by empathy when Allen describes—in a single sentence—a moment of continuity in her life. She says, “I, too, was called ‘n-‘ on campus in the lovely, deep late-night dark of Princeton in the spring of 1993.” That sentence haunts me. It is an experience I, as a white woman, have never known. But for a moment I felt a pulse of familiarity. It was not the full actuality, which is beyond my grasp. Still I felt breath and heartbeat for a moment. Thinking about equitable leadership for this #SAFeminist blog post, with that sentence ringing in my ears, I realize what I need to say. Continue reading Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: Equity and Leadership

Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: An Introduction

This is the first post in a series contributed by Susan Albertine, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Student Success at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)

Reading the postings at SAfeminist, I’ve been thinking not just about leadership and mentorship for women on campus, but also about the purposes of leadership itself. Why do we—by whom I mean SAfeminist voices—care so much about leadership, specifically about female leadership? Is it really self-evident why it matters? SAfeminist writers are united in their call. I hear that. I hear that women continue to feel pulled between the personal and the political, between family and career, between fixed and fluid identities, between one polarity and another. Personal experience tells me those dynamics are real. What I am not hearing as clearly is why women’s leadership and mentorship will help right now. I’d like to reflect on that question. To what end do we envision the leadership for which we are calling? Continue reading Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: An Introduction

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

Space and Grace

By Brandy Turnbow

The closing months of the year are often a time of intense reflection for me as I struggle to understand what has been most meaningful about the year thus far and what can be done to better navigate some of the challenges experienced as I prepare for the next year to come. I rely heavily on my simple meditation of Space and Grace. Both capitalized; they’re that important. Space to attend to my self-care and self-reflection. Grace not to hold guilt for prioritizing my needs.

The past few years have been tedious and difficult. Small wins met with larger defeats or complete restructuring of purpose. Suffice it to say, when the calendar begins to wind down toward November, my anxiety increases and I find myself vulnerable and heavily reliant on my protocols of self-care.

Continue reading Space and Grace

#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