Find your feminist voice. How loud can you Roar...?
In May, 1998, Saint Mary's proudly graduated 4 students with minors in Women's Studies, and 1 student with a double major of Women's Studies and Anthropology/ Sociology. All of these students took active roles in the events and activities leading to the formation of a Women's Resource Center on campus, their motto "Hear Me Roar."
Looking into the Mirror
Meghan Crowell, Government Degree
When I first entered the Women's Studies Program there were a lot of people talking about why they wanted to become a Women's Studies student. I listened to what many women had to say, but I never did understand. For me there was no issue of wanting to be a Women's Studies student, there was only need. I needed to be a Women's Studies student because I needed to get to know myself. I knew that somewhere locked in all the Women's Studies classes was who I was. I needed the chance to explore myself through other women's experiences in order to find my own.
I can think of very few outlets in society that create a safe place for women to be together with one another, learning. I had been told that all of my life t would never be able to love someone else unless I could love myself first. This came as no small task. In order to truly love myself I had to know exactly who I was. I did not need to know where I was going; I needed to know where I was from. This meant taking a journey through the eyes of other women as they began to change history. It meant that I would have to confront my deepest fears and sorrows, and most importantly it meant that I would have to speak up in class. By learning to speak in class I was validating my own experiences. I was teaching others about an experience that was very different from their own. It is through this process that women can understand that they do not have to share the same background to be united through the common bond of growing up as a woman.
The most important lesson to be learned in Women's Studies is that no matter who you are, you bring personal value to the table. It is your experience that makes you unique, it is only when we do not use our experiences to relate ideas to others that we see what a gift we have been wasting. Women's Studies is about allowing women personal space to grow into the strong, proud women that they feel like on the inside. It is about proving that your voice is something and that no 1 can ever take that away. When you leave your formal Women's Studies classes, you will understand that you can never be silent again.
Marching Toward Equality
Rachel Eakie, English Degree
Being a Women's Studies minor was one of the most enriching experiences I had at Saint Mary's College. While in the program, I had the opportunity to learn from, discuss with, and read about women who were not only inspirational, but inspired themselves. Seeing their accomplishments made me push myself harder to accomplish my own goals and to
involve myself in more activities which let the voices of women be heard. The most rewarding of these activities was a student march that I helped organize to raise awareness about issues concerning female students on campus. When everything finally came together after months of planning and I turned around during the actual march to see hundreds of students at an event which only a few planned, I was in awe. That was the most empowered I have ever felt. It is because of the knowledge I have gained from the program about the necessity for communication and equality that I was able to recognize the need for voices to be heard and to organize a forum which accomplished that.
After completing the Women's Studies program, I have gained a much stronger sense of who I am, what I believe in, and what kind of person I want to become. Women's Studies is something that can apply to all areas of life, even those you may not expect. I plan to become an elementary school teacher and have already learned how teachers can ensure that all their students-girls and boys-are treated fairly in the classroom. This is only 1 way Women's Studies will help me in the future. The list of insights it has given me is too long to include.
Ashley Musick, Anthropology/ Sociology Double Degree and Women's Studies Minor
Becoming a Women's Studies major at Saint Mary's College is a daunting task to say the least; however, the challenge makes the experience all the more gratifying. When I realized in the summer of 1997 that I could conceivably become a double major, combining transfer courses with some of the most innovative and challenging courses available at Saint Mary's, I immediately contacted Sandy Grayson asking for the go-ahead.
When I first met with Sandy, I was overwhelmed and somewhat intimidated. This was a woman who had the ability to grant me a major in a field that is not only academically important to me, but personally as well. With Sandy's encouragement and authorization, I entered into a world where I would become an activist and lifelong member. I entered the world of visionary ideology, humanitarianism, and feminism. I was offered the chance to develop, challenge, and expand the person I always knew myself to be; without the inspiration and push from the Women's Studies Program, I would never have succeeded in becoming the person I am proud to be today.
My experience at Saint Mary's College as an active and vocal women was cultivated and nurtured within an amazing Program that grows with each semester. I spent a very challenging and at times frustrating senior year trying to bring awareness to an all-too ignored topic in our society and our campus-rape. Several students and I were able to make some headway; yet the road is a long 1, and 1 that cannot be abandoned. Therefore, when I finally walk across that stage, diploma in hand, I may no longer be a student; however, I will be an alumna, 1 who will never forget the importance of supporting women, education, and activism. I will forever be a part of the Women's Studies Program at Saint Mary's College, and I am honored to say as much. The women in this Program cultivated something in me I can never fully repay - they helped me find my voice. This is why, in any way that is possible, I will support the vitally important Program, giving back what little and as much as I can.
As I sit at the edge towards the end of my college career, I cannot possible express the emotions I feel about the wonderful women at Saint Mary's. Thank you does not feel nearly sufficient, but it is all I can offer at the moment. Thank you.
The Open Door
Erin Wetzel, Psychology Degree
My experience with the Women's Studies Program has been, by far, the best and most profound in my years at Saint Mary's College.
It was here that I met other students with similar passions and concerns as my own. Many hours were spent with women laughing, talking, sharing frustrations, and building relationships that I am confident will remain true throughout this lifetime.
It was here that I encountered an amazing group of faculty. Strong women who motivate and inspire, while demanding the best from their students. Many of these women I call not only my "teacher" or "professor," but also, without a doubt, my friends. I have never had trouble finding an open door, understanding ear, welcoming smile, or sound advice to get me through the day.
It was here I learned the immense power a few women can have when truly believing in issues facing our campus. I have witnessed firsthand the effect of a small core on an entire community. I have acquired skills of effective communication, organization, team work and, my personal favorite, activism.
Last, but certainly not least, it was here I learned more about myself and what I believed in. I discovered who I am and realized what I aspire to be. I created boundaries and tested waters, and saw clearly what I am willing to tolerate and what I must stand up for as a woman in today's society.
I have so much appreciation and gratitude for everything I have gained through this program. Surely my college experience would not have been the same without the Women's Studies Program and the extraordinary people involved in its success.
Women's Voices: Transitions
During the first week of Introduction to Women's Studies, Denise Witzig asked her students to respond to the question, "Why am I taking Women's Studies?" Here is a brief selection of their comments.
"The course attracted me like a magnet when I saw it. My admiration for women started during my childhood because I was raised by my mother and my grandmother. My grandfather died and my father abandoned my mother with 3 little girls. After my mother and grandmother died, I came to live with my father in the United States. My father tried hard to make me believe in his views and opinions about women, but it backfired. I started to read about women. My passion for books about women continued. Reading has been a wonderful experience, but to study one of my favorite subjects will be a voyage into my mind."
"Both of my grandparents were born in El Salvador. My grandfather's idea of Women's Studies is cooking class. I have grown up with a mother who refused to give into the suppression the Latin culture places on women. My mother taught me that I can do whatever it is I dare to do. The only woman I have been able to speak to about Women's Studies was my mother. Women my age scoff at the idea of Women's Studies and label the subject a bore. I find it amazing that women can find the study of themselves boring."
"Throughout my entire life I have been extremely interested in women's issues. When I was a few weeks old, my aunt baptized me to grow up and become a feminist. I now consider myself to be a feminist and I want to continue to stand up for women's rights in the future. I would like to learn more about the past histories of women so that I can be an informed woman. I hope to have a job in the future that will help out the advancement of women in the world and help women who are caught in abusive relationships."
"As a Mexican-American, I am concerned about the rights that women have and the roles that we once had, the roles that we have now, and the ones that we might be able to have in a very near future. I want to have a broad understanding of women's history and struggles, to keep the purpose alive and to better ourselves. I want to live in a world that, hopefully, will not distinguish a person for being a man or woman in the future."
"Inequalities in pay, treatment, and employment opportunities are just a few of the problems that I may need to surmount when I enter the working world. I want to be prepared. I want to show the world that I am capable of doing anything I want to. When I think of women, I think of many things: strong, beautiful, intelligent, capable loving, to name a few. I see a woman as much more than a baby factory, a piece of meat, or an object. Unfortunately, many times, this is how women are portrayed in the media and in our society. I want to see, study, and learn about women for what they can offer on an intellectual and emotional level. I want to know the truth about women and the issues affecting us."
"I was a child during "The Feminine Mystique" era when a woman's only identity was that of wife and mother. Women were convinced that their sole purpose in life was to be a house servant for their husbands and children and many found themselves mired in depression and anxiety. When the daughters of that generation came of age we decided not to continue this cycle of unhappiness of our mothers and set out to gain freedom from this oppression.
We believed we could make the lives of women better. We would tell them it was okay to make themselves happy. We could claim an education and have a satisfying career. We could "have it all." Our concerns that women be liberated from this constraining lifestyle eventually led to the Second Wave of Feminism and to the Women's Liberation Movement. But during the Eighties, the "backlash" against women's liberation divided and almost conquered the women's movement. It forced many women back into the "Feminine Elba Viveros Mystique."
When I returned to college to finish up the degree I had started in the late Sixties, I became aware that I had been living in a bubble. Since I have always felt very equal in my marriage and career, equality had not been an issue in my life. But I began to realize that my extended family of daughters-in-law had different outlooks on marriages and careers than I did I knew the pendulum was shifting, but I didn't realize just how far. In my first year at St. Mary's I met several young women who allowed men to treat them badly and then wondered what they had done wrong. I was appalled to know that today's young women still think in those terms. The statistics of abuse certainly bear this out. This became a most interesting psychological issue to me and I began to investigate the Women Studies program; now I have an individualized major of Women's Studies and Psychology. I began my college education during the Second Wave of Feminism and I am completing it during the Third Wave. It is discouraging to see how little progress we have made. I feel it is important for all women and men to understand our history and to be inspired by the amazing women who have fought so hard for the freedoms we enjoy today. We must become aware of that past to move positively into the future."