By Emily Guajardo |
Cramming into elevators and climbing up the stairways to the overlooking fifth floor of the Cashion Academic Center, students and members of the Baylor community gathered in support of the Baylor Women’s and Gender Studies program as it presented its fifth annual Boundary Breaking Women’s Panel.
Pulling out pens, video recording devices and notebooks (big and small), audience members were eager to learn something new about a few groundbreaking women who have paved the way for modern day feminists.
Known for being a faculty-run interdisciplinary discussion and presentation of a few women who have historically liberated, educated and encouraged the idea of feminism during their prospective era, ten historical advocates were introduced during the panel including Sappho, a greek poet, Victoria Woodhull, an American journalist, and Laura Bassi, an Italian physicist.
While the panel was meant to highlight and celebrate the achievements of women throughout history, the overall event was designed to bring a greater awareness and cultivate an interest for the Women and Gender Studies Program minor.
Led by Dr. Lisa Shaver, director of gender studies and an associate professor of the English department, Shaver said the panel was created after the program received a revitalization in 2015. Noticing that many of the courses and previous instructors were no longer offered, Shaver said the program began to notice changes that needed to be made to adhere to the interests and needs of students.
“When I became director in 2015, [the Women and Gender Studies program] had kind of become unknown and little out of date and a lot of the people who originally started the program had already retired,” Shaver said. “After speaking to the associate dean, we began to talk about the new scholars that were here, who were teaching the courses, and with that, we decided that the program needed to be revitalized.”
Beyond the minor, Dr. Shaver said the program has strived to create opportunities and seminars – like the Boundary Breaking Women’s Panel – to educate the public on the misconceptions women have had in history and issues women face today.
With speakers like Rosalie Barrera, professor of modern languages and cultures, and Robert Darden, professor of journalism, public relations and new media, audience members were able to learn more about the different roles and sacrifices women made during some of history’s most pressing times, such as the conquistador era in Mexico and the civil rights movement in the mid-1960’s.
Now on its fifth year into the program’s revitalization, Dr. Shaver hopes that students will want to learn the in’s-and-out’s of what it means to study historical women and be called a feminist in today’s society.
“What I often find is that feminism is being defined by others,” Shaver said. “There are these negitative sterotypes like ‘feminist hate men’ or ‘are only women’ or that ‘it’s not even necessary anymore’ and I think it’s important for students to define it for themselves and see that feminism’s original meaning is to have equality among individuals and I challenge anybody, is that a bad value?”
Whether one see’s feminists as radical man-eaters, feminism, in its truest form, is the belief that women and men were created equally. Regardless of their biological differences, many scholars believe that feminism is inherently a Christian value that should be upheld.
In a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 86% of people polled believed that women and men had an equal amount of intelligence; a 50% increase from 1995.
While many factors have influenced the dramatic percentage rise, Dr. Shaver, as well as other psychologists, said that the reason people are changing their minds is because of the examples set by women in leadership positions.
“Whether it be journalists, ministers, politicians, or in any field, those examples really make a difference in how we view things,” Shaver said. “I don’t think you can see the oppression of women without taking into account race or ethnicity or religion or disability and I think it opens you up to all forms of oppression. Also, it just allows you to check your own views and helps you step into other perspectives that you’ve never thought about before.”
As the panel drew to a close and notebooks returned to their overstuffed backpacks, presenters were congratulated by colleagues and students on their valient research efforts on what women should do, can do and have done in history.
Exiting the space one by one, the glass surrounding room returned to its original, quiet state awaiting for next year’s panel to highlight a fresh batch of hardworking, glass ceiling shattering, historical female advocates and their perspective audience members ready to learn about them.