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National Women’s History Month promotes feminism and gender equality

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This week is the conclusion to a month-long promotion by the Women’s Center to remind students of the struggle that women have gone through for years. March has been designated as “Women’s History Month,” in which the Women’s Center has been providing students with a variety of speakers, films and discussions about the strength, resilience and determination of historical female icons.

The month kicked off with a film screening of “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” The film highlights the women who founded the modern women’s movement from 1966 to 1971. From women in hats and gloves to the emergence of the street theatrics of women’s liberation groups, the film dramatizes the decades-long fight for equality.

With all of the work that has gone into planning this month, the faculty at the center are hoping that students take away an understanding of the importance of gender equality. Women’s Center Director Jane Olsen is happy with the response they’ve received from students and community members so far.

“We’ve had really good turn outs for the events that we’ve been doing,” Olsen said. “People are really surprised when they hear about the struggles that women have gone through.”

Through institutional advocacy and strategic media presentations, the Women’s Center hopes to change the way people see feminists and gender equality activists. Addressing issues like sexual assault, body image, domestic violence and rape are just a few steps in the center’s long history of activism. While this month has been filled with female empowerment, it’s a mere testament to the decades of work that the center has put in to teaching the community about gender equality.

The Women’s Center’s mission statement is: “With passion and purpose to advance women and support gender equality, the Women’s Center promotes a safe, inclusive and engaged community through advocacy, education, alliance-building and women’s leadership.”

Their goal is to not only be place of support and advice, but a place of community awareness outreach and involvement.

Assistant Director Lee LaDue hopes that students will take what they see from the presentations shown and become activists for women’s rights.

“[Feminism] has such a negative connotation, because people have these assumptions that feminists are man-haters,” LaDue said. “It’s as simple as wanting equality.”

LaDue is also the coordinator of the Gender Violence Prevention Program. She looks forward to April when she will begin directing events for National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Having a month devoted to this issue is to help educate communities and individuals about strategies to prevent sexual assault.

“It’s a difficult balance between victim blaming and risk management,” LaDue said. “We really want to show women their options and to show them that they aren’t alone.”

As students look forward to another awareness month, the Women’s Center gets ready to host another presentation from female activist Alexandra Tweten, creator of viral Instagram account @ByeFelipe.

She will be talking to students on Thursday about the problems surrounding online harassment of women. Olsen and LaDue look forward to continuing their work in activism. As they struggle to help students change the way the world sees feminists, they reflect on all of the progress that’s been made in the name of gender equality.

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