After a two-year hiatus, Women’s Week is back and better than ever. This year’s theme is “We can do anything,” a celebration of the varied experiences and interests of women on campus.
Sometimes it’s easy to sweep sexism under the rug. Sometimes it’s easy to see it as a problem that exists elsewhere — not on college campuses, and certainly not at a place as progressive as Penn. Looking at the inspiring and accomplished women on Penn’s campus, it may be easy to be complacent about women’s issues.
Women’s Week is a reminder that feminism is not a thing of the past. While of course great strides in gender equality have been made, there are still issues to be addressed and work to be done.
This year, Emma Sulkowicz carried the weight of her 50-pound mattress around Columbia University, sparking corresponding movements across college campuses. Here at Penn, women still make up only 33 percent of the incoming Engineering class every year. This year’s commencement speaker will be one of three female speakers in 20 years. These are just examples of a larger national conversation about gender equity in higher education.
The need for feminism — active, inclusive and unapologetic feminism — is greater than ever. This is why the Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women and our constituents decided to organize a Women’s Week that both celebrates and reflects on the female experience.
Women’s Week is a time to pause and examine the widespread narrative of progress. It’s a time to bring feminism to the individual level and hear personal narratives. We want Women’s Week to showcase the ways in which women on campus have made strides, while uniting them in dialogue about ongoing struggles.
Monday’s Activities Fair showcased the diversity of our constituents’ interests. The rest of the week digs deeper into a range of women’s issues. Tuesday centers on body image and women’s health issues. Wednesday is on women in the professional world, with panels hosted by groups like Penn Women’s Biomedical Society and Smart Woman Securities, who strive to empower women in male-dominated fields. Thursday furthers the conversation with a discussion on all types of sisterhood, ranging from Greek life to solidarity between cis and non-cis women. Friday afternoon offers opportunities to talk about the role of women in religious communities, while Friday evening is the annual Vagina Monologues show. Excitingly, Saturday rounds off the week with the keynote speaker, Jessica Williams, the beloved correspondent from “The Daily Show.”
But we don’t want to get too lost in our excitement. This column is an acknowledgement that Women’s Week is one step of a longer journey.
This year’s theme is “We can do anything.” But for many women on campus, such a line is more aspirational than true. The ability to “do anything” is not always in the realm of possibility, especially for those whose stories have yet to be heard.
One week isn’t enough. There are stories missing and voices silenced in Penn’s feminist community. Poor women, transgender women, queer women, women of color — how many of our feminist conversations revolve around these groups? In encouraging sex positivity in women, have we excluded those who don’t identify with such a movement?
How can we build a feminism that works to elevate, never alienate?
For that, we need your help. Go to Women’s Week. Attend one event or all of them. Take a moment to step out of your comfort zone and be a part of a larger movement.
Most importantly, join the conversation. Tell us what’s missing. Share your stories as you hear ours. Together, we’ll make feminism what it should be — active, inclusive and unapologetic.
JULIA SLATER is a College sophomore from Burbank, Calif., studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the co-programming chair for PCUW.
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