Women’s Center reopens to discussion of gender barriers

By Justin Kozloski ’14Editor-in-Chief

The Alice Drum Women’s Center held its first discussion of the semester on Friday, after extensive renovations were made to the space to better facilitate the mission of the Women’s Center.

The discussion was based on the concept of breaking gender barriers, employing gendered resources, and defining how people personally view their concept of personal excellence.

The discussion opened with words from Mikaela Luttrell-Rowland, adjunct assistant professor of women and gender studies and the director of the Women’s Center, welcoming all the participants to the new Center for the inaugural discussion.

“This is a really exciting day to be with you for our first meeting in this new space,” Luttrell-Rowland said. “I am so, so grateful that we are all together.”

After the opening remarks about the new space, Luttrell-Rowland introduced the keynote speaker for the discussion, whose personal experience would be the groundwork for the group dialogue. This dialogue formed the majority of the discussion.

“As we set ourselves up for the year, I could not imagine a better person than Mariah Zeisberg,” Luttrell-Rowland said.

Zeisberg is a political scientist who recently published her latest book, War Powers: The Politics of Constitutional Authority, which discusses the legalities of America staging the armed interventions of the past few decades.

However, it was not her book but more her experience as a woman in the field of political science that was the focus of the discussion. Zeisberg began by illustrating the barriers that women in the field of the political sciences face and how few women are actually able to enter the field.

“It has gotten to the point that even at conferences for my own book; the room is filled with all men, which I find very confusing,” Zeisberg said.

The conversation used this example of gender barriers to move into a wider discussion of how gender barriers exist and how they limit and create opportunities for individuals that shape their individual view of their personal excellence.

Zeisberg illustrated this concept by describing her experience as a first-generation college student at Princeton University.

At Princeton, Zeisberg suffered from, what she later learned is called, imposter syndrome. This syndrome occurs when people are at an institution where they are not of the privileged majority and thus become overwhelmed by feelings of separation and isolation, according to Zeisberg.

While Zeisberg contended that at times this syndrome was horrible for her, she also explained that this barrier allowed her to make high-risk, high-reward decisions because she felt no sense of danger in losing something because it felt distant to her anyway. In this way, the barrier became a resource and allowed her to craft a new definition of excellence for herself.

Once Zeisberg outlined her three main ideas about gender barriers, gender resources, and definitions of excellence, the discussion broke into small groups of four to allow all the members of the discussion to engage with one another on their own personal experiences relating to these three issues.

This is where the new design of the Center came into play; discussions in the Women’s Center are now staged into two circles within the open space, it was easy for groups to form, and the dialogue began very quickly.

While group discussions took up a large portion of the overall discussion time, the talk was wrapped up by coming back together and sharing and expounding upon the ideas of different groups.

These ideas ranged from the perception of feminism and what a true feminist is compared to the stigmatized view of feminists, to the role of the Greek system on gender perceptions, and closed on the idea of gendered perspectives within the classroom.

The format of the discussion, as well as the participants and the new space, ensured that everyone was engaged and active in the conversation, which promises to be a continued feature of the Women’s Center discussions.

Senior Justin Kozloski is the Editor-in-Chief. His email is jkozlosk@fandm.edu.

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