A focus on solving issues highlights 2nd annual International Women’s Day

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Official poster promoting the International Women’s Day event. Picture by Norwich University

 

Nicole Navarro, a 21-year old political science major from San Antonio, Texas, has a passion for public speaking. With the Norwich University campus being 78.5 percent male and only 21.5 percent female, she found women were often underrepresented.

Speaking up on issues of concern to women is where Navarro found her voice.

“It is important to highlight existing and future issues that they face,” Navarro said.

One of the earliest known steps towards women’s equality was written in 1777 by the first lady of the United States of America. Women “will not hold ourselves bound to any law by which we have no voice,” said former first lady Abigail Smith Adams.

Adams’ words marked the beginning of a fight for women’s equality that continues through 2019, where women like Navarro still step up and carry on a legacy of strong women’s voices in the United States.

Navarro, along with many others, worked together to create the second annual production of Norwich Voices for International Women’s Day, an event that will take place Thursday, Feb. 28 in Mack Auditorium.

“I was honored to receive the student producer position for the event this year and be able to have so many students willing to share stories on this issue,” Navarro said.

Navarro’s goal for the Norwich Voices for International Women’s Day is not only to spread awareness and give women a voice, but to solve the daily issues women face on campus.

“I want to help build a platform for anyone on campus facing these types of issues to be able to voice their opinion and advocate for change, because this event may be the only time we actually can,” Navarro said.

Women are not the only ones who recognize the need for change in today’s society. Assistant theater professor Jeffry Casey, who helped coordinate and produce Norwich Voices for International Women’s Day, is open about his support for women on campus and in society.

“We talk a lot about leadership at this school. These are women taking the lead on women’s issues on this campus in a way that is all about them supporting one another and finding room for their own voices. That is leadership that is really unique and powerful,” Casey said.

“This is a student-driven event. I organize it and do a lot of the producing, but when we go into the meetings, I try to put it into their hands,” Casey said. “I think the students involved believe it is not just important, but it is necessary to provide them with this sort of venue.

“We are doing great work now, especially with Matt Roche here and Title IX expanding places for us to talk about these issues in dynamic ways,” he said.

Norwich Voices for International Women’s Day is a spoken word event with women who are getting the opportunity to work in a fairly professionalized way before as many people who can fit into the auditorium. Navarro is hoping to double the attendance of last year to about 100 people.

There are six speakers planned for the event, as opposed to last year’s four.

“The idea of including more people in the conversation is really important,” Casey said.

Pulling tough topics into the public eye is important for the event. Last year, some of the best responses were older women who were touched to see younger women taking on that responsibility. In turn, it was a validating experience for the younger women, Casey explained.

“Often older feminists sometimes don’t get what younger women are doing, and don’t always appreciate that they are navigating these issues, and taking leadership positions in their own way. This event allowed these two generations of women to see each other in a new light,” Casey said.

One major misconception about feminist events is that it becomes a “man-hating” party. However, Casey argues that is not the case, and in fact men are welcomed to the event.

“There is no way to build a future for women without involving men in the conversation, so we do want men,” Casey said. “The women are completely comfortable with guys participating.”

In fact, Navarro explained that while this misconception is expected, this is a chance for women to speak up. Men can actually benefit from listening.

“They are asking men to step up. They need men to be allies,” Casey said.

That is not always the case among the large male presence on campus. Trevor Bruno, a 19-year old mathematics major from Blandford, Mass., doesn’t think women are seen as completely equal at Norwich.

“Sadly, no I do not think women are seen as equal on this campus as much as you would like to say. Academically women are completely equal, but you still see at parties and gatherings the divide,” Bruno said.

“It’s a big cultural thing right now to stop viewing relationships with women as just physical things, they can be platonic as well.” Bruno said. “Having trouble seeing stuff like that is what stops men from seeing women as equal.”

It was not until 1984 that America saw its first female candidate for vice president, and in 2019 America has yet to see a female vice president in power.

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A collage of students participating in the inaugural Norwich Voices for International Women’s Day event last year. Photo by Norwich University

“You have to have that mutual respect in order to see people grow equally like socially, and in terms of academically and positions of power,” Bruno said. “And to have that mutual respect is really important to be able to envision them to grow in the same way you would want your best friend to grow.”

Bruno explained that he thought that more educated and mature men will step up in support of women.

“International Women’s Day (March 8) is to honor the achievements of women all over the world. (The goal is to) recognize the struggles and their achievements.” Casey said.

Dylan O’Brien, a 22-year old political science major from Weymouth, Mass., explained that International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate, rather than worry about the misconception of “man-hating.”

“Hopefully we can turn around that stigma into something positive,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien and other males on campus speak about International Women’s Day as a positive thing. Air Force Colonel Matthew Smith explained it was about giving women recognition.

“To me, it’s more so recognizing what women have done in the past that may have gone unnoticed and also recognizing the potential and the capabilities and what it is that women will do in the future,” Smith said.

As the Norwich University campus celebrates International Women’s Day on Feb. 28, Casey hopes that the outcome of the event will create new conversations on campus as the university moves towards the future.

“Hopefully it creates conversations that people can carry back to the dorms and to the community that will enable them to better explain where they are coming from and get the recognition and respect they deserve on this campus,” Casey said.

According to Navarro, the tradition of Norwich Voices for International Women’s day needs to be carried on.

“I think it is important to continue this event in particular because it has served some type of justice and takes a step forward to be able to combat certain issues,” Navarro said.

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