Monday, May 12, 2008

This is What a Feminist Looks Like

Someone asked me recently where I felt the energy was on Shenandoah University campus... well there's a lot of energy to choose from, but notable this semester was Dr. Amy Sarch Schopick's Women's Studies classes. She's pulling in young men and women from all corners of the campus. Together Amy and her students are breaking taboos, enlightening the community and doing amazing interactive projects to empower and to heal.

One of the many creative projects was the "Break the Glass, Break the Silence" event where more than 40 people gathered to write messages against violence on pieces of glass and then threw them from a ladder, shattering below. The shards are being incorporated into mosaics.

These classes have had a stunning impact on the students and those around them. One student's mother told me her daughter took over the family Easter table in her eagerness to share all that she was learning.

"I had an awareness some sexual violence even against children was going on," said the mom, who is a retired elementary school teacher. "But this class has made it clear how deeply destructive the issues are."

A male student's writing further illustrates the impact. Here's what he sent to Amy at the end of the semester:

"When I first came into the class I could say I wasn't a feminist because I thought the whole thing was a joke just a class, but as I kept coming I started to see that I was....I had to change my mind on the whole feminist movement; I was rejecting it, not even trying to give it a chance, like girl I didn't like or something. But it started to grow on me, I started to see that it was more than just a word, people really had strong feelings about this stuff. ..."

He goes on to write about Betty Kilby Fisher, the character in the Wit, Will and Walls documentary who spoke to the class about her experiences with violence she experienced as a plaintiff to desegregate Warren County, VA schools in the 1950s.

"...the lady that came and told her story of how she was raped in school just broke me down and I wanted to snap. This lady seemed very sweet and nice and for someone to just take what's her without her giving it to them pissed me off. It felt like I knew her, like she was an aunt or grandmother of mine. That's when I really gained a new respect for the whole feminist movement. I feel like it's my duty to empower guys about feminism. It's been a many of day when I get out of class and go talk to my boys about what I learned in class... I feel I can help make a small change in my area where I live. So I'm proud to say I'm a feminist."

Photos Scott Mason, Winchester Star

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