Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Life After Letters

I had never saw myself joining a sorority. It was never even an option in my head. When I was incoming freshman at Ramapo, I had the same ideas about Greek life that many others had. I thought Greek Life was only for people who want to party and participate in other forms of debauchery. Now that I have become part of Greek Life, my perception of the scope of what Greek Life is and what it can be has completely changed.  I now understand that for many people, their organizations is one of their main creative outlets and ways that they contribute positively to the world. I have learned that each organization stands for something different, and that it is not some strange homogeneous sea of letters and people. In essence, I have stopped stereotyping Greek Life and those who are a part of it.

Unfortunately, my vision of what Greek Life was is not some sort of fluke. The reputation of Greek Life across the country is not the best. Although is varies from campus to campus, there are still many prevailing stereotypes and misunderstandings nationwide. Now that I am one of the people who wear letters, I recognize how harmful those stereotypes can be. I do not want to be judged the same way that I myself have judged others. I want to be given a fair chance, because if given one, I can confidently demonstrate the unlimited beauty and potential of my organization.

This is not to say that all Greeks are angels. There are challenges in Greek life, especially the divide between what people call the "mainstream" and the "cultural" Greeks. There is still in many places a culture of partying, hazing, and other illegal activities.  It is not my intention to encourage people to turn a blind eye to the problems within the Greek community. My intention is to encourage people to look at the entire scope of Greek Life, instead of only focusing on the negative stereotypes or stories told.

Next time you see a bunch of letters, instead of thinking keg-stand, go up and ask that person what their organization stands for; what they say may surprise you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Diversity Convocation with Shane Windmeyer!

Yesterday, after originally being cancelled due to snow, Ramapo held the Diversity Convocation with guest speaker Shane Windmeyer. Shane is a national leader in gay and lesbian civil rights and a champion for LGBT issues on college campuses AS WELL AS cofounder and executive director of Campus Pride. Campus Pride works toward creating safer environments for LGBT students on college campuses by advocating, educating, supporting, and providing resources

Shane spoke to an audience consisting of faculty, staff, and students about LGBT issues that plague college campuses today. He spoke about what he felt were Ramapo's strong points and things that could also be improved upon (*ahem* gender neutral bathrooms and LGBT recruitment efforts!) but I left the room with so much more than that- I left feeling inspired, hopeful, and motivated.
As an LGBT identified college student, it was an amazing opportunity to hear Shane speak and bring light to these important issues to the broader campus community. Discussing why it's important to have support for LGBT students (as there are higher suicide rates, higher rates of bullying, and higher rates of substance abuse in the LGBT community) as well as how we can achieve that support as an institution was both empowering and enlightening. He captured the attention of everybody in the room and created such a buzz of positive energy.

Not only that, but I got the opportunity to meet him personally and chat with him. It was a wonderful experience and I am so fortunate to have been a part of it!

Thank you Shane for coming to Ramapo and being such an amazing and inspiring leader!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Are Cellphones killing our social skills?

 Alright, let's look at topic that relates to 99% of us: using our cellphones. We do it nearly non-stop, all day, every day. These little electronic wonder machines have basically become an extension of ourselves, an integral part of our lives. I mean when we lose them; we basically start reacting like Gollum from "Lord of The Rings" (AKA having a panic attack and attacking people around us, especially those filthy Hobbits!). So looking as this objectively, I think it's safe to say we developed a bit of an obsession with our cell phones. But the real question is, are our cell phones hurting out social skills? 

(I assume you've already stopped reading this blog post, and gone back to checking your texts by now...)

I know I know, it must be unthinkable to think that our precious cellphones are actually hurting our ability to connect with other people. You might say something like:

"James, you simpleton, with my cellphone I can stay connected with all my friends, no matter how far away they are! That's total social connectivity! I'm so rad!"

(This is totally your face right now, I'm 100% sure of it.)

While I admit that cellphones do let us stay connected with people all over, I'm going to argue that they're actually killing our face-to-face social skills. All this digital interaction, especially texting, is slowly but surely removing our ability to communicate in real life. We're becoming this generation that is far more comfortable with communication taking place from behind a screen, and not in person. Texting is removed and impersonal, which makes it far easier to deliver communication that we might not feel comfortable saying in person. 

How many times have you met a person that sounds completely different over text than they do in person? Usually, they're much quieter, maybe even completely different in person than they are over the phone. This comes from the fact that texting imbues us with a false sense of confidence that we don't have in person. The fact that we don't have to actually see or react to the human being we're communicating with is removing our actual feelings from conversations. It's making us cold and removed, while simultaneously breaking down our ability to converse in person.

"You mean I can't say 'LOL S0RRY L0SER' in real life?!"

A perfect example of this is the "break-up" text; a brand new type of terrible interaction that has appeared with our new generation. Look, breaking up with some one on a phone call is already bad enough, but doing it over TEXT?! It confounds me that people can actually do that to a person they supposedly "cared about". But because it's so much easier to send a damaging message from behind a screen, it has now become relatively common place. People would rather deal with it through digital key-strokes than have to actually face the distress they're about to put their ex-partner through. 

We're forgetting how to deliver important news in person, since we feel safer doing it from behind a screen. It's no surprise that cyber-bullying is on the rise since it's SO much easier to put somebody down when you don't have to actually look them in the face. Think about how many times somebody has said something to you that you KNOW they would never actually say in person. This is NOT a good trait for a whole generation to develop.

(I know, I know, talking to real people is difficult and scary, but still...)

Now look, I admit that I am JUST as guilty of this as anybody else. I've done it all: Avoided people at school so I could text them later, said stuff I'd never say in person, all that jazz. I'm not proud of it, but hey, I'm sure none of us really are.

 I just think that collectively we should take steps towards becoming more personal with the people in our lives again. Drop the cellphones for a bit, take a minute to appreciate the people and things around us, and get back to the real world. No more texting through dinner dates (another huge pet peeve), no more just constantly staring at our screens when walking around campus, none of that. I have no hate for cellphones, I think they're wonderful things; but they shouldn't be consuming so much of our lives. 

So let's take a step back from all our cyber handhelds, and put a little more human personality into our interactions, ok?


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Feels of Sound

Isn't music just great? Doesn't everyone think we should just have music playing everywhere we go whether it's to work, school, to bed, in the shower, on the toilet? Maybe that last one is going a little too far, but you get the point. I have music intertwined in my veins since I was a wee little sprout - it runs in my family heavily. My mother is a dancer, my father is a percussionist, my brother is a dancer and I am also a musician, (more of a side thing now), but it still thrives in my clan. I cannot go without a day of listening to music, I feel like it just throws me all off wack. When i'm studying, surfing the web, bored out of my mind, I need to listen to music. Even as I am writing this post I have music playing in the background from my Spotify account.
Now some people may think it is distracting and causes them to lose focus, but I am the complete opposite. I have more trouble focusing on tasks without music playing around me. It's not so much of a specific genre either, just as long as I feel it and can appreciate the instrumentation of it, I can listen to almost anything. I remember an English class I took in high school, we read an article about the different types of musical planes people listen to music on. In other words, there are different reasons why people listen to music. One was called the 'lyrical plane' which is listening based on the words of a song and/or there is some sort of connection being made with the lyrics of the song to the person hearing it. The one that I relate to the most, is called the 'sheerly musical' plane; it involves listening to music just for the purpose of listening to sounds and how the instrumentation of a song is put together.
Music also influences your emotions and what mood you are in or desire to be in. If you are in a romantic mood or are feeling really in tact with your affectionate side, then slow ballads or R&B music would typically be the genre chosen. If you're feeling enraged or just enthralled with energy, than up tempo Rock music might be suitable for that emotion, and if you're feeling inspired and empowered, than something along the lines of gospel or something that is uplifting like "Eye Of The Tiger" or "The World's Greatest" by R Kelly. You're probably wondering where am I going with all of this, but I really just wanted to talk about how great music is. It can be used to heal, to brainstorm, to calm, to excite, to inspire, to sadden - the list goes on. I really give my hat off to the individuals who create music for the world and give us another outlet to free ourselves, even if it's just for a few minutes.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"You're Ornamental, Not Functional"

Marissa brought this mother of all insults to my attention today--she heard it on the television show "Scandal." We discussed the serious implications of what it would mean to say this to a person. You would literally be invalidating their inner value. As intense as that sounds (and is), the reason this quote came up was because we were talking about how unfortunately un-functional women's clothing can be.

Let's start with the most illogical aspect of women's clothing, especially when compared to men's clothing: SIZING! Men's pants are sized based on two numbers: the measurement of your waist and the length of your leg. When both of these measurements are used, relatively accurate sizes are available for purchase. With that in mind, what is someone supposed to do with a size like "8." What does that even mean?! Not only does the number signify nothing in relationship to actual body size, but sizes are anything but consistent across the many different brands of clothing.

Another infuriatingly un-functional accessory that some women use are belts. While there are belts that do hold your pants up, and some of these belts even manage to look pretty, there are far too many belts out there that you buy under the impression that they will work, only to discover they are flimsy bits of decorative fabric. They seem fine at first, and then reveal their true identity at the most inopportune time as your pants start falling down during an important meeting.

Next, we look to the gloriously popular yet sometimes completely unnecessary high heel. To disfigure your foot and occasionally put yourself through intense pain to wear these shoes makes no sense to me. It is especially ridiculous when creative designers outfit superheroes with high heels. How can one fight crime effectively when one can hardly walk?

And last, but certainly not least, is one of the most infuriating aspects of women's clothing: the tiny and sometimes entirely fake pockets. This particular subject is a touchy one for me, and I honestly don't think it even deserves my attention. This comic pretty much sums it up:

Following all these rants about relatively un-functional aspects of women's clothing, I'd like to be sure to state that every person has the right to present themselves however they choose, and this includes clothing. The issue I take with these garments is not that they exist and most certainly not with the people who choose to wear them, but rather with the expectation that all women should make these garment choices, to the point at which alternative clothing options are not available. If you want to wear an ornamental belt, then great! I'd just like clothing lines to recognize my need for a functioning one as well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Live Journal: Self-Care and Activist Burnout

I’ve always been keen on picking up on subtleties, like everyday heteronormative occurrences and microaggressions, but I swear there’s a sixth sense for it — and all social justice advocates have it.

It often feels like it kicks into overdrive, and sometimes, it makes me feel like I’m burning out. I love a good, intellectual discussion on the classist social system that continues to oppress women and people of color as much as the next person, but it can be a little emotionally triggering sometimes.

Many people come into their activism as a result of trauma or challenging life experiences, and that is exactly why self-care is essential in this line of work. As I am slowly learning, prioritizing yourself and your needs goes a long way as a part of the larger activist movement. When feminists take the time to recharge and rejuvenate, they are better equipped to tear down and tackle complex social issues.

After attending my first two national and regional social justice-y conferences last year, I felt ready to take on the patriarchal society. I couldn’t wait to riot and campaign in hopes of inciting social change and enlightening a whole new generation of future feminists. I had finally found a place, a place where a young queer woman of color like myself could fit in, and I was going to do whatever it took to make my voice heard.

I had taken the red pill and I was hooked. I was learning new things every day and I wanted more. My mind was expanding and my hunger for more did, too. I read so many feminist blogs and books than I could even wrap my mind around.

Vividly, I remember one of my mentors saying to me, “As an activist, you have to remember to take care of yourself or you’ll burn out too quickly.” At that point, I thought, how on earth could that happen? Social justice is my jam.

Fast forward a year and my activism is still as powerful and fulfilling as ever, but I find myself needing to take some days to binge-watch Netflix just to keep me from feeling like I’ve hit a wall. I get physically and emotionally drained at the single thought of explaining social justice issues to other people, but that it OK.

My newfound appreciation for self-care has helped me:
- Learn to say no when I am in way over my head.
- Stop feeling guilty for not educating everyone.
- Appreciate hanging out with my activist friends without talking about activism.  
Now, this list can be edited and re-edited a million times and is nowhere near finished, but it’s a good start. I’ve found that in order for me to advocate for other people, I need to take care of myself first.

Until next time,


Monday, April 7, 2014

Feminism, Rape Culture, and One Misinformed Youtube Vlog

Once again, we discover another form of media discussing a rather touchy and controversial topic; this time in the form of a YouTube video. So the young woman in the video, “Declare War on Feminism: The Body, Sex & Rape”, makes some valid points concerning the ideals of what she refers to as “modern western feminism”. However, this young lady also seems to be rather misinformed about the true nature of feminism, and consequently makes invalid and inappropriate generalizations.
She begins with a very idealistic idea – that real women’s issues are not really women’s issues, but human issues. And that’s a nice sentiment, but unfortunately, the world we live in doesn’t seem to understand nor accept idealistic notions. We have to separate ideas in order for the general public to understand what we want to say. She goes on to discuss the objectification of both men and women – which absolutely exists in our society. Point for YouTube woman. But, when prompted with a question of why women are objectified more, she simply says “Women are more beautiful”. Really? That sounds like an opinion, rather than a statement of fact. Plenty of people would not agree with that – personally, I think the word ‘beautiful’ is super subjective, and it means something different to each and every person. How can she make a blanket statement like that and expect it to be valid in itself? She also says, “Looking perfect is something that’s driven by women themselves”, and says that the media simply engages that. To an extent, I can agree. But, it’s vicious circle phenomenon –what came first, women wanting to be perfectly beautiful or the media advocating it? What came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s an age-old question that can’t be answered – all we know is that they both exist and they have this cyclical relationship. I couldn’t tell you the root of the problem, but I know that we would have to change how the media portrays both men and women (because men also have an ideal they “must” live up to as well), and learn how to find inner peace to accept ourselves the way we are.
Rape. “Rape is a horrible, violent act that destroys the spirit of the individual it’s perpetrated against”. I have paraphrased that a little bit, but that’s the gist of how the young woman defines rape. I think that’s an appropriate definition that is simple enough for everyone to understand. She only discusses male on female rape, which is fine, but know that anybody is capable of raping anybody, regardless of gender.  She says rape is when a female is coerced, forced, drugged, intentionally intoxicated by a male into having sex. That’s a pretty complete definition, so I think she at least understands the basic idea of rape. However, she discusses what happens if both parties are drunk – they were having fun, and then one of them, (in her case she says the female), feels dirty in the morning. Is it rape? She doesn’t think so, and personally, I don’t even know for sure. I can understand gray areas concerning this type of situation. But, she derails her own opinions on rape when she claims there is no rape culture. She might have a different idea of what a rape culture is, because she believes a rape culture exists in Africa and the Middle East. I don’t know what she means by this, because she doesn’t explain herself. The problem is, she isn’t very clear when she talks about this issue – does she mean physical rape happens more in those areas? I don’t know, and she doesn’t elaborate on the matter. She also says rape, like other crimes, is on the decline in the western world, and claims that the 1 in 3 women being raped statistic is incorrect. Once again, we have no idea where she is getting her information from, and if those sources are valid. Statistics can be very tricky in that they can be worded or shown to make people see a different truth than the real one. Basically, this young woman has strong opinions on feminist issues but doesn’t let us in on where she gathered her information, thereby making a lot of her statements less viable as truthful. It’s not like I think she’s making stuff up, but I don’t believe much of what she says due to the lack of concrete evidence.
I want to go back to an idea that underlies the whole video – the issues she discusses are the issues feminists care about. First of all, not all feminists are women, which she seems to neglect in her video. Also, there are as many types of feminists as there are people. Feminism is another one of those terms that has lost its true meaning over time, and now means something different to each and every person. Maybe feminism doesn’t even have one true single meaning – maybe that’s a generalization in itself. Personally, I’d like to think and I believe that feminism is true equality for both genders, to the point where gender is not the first thing that comes to mind when applying for a job, having certain hobbies, behaving in one way or another, and when engaging in other societal activities.  Many different types of feminists focus on different issues – yes some feminists value the issue of looking perfect, some value the issue of objectification, and some value doubles standards concerning sex and the body. Some feminists value all of these and more. It’s hard to generalize an issue that the general public may or may not completely understand.
            I think her real issue with feminism is that to her, it doesn’t seem to deal with hands- on issues, and focuses on complaining about society. I can see why she believes that – it does seem like certain groups of feminists do a lot of whining. This young woman wants to be pro-active in stopping things like rape: no male guards at female prisons, arm women with guns (I don’t agree and think that men should be taught not to rape instead of having this violent tension between the genders), empowering women in third world countries where rape is rampant, and more. She even calls out angry bloggers for blogging about these issues, instead of doing something like volunteering at a women’s shelter. Oh, the irony. Here I am, semi-angrily (and I wouldn’t even say that angry at all) blogging in response to her about these issues, when maybe I should be doing something more pro-active. But, this is where I disagree with her. So physically, right at this very moment, I can’t be at a women’s shelter, or promoting legislation to remove male guards from female guards, etc. This is a technologically-inclined society- I’m going to use the internet as a resource to spread the word about issues I feel passionate about. Then, when I have available time, I will do something more tangible about it – because I care, and there are various ways to demonstrate that, including the internet, physical volunteering, or just even talking about it.

Guest Contributor: Theresa Mcguinness