What does it mean to be a feminist today, and why are young people so averse to the label?
These questions and more were discussed on Tuesday, February 2, when a panel of Fairfield professors was invited to discuss and debate women’s issues and questions of gender in today’s society. In keeping with the theme of equality, the panel was thoughtfully arranged to have an equal number of male and female professors.
The panel included:
- Fr. James M. Bowler, S.J., University Facilitator, Catholic and Jesuit Mission and Identity
- Dr. David Crawford, Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology
- Dr. Nancy A. Dallavalle, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
- Mr. William Johnson, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Student Diversity Programs
- Dr. Emily Orlando, Visiting Assistant Professor of English
- Dr. Ellen M. Umansky, Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies
This event, along with the visit the following week by feminist writer Jessica Valenti, was organized by Tara Hurley ’10, a double major in international business and management. Spurred by her desire to have Valenti speak on Fairfield’s campus, Hurley consulted with Dr. Renee White, professor of sociology, who encouraged her to collaborate with the Women’s Studies Department to write a Humanities Institute grant to sponsor the lecture. “It all snowballed from there and we ended up getting Ms. Valenti to come,” explains Hurley. “This panel was organized to introduce the idea of feminism to students before her visit.”
The panel opened up with some questions from Hurley, and then the audience was allowed to jump in with their own questions. A surprising number of students showed up, signaling that despite our generations’ seeming discomfort with the ‘f’ word, we are still interested in fighting the gender stereotypes.
When asked how she thought the panel discussion went, Hurley was enthusiastic. “I can’t believe how many people showed up,” she said. “We had like 30 or 40 students. It’s great. This event was designed to make feminism not seem like such a dirty word because people are so weird about it now. And I think tonight was successful.”
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