By Anamika Dutta
Although the College of the Holy Cross offers rigorous and exceptional academics, dedicated professors, and a variety of sports and clubs, the campus body appears relatively politically inactive. There is not as much discussion about current affairs as perhaps there should be, as both domestic and foreign issues affect our own Holy Cross students. With a particularly tumultuous election season that brought several issues into the limelight, especially women’s issues, it is important now more than ever to speak out against injustice and work towards equality for all Americans. Women’s Forum at Holy Cross works to encourage discussion among both men and women to raise awareness of gender issues, both on campus and nationwide.
Dialogue on issues pertaining to gender are not often brought up on campus. Sometimes, it even feels like a touchy subject to bring up among friend groups, especially if our friends do not share the same outlook as us. However, Women’s Forum is an incredibly important campus organization that brings this subject to light in a productive and supportive environment. Co-Chair of Women’s Forum Mithra Salmassi ‘19 highlights the goal of the organization: “Our ultimate goal is to educate others on the importance of dissembling socially constructed notions of gender. We want to create a safe environment for anyone who wants to talk about how gender stereotypes and discrimination have affected their lives and how we can move forward as a society.” We have grown up with certain gender stereotypes embedded into our minds. Even in recent months, shelves with exploration and science magazines targeted towards young boys versus fashion trends and dating advice magazines targeted towards young girls are noticeable in stores. Although we may not intentionally take note of these stereotypes as children, they still exist subconsciously within the backs of our minds. We all have varying experiences of subtle or overt sexism, or perhaps we have seen it happen to a friend of ours, and Women’s Forum creates an environment where our members feel encouraged to speak their minds and learn from each other.
Discussions of the Women’s’ Marches, the portrayal of women in the media, gender discrimination in the workforce, work-life balance, rape culture, and gender in sports, are just some of the topics brought up at weekly meetings. E-Board member Alex Smith ‘18 shares her perspective on the weekly discussions: “I think we do a really awesome job working with people who already really care about social justice issues and also encouraging new people to stop by meetings even if they have never thought about these types of issues before. We also work hard to address issues of intersectionality to create a safe community where people can go and air their concerns without judgment.” The variety of issues discussed at meetings goes to show the strong impact gender stereotypes have on everyday life—we see it when we go on Instagram and come across accounts objectifying women’s bodies, in the workplace when women in positions of authority are labeled “bossy” or “cold,” or when a woman’s clothing or blood alcohol content are still considered societal justifications for being raped. Despite a society still omnipresent with instances of sexism and constructed notions of gender, Women’s Forum creates a sense of hope amongst its members that we can overcome any obstacles we face when continuing the fight to shatter the glass ceiling.