The Women’s Center discussed body image and gender dynamics in “A Necessary Movement: Open Forum Discussion,” on Tuesday in the Smith Student Center.
The small gathering allowed various attendees to offer their opinions, and receive feedback on them from others. These conversations leaned toward utilizing methods that would establish a stronger sense of gender equality on campus.
The group suggested that in order to improve society’s perception of women, people must restructure the inaccurate, misunderstood definition of feminism. This word is associated with a false stigma that women deserve superiority in comparison to her male counterparts.
“It has become such a taboo word and for that reason so many people are unwilling to associate themselves with it,” said sophomore biology major Gracen Shidemantle. “People, both men and women, don’t understand its true meaning. That’s why it is so important that we have these programs on campus to get the word out.”
Freshman social work major Valerie Pearson said that she thinks respect can go a long way in improving gender inequality.
“Men should respect women, women should respect men, men should respect men, and women should respect women. Both men and women should respect a person for who they are as a person and not for the gender to which they belong,” Pearson said.
Director of the Women’s Center and Pride Center, Jodi Solito, emphasized that the lack of identity is the primary issue with women today.
“Women struggle with a sense of identity, of really knowing who they are at a basal level,” Solito said. “Girls are taught that their worth is based mainly on extrinsic factors, how they look, dress, and behave. As girls mature, society places even more emphasis on attractiveness and beauty. The media only reinforces this.”
On the topic of women’s self-worth, the group talked about health and wellness, nutrition, women’s sports and body image. They also discussed how clothing could be used to show their self-worth, or compensate for a lack-thereof. A majority of women said that another woman may wear something scantily clad to boost her esteem due to lack of self-confidence.
“As a result, women, and even girls, concern themselves more with what’s on the outside and less about who they truly are,” Solito said. “The desire to be accepted by society at large and by one’s peers can contribute to making judgments and decisions based on being accepted by others rather than being true to oneself. The desire to ‘fit in’ can take priority over one’s values and morals.”
Shidemantle said that a raised awareness of these issues could help reconstruct the way we see each other as women, and the way we see feminism.
There was a consensus among the women at the event that gender disparity is present not only throughout Slippery Rock University, but serves as a worldwide hindrance. The group discussed how college students are the upcoming employers, key politicians and public influencers that will create a positive or negative impact internationally.
“I think we can improve the issue of gender inequality on campus and in the community by standing up for ourselves and others when we are faced with discrimination,” Shidemantle said. “Remaining silent will solve nothing. We have to show that this issue is important and needs to be addressed.”
Solito said, “The mission of the Women’s Center is to redress gender inequity through educational programming focused on empowerment and advocacy. All of our programming is driven by that mission.”