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The 2011 Campus Climate Assessment indicates those least comfortable with the campus are minority groups. This includes individuals of color and members of the LGBTQ community, but it also includes women. The assessment also reveals those who experience the most harassment are women. Unfortunately, many women often feel responsible or guilty for being sexually assaulted or experiencing some degree of gender-based violence (dating violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and sexual violence). As we continue to further assess the Campus Climate, it is important to examine the prevalence of gender-based violence in our community, and equally as important to examine what our university in doing to in response to these incidents.

 

On January 8th, 2014, GVSU students, staff, and faculty received an email from Grand Valley Police Department Chief Renee Freeman. Many were rightfully upset by this email which engaged in victim-blaming through its disclosure of the prevalence of alcohol during the incident as well as the suggestion to practice “situational awareness,” as if had the victim/survivor been more careful, they would not have been assaulted. In response to this email, some students wrote letters to GVPD, others posted about it on social media, and some reached out to administrators to voice their concern. The Lanthorn published Student Senate member Anthony Clemons letter that criticized the email’s use of victim-blaming language. Unfortunately, there has yet to be any official follow-up on behalf of GVPD or the university as a whole.

 

As Women’s Center Ambassadors, we are students at GVSU who advocate for gender justice and engage in leadership through service and activism and are disappointed by the way our community has handled such a situation. Grand Valley is an institution that prides itself on education and teaching, and GVPD’s email clearly warrants some degree of sensitivity training, at the very least. Instead of using this email as an educational opportunity for the community as a whole, it appears university has tried to ignore the issue.

 

If traditionally and historically marginalized groups on campus are to feel safe, action needs to be taken so they do not feel that their voices are being silenced. We urge the entire GVSU community to respond to this incident so individuals who have faced similar experiences feel supported in coming forward with incidents of violence. Faculty and staff can also play an important role in this process by creating safe spaces for students to discuss their concerns. We must all become allies.

 

As Cornel West states: “justice is what love looks like in public”. While we believe the university cares about its students, its lack of response to the sexual assault email sends a very different message; the lack of transparency and urgency has not allowed those affected by this email to feel safe and supported.

 

This can and will change now.

 

As Lakers, it is our responsibility to ensure that our campus remains a bias-free, accepting, and safe environment for not only our peers, but for ourselves. GVSU needs to become a safe environment for students to express any and all concerns they may have, regardless of their identities. It is time for GVSU to efficiently and effectively provide support to each of its members, not only for the benefit and safety of the community, but for the progression in inclusion necessary for this institution.

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When we look to celebrities and music artists, we idolize everything about them. Their talent, their wealth, and their looks. But do we even think about the fact that most of these things that we idolize and admire about them aren’t even true? Celebrities get airbrushed, tucked in, slimmed down, and worst of all, rearranged. What we see in the magazines, every picture we see, every slim body, every thigh gap, every “toned” stomach does not exist. We say how “perfect” these people are, but they are just like you and me. They have imperfections, they have insecurities, and they have flaws. We need to STOP attempting to rearrange ourselves so that we can look like something that is not even close to being possible. Becoming Barbie is not physically possible, so eliminate that from your wish list, because that is not going to happen. We need to focus on being healthy, first mentally, then physically. We need to love every inch of our bodies, no matter what crease, crevasse, bump, dimple, flaw, or imperfection exists. Instead of looking for “thinspiration” from the women in the media, look for inspiration from a woman in your life that loves every part of herself, whether that is accepted in our society or not. Those are the leaders we as the next generation of women must turn to in times of hardship when we can’t stand to look at ourselves in the mirror because we wonder how could anyone think we are beautiful. You are beautiful. But not because of your “flat abs”, “thigh gap”, or “tight ass”. You are beautiful for the passion you carry, the strength in your heart, and the hope you hold in your hands for the future women of our world. We must stop holding each other to such high standards, and begin holding each other up to reach the potential we each have inside of us. That is true beauty, and that is something to idolize. 

-Ambassador K

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I do not think you realize what this body is capable of. I am not talking about what is on the outside. I am not talking about what this body is capable of looking like. I am not talking about what pleasure this body can bring YOU, or what harm you can bring to this body. I am not talking about how much pain this body can be put through, or how much humiliation can be brought upon it. This body is not for your pleasure; it is not here for you to take advantage of, or for you to display your crafty work on. This body produces life. This body brings pleasure to ME. This body is a work of art that is put through hell day in and day out. This body is truly a temple that is destroyed for the pleasure of every body it is surrounded by. This body is the vessel of life, something every person cherishes most, and is treated as if it is property, as if it can be tampered with, rearranged, controlled, destroyed, and damaged. One would think such a body with such a distinguished purpose would be treated with respect, with the utmost respect, in fact, but that is sadly not the case. This body is violated. This body is somehow empowering to someone other than the person who is in control of it. This body supplies people with pleasure that does not deserve to be felt. This body is taken advantage of and granted for. This body is constantly rearranged. This body is somehow WRONG. Like it had a say in the way it was created, the way it develops, the way it grows naturally. Expectations, ideas, stereotypes, standards, and assumptions tie a tight rope around this body, restricting it from living up to its full potential, to experiencing what it is meant to feel, and to look as it should. This body is not yours, hers, his, or theirs. This body is mine, given to me for a specific purpose. This body is more than meets the eye, and is capable of more than is expected. Though this body may look fragile and weak as it is expected to be, it is powerful and strong because of the fire that rests in it, waiting to add more flames. This body is more than meets YOUR eye. It is more than meets THEIRS. This body is mine. This body is mine, and I am taking it back as my own. 

-Ambassador K

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One out of every five women and one out of every fifteen men on my campus have reported being sexually assaulted during their time here. Chances are you didn’t know that. But Eyes Wide Open, a sexual assault peer education student organization, is aiming to bring that shocking statistic to the forefront of our community’s mind. And never has that mission been clearer than this past week.

   Throughout this past week, Eyes Wide Open has hosted our annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week. We have tabled for a total of 15 hours, hosted three events, and still have one big event yet to come. The first event we hosted was a public presentation regarding sexual assault, gender stereotypes, and the bystander effect. The very next day we hosted Sex Signals, a theatrical duo that uses both scripted and improvisational tactics to open the dialogue about the realities of sexual assault. We wrapped up our week with The Invisible War, a film screening about sexual assault in the United States military. Yet those events are no match for this Saturday’s Rock Against Rape. Co-hosted by Eyes Wide Open, Sigma Kappa sorority, and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, this event will host an 80s cover band and two slam poets as well as free pizza and beverages. This event aims to break the silence surrounding rape, sexual assault, and other forms of gender based violence.

    Some people question why a Sexual Assault Awareness Week is needed. Why a group of students work for months to pull off a week of events. And to those people, I say this. Sexual assault is real and is happening right now. And it is time for us—women, men, college students, and community members—to raise our voices and say the time to end sexual assault is right now.

Jessica Wehby- GVSU Women’s Center Ambassador

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Reality Show: Love & Hip Hop  

Reality Show: Basketball Wives

As you see, ethnic women have very little roles to choose from on reality TV. They are often portrayed as belligerent females who cannot possibly be classified as intelligent, hardworking loving women. Ethnic women are either, “the hoes” who are around for any man’s pleasure and willing to do anything sexually to satisfy his needs and not her own. She is a sexual object hyper sexualized and is just a “baby mama”, never a wife or significant other.  The “Angry Black woman” this role is usually casted into any scene of media involving black women. She has no self-control over her behavior, mad at the world and willing to take her frustrations out on anyone by physically or mentally abusing them. Then there is the “mammy” she takes care of other families and new day and age, she is often the assistant, who has children but not married. The mammy is not attractive and lives to serve others. If a woman of color has an education she is usually classified as “the uppity” woman. Others do their best to degrade this woman. Depicted as a woman who think she is worth something but is not worth two pennies. But little do many know, all these women are priceless!

Nevertheless, I am here to tell you all that the majority of ethnic women do have healthy relationships with friends, co-workers, families and spouses. We are not over or under sexualized but women who are in tuned with our personal desires. We do not go around screaming and inviting confrontations and not expect any consequences like the happy violence that is shown on reality TV. Although we help take care of people for pay or because of love, we still know how to handle our homes, and is attractive big, small or in between. So screw you reality TV, we are educated loving feisty Latinas, respectful Black women and yes with brains, Asian women are many other things with that. Not your bitch, slut, uneducated whores.

However, to all my producers and creators I would like to say, that casting these stereotypical roles, only makes you the victim of this patriarchal society that we live in. You have succumbed to racism for views and a paycheck. When will you ever say no, and although it may be difficult as first to create engaging shows that do not hurt the reputations of minority women, and the way that they see themselves and how others view them, it is possible.  You are psychologically damaging our society deteriorating any chance of justice and equality for all.

—Signed,

Your educated womanist, Dion

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Listen up popular culture, it’s time that we have a little chat.

It’s time to stop stereotyping men and women into strict gender roles. Frankly, we’re sick and tired of being put into boxes. Playing in boxes may be fun as a toddler, but as women in our twenties, we’ve had enough. Dominant narratives in most popular culture texts reinforce hegemonic masculinity, limiting men and women to look, act, and think a certain way. It’s to the point that this practice is no longer just annoying, but has become dangerous.

In mainstream popular culture, men always have the power. Women are submissive and powerless; they are objectified and stripped of their humanity. This is done by depicting women as objects or showing them in parts, never as a whole person.

The dehumanization of women in popular culture suggests that it is okay to be violent and aggressive towards women. If men and boys are consistently exposed to these submissive and dehumanized versions of women, the message becomes ingrained into their psyche. Men and boys adopt the view that they are superior to women, that women are objects to be used for male consumption and pleasure. As women see these images and messages over and over again, they internalize the idea that they should be submissive and less powerful than men. The perpetuation of these images and messages leads to violence against women, a culture accepting of sexual assault and rape, and major self-esteem issues within women and girls.

Examples in Popular Culture -

Men are to show dominance over women at all times:

Real men are ripped, and have big guns:

Women are garbage. It’s acceptable to throw them away:

Women are objects, use them how you will:

Go ahead and sell women, dead or alive:

Dead, bloody, and beaten is beautiful in ANTM:

Skateboards and misogyny go together like peanut butter and jelly:

Tyler Shields, a renowned photographer, glamorizes violence against women:

Disturbing right?

So what do we do about it?

STAND UP AND TAKE ACTION!!!

 If this upsets you, tell someone. Tell everyone! Spread the word that the images and messages that are being sent to the men, women, boys, and girls of our nation are NOT OKAY!

Together, we can make a difference.


— 
Haley and Julia

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Pro-choice and pro-conscience in Grand Rapids

By Delia Lloyd , Updated: October 23, 2012

The first and only time I went to Grand Rapids, Mich., I was accosted in the zoo while walking with my then two year-old daughter by a grown woman dressed as a princess.  Assuming that I lived close by, the princess lady asked me if I would like to sign my daughter up for etiquette lessons.

That was six years ago and etiquette lessons were about as foreign to my M.O. as training to be a mechanic. And yet, the fact that some little girls in this city were clearly expected to grow up to be polite, pretty and perhaps not much else did make me wonder at the time whether there were other scripts available for females in Grand Rapids.

I’m pleased to say that there are. In an election year in which woman power may well decide the presidential election, an inter-generational group of 12 women has launched its own chapter of Stop the War On Women Grand Rapids. They range in age from 30 to 75. They are nurses, lawyers, artists, and social workers. Some are married. Some are not. Some are parents. Some are not. Some are gay. Some are straight.

They aren’t protesting etiquette training. Instead, as my longtime friend Kathleen Ley put it to me, they were initially motivated by the “stunning avalanche of disdain and distrust for women in Michigan and in the United States and the legislation at the state and federal levels intruding on women’s health care choices.”

A case in point: a piece of anti-abortion legislation which was rushed through the Michigan House this summer which would require women whose pregnancy is terminated – even via miscarriage – to cremate fetal remains, fill out a death certificate, and work with a funeral director to dispose of the fetus. (The bill is due to be considered by the state Senate this fall.)

The coalition’s target is two-fold: First, women voters and people who care about abortion rights. And second, politicians of both parties – particularly in western Michigan – so that they know that people are paying attention to how they vote.

Indeed, as Ley points out, while the impetus for much of the “anti-women” legislation her group opposes comes from the Republican party, there are plenty of Democrats who also vote yes to these bills. For example, in the case of H4446 – a 2006 law that required all women seeking abortions to first have an ultra-sound – 57 Republicans supported this bill in the Michigan House and 21 did so in the Senate vs. 27 and 15 respectively for the Democrats.

When the so-called “anti-coercion legislation” (HB4799) – which requires doctors to give their patients a questionnaire to determine if the woman has been coerced or is the victim of domestic abuse before the abortion procedure – was up for vote by the full House last May, nine of the House’s 47 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Numbers were similar when Michigan passed a ban on so-called “partial birth abortions” last year. (On other pieces of legislation of concern to Ley’s coalition, the vote has been more solidly along party lines.)

Despite those lopsided votes, one of Stop The War on Women Grand Rapids’ primary objectives is to free both parties in western Michigan from what my friend sees as the “stranglehold” that religious groups hold over politicians. “We are trying to show people running as Democrats that religious groups or those who call themselves ‘right to life’ are not the only voice on matters of conscience.”

While Stop The War on Women Grand Rapids began with a focus on abortion rights, it has since broadened to encompass a range of issues that extend to equal pay, violence against women and contraception.

“A lot of Republicans think that equal pay is fair and contraception is responsible. Some may be pro-life, but we are open to and attract women who might not otherwise support abortion except in the case of rape, incest and where the health of the mother is jeopardized.”

As testament to the bipartisan nature of their cause, one of the people the group frequently invokes at their rallies is Betty Ford - the wife of former President Gerald Ford and a much-beloved public figure in Grand Rapids – who was herself a staunch believer in women’s rights.

The group has also had a lot of traction with young women in their 20s who, according to Ley, are concerned that the privacy they’ve always known with regard to their reproductive health is at risk. (“Since when does my boss get to decide whether my insurance covers The Pill?” Ley paraphrases.)

Since its founding in April, the coalition has held a rally in the Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids (“we stood up like she did,” says Ley) and it has subsequently bought 18 billboards and 16 bus-boards in western Michigan promoting their organization and its message. Ley also believes that its efforts have stalled some of the anti-woman legislation in Michigan. Members raise money at street fairs and have so far collected more money than they ever thought possible.

I asked Ley whether they planned to continue their work past November, as coalitions of this sort may exist legally for only the six months prior to an election.

“We’d love to go back to our day jobs,” quips Ley. “But chances are we will continue in some form.”

  Delia Lloyd is an American journalist based in London who was previously the London correspondent for Politics Daily. She blogs about adulthood at www.realdelia.com and you can follow her on Twitter @realdelia.

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This is a group of our Women’s Issues Volunteer Corps (WIVC) members at a Day of Service at Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids last Friday! They were decorating the Club House for Halloween.  Two of our Women’s Center Ambassadors lead this service, Danielle Meirow and Julia Raap, thank you Ambassadors!!! Great photo!!!

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Who is being held accountable for these images?

Who is normalizing violence against women?

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Why are we glamorizing domestic violence?

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Meet the 2012-2013 Women’s Center Ambassadors!!!

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Greetings Everyone,

The new school year has started and there are some new faces at the Women’s Center.  I wanted to introduce the new Women’s Center Ambassadors for this school year and some fun facts about them. 

 First I will introduce myself, my name is Bianca Ortiz and I am the new Graduate Assistant at the Women’s Center.  I came to Grand Valley State University at the end of July of this year and its been such a ride.  I hail from Los Angeles, California, and this is my first time living in Michigan.  I completed my undergrad at UC Santa Barbara, where I majored in Feminist Studies and English with an emphasis in Environmental Literature.  I am beyond thrilled to have received a position within the Women’s Center and even more excited to be a co-advisor for the Ambassador Program.  I am 23 years old and the middle child; I have an older brother, who is 25, and a younger sister, who is 19.  I am also a student of Grand Valley.  I am in the Higher Education Master’s Program with an emphasis in College Student Affairs Leadership.  I love the beach and dogs, especially puppies, I have two back home and I am more than happy to share photos.  I also identify as a Latina woman, I am half Mexican and half Salvadorean.  These are just a few things about me, but as the year progresses you will learn more about me and if you have any questions feel free to ask.  In the next  paragraph are a few short introductions from the new ambassadors:

My name is Nika Kusmierz. I am a senior studying sociology and want to eventually pursue a career in social work. I became involved with the Women’s Center Ambassadors because of my recent trip to South Africa this summer with the Women and Gender Studies Program. I wanted to find a way to spread the word about the importance of equality and many other gender justice issues and I know this is the perfect place for it. I am very excited to be apart of this wonderful group of women and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for our amazing group of young feminist leaders!! 

Hi! I’m Brittany Vernon from Troy, MI. I’m an undergraduate student at Grand Valley State University, currently undeclared, hopefully seeking a major in Education. I enjoy singing alot; I’m in two choral groups on campus and love every bit of it! I also love the feeling of volunteering and knowing that I made an impact on someones’ life, even if it was in the smallest way.

Hi my name is Clementina Asamoah and I’m a sophomore at Grand Valley State University studying Pre-Med. I’m from Waterford, Michigan but I originally grew up in Verona, Italy. I love to bake, read, and spend time with family and friends.  I also love to volunteer, and I hope to be a neonatologist in the future.      

Rya Northrop. Junior. History Major.

I wanted to become a Women’s Center Ambassador because I have a desire to help the women of GVSU feel comfortable with who they are. I will do everything I can to be a good example of a proud and confident women so that others can see that it isn’t something to be scared of. I have a strong feminist voice and am ready to let it soar. I beleive that everyone should have equal rights to live their lives and enjoy everything this world has to offer.

My name is Danielle Meirow and I am excited to be an ambassador for the Women’s Center this year! I was originally encouraged to apply by Brittany Dernberger after studying abroad with her during the Women and Gender Studies South Africa trip this summer. The reason I decided to apply, however, is because I believe it is important to give back to and aid your community and this was a great opportunity to do so while also gaining valuable contacts and leadership experience. I am also working to give back to my community in other ways including serving as a Student Senator, guiding freshmen residents as a Resident Asistant, developing leadership skills in my peers as the Vice President of Leadership Decelopment for Sigma Alpha Lamda Honors Society, and campaigning for candidates who protect my rights as an intern at Planned Parenthood. This is my third year at Grand Valley State University and I am a double major in Biomedical Sciences and Women and Gender Studies, as well as a minor in Chemistry. I look forward to posting things on the blog this year and hope you find my posts worthwhile!

My name is Jessica Wehby and I am a junior Women and Gender Studies major with a Spanish minor. I am involved in many things here on campus along with the Women’s Center Ambassador program—I serve on the executive board for Lions Club and Amnesty International and am the Sexual Assault Awareness Week co-chair for Eyes Wide Open. I chose to be a part of the Women’s Center Ambassador program because I have gotten so much good out of the Women’s Center that I felt it was time to give back to the place that I love so much. I am thrilled to be a part of this organization!

My name is Julia Raap and I am a junior dual majoring in Women and Gender Studies and Psychology. This will be my second year being a Women’s Center Ambassador and I am looking forward to another amazing year of service learning, activism, and feminist leadership!  I grew up in a very small and conservative town and this program has given me the courage to be able to speak my mind and find what it is that I am truly passionate for while making a difference in the community. I am also lucky enough to be a resident in the Women’s Leadership House on campus during its first year and also am a member of the Nerdfighters club.  The Women’s Center at GVSU has become my second family and I cannot wait to share this experience with all of you!

Hi, my name is Liz Josey. I’m a finishing up my undergraduate degree at Grand Valley State University. I study Psychology, but I am also very passionate about Women and Gender Studies, as well as Sociology. Along with taking classes, I spend a lot of my time co-parenting two kittens, spending time with friends, and working as a hostess at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores. I enjoy reading and watching a good movie or TV show when I have time. I am currently reading To Be Real edited by Rebecca Walker and Most Good, Least Harm by Zoe Weil. I love learning about and understanding new perspectives and the factors that contribute to peoples differing world views. I am willing to share my perspective on topics of interest and love when people give me constructive criticism to challenge and potentially shift my perspective.

I’m Dionna and I am from Detroit, MI. There are several reasons why I am involved with Grand Valley’s Women’s Center. Besides being a student worker, I am an ambassador, the education chair for That Takes Ovaries, and an active member of the volunteer opportunities that they offer. I am more of a radical feminist because I truly believe that you can not “Dismantle the master’s house, with the master’s tools”. 

My name is Laura Gibson and I’m from Detroit, MI. I am a senior at Grand Valley State University studying Art History/Anthropology. I hope to one day become a museum curator or possibly open up my own art gallery. My dream is to go to Italy and study there. I LOVE kids, music and chocolate. I have been involved with the Women’s Center by volunteering, which started my sophomore year through the Volunteer Corps and loved every minute of it. I have been around strong and empowering women who have had a great influence on my life. Now that I am an Ambassador, I wish to do the same not only at GV, but everywhere I go. 

Hi! I’m Haley Chapman. I am a senior at Grand Valley State University. I am finishing up my Psychology major with minors in Criminal Justice and Sociology. I hope to use my education to work within the prison system to lessen the injustices that inmates face in the system and once they are released. This is my second year as a Women’s Center Ambassador and I couldn’t be happier to return. I am also involved in Psi Chi, the International Honor Society for Psychology on our campus. I look forward to being a feminist leader on campus and to inspiring younger women to take charge of their lives. My favorite moment as an Ambassador is taking large groups of advocates into the community and really making a difference!


 

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