I Am More…

by Jessy Forsmo-Shadid

Mama always said our bodies are to be cherished
Beauty is a skewed concept we’ve accepted but
The society we live in says
I am ugly, I am unworthy
It’s senseless to think that
I am beautiful and I am treasured
I can tell you right now that
Negativity is monstrous.
But I am able to realize that I am different
I am scared to have myself stare relentlessly
In the mirror bare and naked
My reflection, my core is screaming
Waiting for something positive to come to me

Waiting for something positive to come to me
My reflection, my core is screaming
In the mirror bare and naked
I am scared to have myself stare relentlessly
But I am able to realize that I am different
Negativity is monstrous
I can tell you right now that
I am beautiful and I am treasured
It’s senseless to think that
I am ugly, I am unworthy
The society we live in says
Beauty is a skewed concept we’ve accepted but
Mama always said that bodies are to be cherished

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Greetings from the new editor!

by Jenna McDaniel

JennaMcDaniel
My name is Jenna McDaniel and I am a sophomore at the University of Idaho. I grew up in Boise, Idaho and after being a Broncos fan all my life, I never thought I’d become a Vandal. Now that I’m in the middle of experiencing such a complementary combination of friendship and new beginnings, I understand the rave behind the passionate Vandal pride and strong student body.

I come from a very active family, and have been a part of sports teams and athletic groups since I was very young. Because of this, healthy living was drilled into my brain since before I can remember. Before college, soccer was my life, teaching me all the pros and cons to team sports, and helping me build an impenetrable wall of mental strength. Just prior to college, I turned my attention more to long-distance running, and found that with my high level of mental toughness and endurance, I fit right in. Originally, I started college studying Dietetics, thinking that my interest in the relationship between athletics and diet would continue to blossom. At the end of my freshman year, though, I found it wasn’t for me. I have been involved in athletics for many years and have always been a “health nut,” and I found that both living and studying my strongest passion in life quickly wore me out.

I decided to approach my second year from a different angle, and changed my major to Journalism. So far, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I absolutely love writing, especially when I get the chance to write fact-based pieces influenced by my own experiences. With enough practice, I hope to bring new perspectives that have the strength to broaden the reader’s lens. As the editor for the Women’s Center Blog this semester, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start getting a feel for this style of writing. Taking information from the media and presenting it in such a way that not only gets through to, but touches readers emotionally, is a skill I long to have. By keeping up on both local and worldly events and presenting fact-based articles about issues in the media, I hope to connect to my generation and peers to current topics around women and gender, and broaden both our perspectives. Being professional and strong about what you believe in has the potential to change the world. Dreams have to start somewhere, so why not with a group of bloggers?

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Summer Hiatus

The Women’s Center blog will be on temporary summer hiatus until our student writers return in the fall. If you’d like to contribute or cross-post an article, please contact Lysa Salsbury at lsalsbur@uidaho.edu or call (208) 885-8959.

See you in September!

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Dartmouth’s Mistake

Sara Spritzer

Rape and sexual assault are prevalent issues on college campuses across the nation. I am thankful for the University of Idaho, and all of the work done to prevent these things from happening to students. Rape still happens on our campus. I acknowledge that UI isn’t perfect, but I cringe when I hear about stories like “Dartmouth Student Encourages Rape of Classmate on Anonymous Site”.

A Dartmouth student recently posted on an anonymous campus message board encouraging the rape of another student. The description of what he wanted to happen to the female student was disgusting. He instructed other students on how to coax her into feeling comfortable with them and then doing what they wanted with her – even if she said no, they were to do it anyways because she actually really wanted it.

The student who was the target of the post, responded on the same anonymous site. She said all those exact things happened to her. The student also said she reported to the administration the post was directed at her, and they did nothing to help. A professor wrote a piece in the student newspaper urging the university to take more measures to prevent sexual assault on the Dartmouth campus, and the university finally responded. They will be building a center to address sexual assaults and prevention on campus starting July 1. My questions is, why did it take so long for that to happen?

President Obama recently sent out a call to action for all universities across the nation. Vice President Joe Biden, who spearheaded many of the violence against women acts and federal mandates of college campuses, has also demanded a change on campuses across the country. Every single federally-funded college in this country has requirements mandated by Title IX on how to address sexual assault and rape. Dartmouth had to know about all these requirements and resources available to help them prevent sexual assault in their community. Does it really take a threat to student on a school sponsored website to draw attention to the issue of sexual assault on campus?

The Greek community can be an amazing place, but it can also be a truly dark place. Someone needs to shed light on these shadows so everyone can see, and their ignorance becomes a choice. No one deserves to have their education come to screeching halt when someone assaults them. People deserve the opportunity to flourish on their campus. College is a pivotal, important time in life. No one deserve that kind of treatment – anytime or anywhere.

I’m aware that assaults happen to University of Idaho students. I’m aware our campus isn’t completely safe, but I have seen the resources available to students and I find comfort in that. I find comfort in the fact that there is a Women’s Center on campus, where staff is trained on how to handle students in crisis. I find comfort in the fact that there is a position specifically dedicated to violence prevention programs. There are so many things available, and they need to be utilized more.

Students have so much power. If students don’t like that rapes and assaults happen on campus, they need to stand up. I hate seeing my generation disagree with something, only to sit back and watch it happen again and again. People need to raise their voice and make their opinion known. It’s not something that can just change overnight. There needs to be a social change surrounding rape culture and sexual assault. There is so much negative, and it needs to stop.

Universities need to stop shaming survivors in order to save face. Administrators need to step up for the survivors instead of protecting the assailants. There are so many things that can be done; I long to see those changes. I long for a world where survivors feel comfortable reporting assaults to campus officials. They need support and care. They should be able to find it in the faculty and staff of their chosen home.

I’m proud to say I’m a Vandal, because the administration does so many things right. I’m not proud to say I’m a part of a generation of college students who cannot seem to understand the damaging effects of rape culture. So much can be done. As said best by Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author and speaker, “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” This tipping point is near

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War and Humanity: SciFi and the Moral Gray

Amber Atalaya Evans Pinel

Trigger warning: this post discusses physical and sexual abuse with some mention of details.

 

One of the things I love the most about Science Fiction as a genre is its limitless opportunity to make critique on modern day society and political issues. Battlestar Galactica (2003 reboot) has a plot based entirely on this opportunity, and they surely took advantage of it. In every episode of the show, the characters are faced with some really difficult decisions that bring them straight into the gray area of morality. This is truly what is so fabulous about this show, and many SciFi books/movies/tv shows that push the envelope.

One of the most fully developed, complicated, and well-thought out characters on Battlestar Galactica, Admiral Cain, brings all the other characters face-to-face with their own moral beliefs. Her character addresses some very real questions that would come up if humanity was faced with its own extinction.

Admiral Cain

Admiral Cain comes into the show about halfway through season two, when the Battlestar Galactica comes into contact with another Battlestar named Pegasus. At this point in the show, everyone in the fleet thinks they are the last shred of humanity. Then the Pegasus enters and the characters are faced with the very real possibility of there being a lot more humans left in space. And, due to the juxtaposition of the crews on Galactica and Pegasus, the audience, as well as the characters, realizes the decisions the Galactica and their fleet have been making aren’t entirely moral.

Commander Adama and President Roslin have been bending political and military rules in order to do what they think is best for the fleet. They have forgiven military officers who were sleeping with cylons, disobeying orders, and generally disrespecting traditional military authority. Sometimes they elected to leave civilian ships behind who didn’t have working FTL (faster than light) drives.  During the episodes where they make these tough decisions, the audience tends to decide for themselves what is or is not right or moral. However, the characters stay pretty strong in their belief that rules are worth bending if it’s for the greater good.

Admiral Cain has been driving her battlestar based solely on military protocol, as she believed the president was dead. She has also faced a great deal of challenges, and handled them according to her own moral compass. However, what makes this part of the show so fascinating is that she makes decisions in a totally opposite manner as Commander Adama and President Roslin. And, I would argue, almost everything she did was justifiable despite lingering in a morally gray area.

The first thing we learn about Admiral Cain is that she shot her former second in command (XO) in front of the entire crew for disobeying orders– the XO refused to attack a Cylon fleet while they were at war. Yes, this was definitely a lot crueler than throwing him in the brig and court martialing him. But we have to remember that this entire show takes place during wartime.

Admiral Cain, unlike Commander Adama and the President, had decided she wasn’t going to roll over, and she was going to kick the Cylons off the twelve colonies and take her home back. When the Pegasus encountered civilian ships, Admiral Cain ordered her crew to strip them for useful parts and new crew members. Some of the people who were being drafted complained about being separated from their families; so Cain ordered her crew to shoot the families of anyone who refused to be drafted onto Pegasus. Her crew ended up killing two families in the presence of all of the passengers on one civilian ship. All of this was for the sake of continuing military operations against the Cylons. So, she made these decisions because, to her, military offense against the Cylons was more important than anything else.

Like the Galactica, we find out the Pegasus has a Cylon prisoner aboard. Galactica’s Cylon prisoner is pregnant due to a relationship she has with one of Galactica’s pilots. She is kept in a cell as a prisoner of war. However, she is given a bed, food, clothing, and regular visits from the ship’s doctor. And, she is allowed to speak to the pilot she is in love with through a prison-esque phone.

To say the Cylon prisoner on Pegasus doesn’t have these luxuries would be a gross understatement. When Galactica’s “Cylon expert,” Dr. Baltar, goes over to Pegasus to see the Cylon prisoner there, a model Six named Gina, he is utterly horrified (and so are we) by the physical and psychological state she is in. She has been beaten totally black and blue and she lays on the floor in a filthy medical robe with a vacant and pained expression on her face. We learn that Gina has been sexually abused and battered as an interrogation tactic ordered by Admiral Cain, who, we find, is Gina’s former romantic partner.

Dr. Baltar, “She must have struggled, she must have fought back…”

Baltar’s Imaginary Cylon Friend, “That doesn’t justify this.”

This brings up a lot of moral questions. Though Cylons are not technically human– their brains are programmed and their bodies are artificial– they are programmed in such a way as to experience human emotions like love and emotional pain. They eat, sleep, sweat, and feel exactly the way humans do. But they are still not human, and Admiral Cain argues that you can’t rape a robot. And these robots committed mass genocide on the human race.

So where is the moral line when it comes to war? Nearly all religious texts have statements about how one should not kill another human being. These days we have the Geneva Conventions to guide what is and what is not humane during wartime. It’s our way of deciding what’s moral, while also talking about killing people in large numbers as a tactic of solving political disputes.

The situation between the Cylons and the humans wasn’t a dispute over politics. The Cylons dropped nuclear bombs in every major city on the twelve planets populated by humans. And they did it for apparently no reason. They had already rebelled against their human masters and left the colonies to be their own civilization. The genocide took place decades after their rebellion, right when the humans were starting to feel as though the Cylons would never return.

So when Admiral Cain discovered that one of her crew members, Gina, was actually one of the new humanoid Cylons, she brutally tortured Gina as a tactic of war. But Cain was keeping in mind the billions of humans who were dead because of the Cylons. She was doing it in order to glean as much information as she could from Gina so that she could strike back against the Cylons. But also, I think it is important to mention, that Gina was Admiral Cain’s lover before the genocide on the twelve colonies. And it is quite probable that Admiral Cain ordered the sexual assault on Gina as a form of revenge because Gina was a Cylon spy. It is also quite possible that discovering her romantic partner was a Cylon spy is the reason Admiral Cain used such extreme methods later in the show (killing her XO in front of the crew, for example.)

Admiral Cain and Gina having dinner before the Cylon attack.

However, it’s no secret that sexual assault is used as a tactic of war right now on this planet. A lot of the United States population is blind to the horrors that occur during war because it’s simply not covered by the media today.

“UN agencies estimate that more than 60,000 women were raped during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), more than 40,000 in Liberia (1989-2003), up to 60,000 in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1995), and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998 … For centuries, sexual violence in conflict was tacitly accepted as unavoidable. A1998 UN report on sexual violence and armed conflict notes that historically, armies considered rape one of the legitimate spoils of war. During World War II, all sides of the conflict were accused of mass rapes, yet neither of the two courts set up by the victorious allied countries to prosecute suspected war crimes — in Tokyo and Nuremberg — recognized the crime of sexual violence.” (un.org)

I hope everyone who is reading this commentary of mine believes that sexual assault is a war crime. But it’s been used as a tactic of war since the evolution of humans. And the reason it hasn’t been named a war crime yet is because of the way we other our enemies. In Battlestar Galactica, there are some very real reasons to other the Cylons — not only are they not human, but they committed mass genocide of humans. But this is exactly the point of bringing these moral issues to Battlestar Galactica. Because when you open up a Cylon and a human next to each other on the operating table, they look exactly the same on the inside. And when a Cylon and a human are both physically brutalized and psychologically tortured, they both have the same mental reaction.

When Dr. Baltar sat down on the floor of the cell with Gina, a model Six like the one he loves and often imagines, their interaction is totally human. He tells her he is there to help her, and he is. After he reveals to her that before the attack, a model Six had such a profound impact on his life, she begins to trust him. And the first thing Gina asks him is to help her die. The experience of being so brutally tortured has made her suicidal, she wants permanent death to end her psychological suffering. And isn’t that exactly how humans react to the same kind of brutal torture?

Perhaps there’s a lot of moral gray that comes with war. You may agree or disagree with me on that. However, it is known that the process of othering is what humans use to justify the terrible things they do to one another. And what Battlestar Galactica argues throughout the show, and especially in the episodes involving Admiral Cain, is that it’s not about who the other is — it’s about how we conduct ourselves.

 

“It’s not enough to survive. One must be worthy of survival.”

-Commander Adama

 

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Diversity in College and for Life

Aaron William California

When Americans hear the word “diversity,” the common response is to think of racial and ethnic differences. At the University of Idaho, the overwhelming majority of students are European-Americans—9,974, to be exact—followed by 868 students who identify as Hispanic, 126 who identify as African-American, and 191 students who identify as Asian. Phyllis Wise, an Asian-American woman and a Chancellor at the University of Illinois makes an important point about what a more accurate definition of diversity is. Wise states that diversity also includes culture, religion, geography, sexuality, age, gender, beliefs, values, and experience. Ethnically and racially, the University of Idaho may not be as diverse as other parts of the U.S. However, when taking into account Wise’s definition of diversity, the University of Idaho is much more varied than one might think.

Jeff Guillory, Director of Diversity Education at Washington State University, an African-American male and one of the keynote speakers for the recent U of I Cultural Literacy and Competence Symposium, asked the question, “Who are you?” Guillory’s question is intended to solicit more than just your name. Among other things, the question is asking where you are from, where are your ancestors from., and what are your core beliefs? When Guillory was asked this question for the first time by his father-in-law, a Native American man, he did not pick up on what the question was really asking him about. After Guillory understood that his father-in-law was really asking  him to share a deeper, personal response, he gave him details about his family, ethnic heritage, and personal identities.

Later in his presentation, Guillory commented on the fact that modern American corporations, such as Boeing and others like it are now requiring prospective employees to be culturally literate. Guillory mentioned that some of the questions employers ask may not up-front sound like they are asking you about you cultural literacy, but on a subtle level, they are. The fact that corporations are requiring cultural literacy from job candidates is a clear indication to the importance of familiarity with a diversity of different cultures. In summary, Guillory told the story of an employee with little cultural knowledge about Middle Eastern culture, whose lack of awareness caused him to be expelled from the country and fired by the corporation that sent him there to finalize an important deal. Stories like this should be a wake-up call to college students looking for employment after graduation. How many of us place our right ankle on our left knee when sitting? Sounds innocent enough, and it is in American culture. However, in many Middle Eastern cultures, placing your foot on your ankle, thereby exposing the bottom of your shoe to people, is culturally insensitive. The critical necessity of becoming culturally literate is more important in American culture than ever before.

I asked Amy Ross, Associate Director for the Office of Human Rights, Access & Inclusion  at the U of I, how one goes about learning more about another culture. She responded, “We all live in a multicultural society, so the truth is, unless you seal yourself off from the world, you are learning about culture all the time.  Perhaps the most important thing is to open your eyes, ears, and mind to things that are unfamiliar.  Take a chance and eat something you normally wouldn’t, go see a foreign film, participate in one of the countless cultural activities here on campus, take a language class, or maybe even participate in a study abroad program.  The important thing is to be curious and open minded about the world around you.” I followed up with the question, “Where and what can U of I students do to become familiar with diversity?” According to Ross, “A good place to start is our Diversity Calendar, which lists upcoming diversity-related events all over campus. Click on any event to learn more about it, and get involved!” For U of I students, and non-students, the information Ross provided is clearly a good way for anyone wanting to know more about other cultures to get started.

When it comes to diversity, the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is important to avoid racial profiling and discrimination. Wise makes an important point; after talking to someone from an unfamiliar background, whether it be race, religion, or other dimensions of identity, you walk away with a different perspective of this person. Wise sums up what we gain from talking to people of different demographics in just one word: knowledge. The type of knowledge Wise is referring to is learning and experiencing what other cultures are really like—replacing false assumptions people often make about those demographics they are unfamiliar with. Although I grew up around Latinos in Southern California for 22 years of my life, I only came to better understand the culture after learning Spanish and living amongst Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia. Only after you have interacted with people of  different identities can you truly hope to gain a different perspective.

When moving to college, one of the things students do first is make friends. To make friends quickly, some students join clubs, fraternities, or sororities, and participate in college activities. One of the biggest obstacles to making friends is a lack of understanding and knowledge about people with different identities. The U.S. is one of the most diverse nations on Earth; you can just about meet someone from every other nation in the world here. According to an article in the Education section of US NEWS, an advantage to becoming culturally literate is that it widens your social circle. What would your social life be like if you only had friends who had everything in common with you?

Whatever your personal background is, the University of Idaho offers students a variety of clubs, organizations, and other involvement opportunities to help them become more culturally aware. If students want to learn more about Native American culture, the U of I Native American Student Center, NASC, is a great place to start. The U of I NASC has regular events that students of all backgrounds can attend to learn more about Native American culture and heritage. Similarly, U of I students interested in becoming involved with women’s issues and topics can visit the Women’s Center on campus. The Office of Multicultural Affairs provides many opportunities to engage in on-campus experiences and events that showcase other cultures. Diversity is a cornerstone of the University of Idaho’s mission and strategic plan. The institution’s goal, among others, is to graduate students who are competent global citizens, fully prepared to compete effectively in a diverse world. The opportunities are right here, right now, and they are abundant.

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Making it as a Woman in Corporate America

Aaron William California

As a man, I’m fortunate enough that I can’t really imagine what it would be like to get turned down for a leadership position in a company because of my gender. Men often have an overwhelming advantage when it comes time to pick a new corporate CEO. Even today, where women are gradually making greater advances in the work force, there are still few women in highly sought-after upper-echelon positions. Alanna Vagianos states in her article in the the Huffington Post explains that there has been little to no increase of female CEOs, CFOs and board members over the past three years.  Vagianos cites a survey carried out by Catalyst, an organization committed to helping women flourish in the corporate world, that maintains.that for 8 years running, the percentage of women on company boards has not risen above 16.9%. Even more startling, from a survey conducted by Catalyst, is that of all the Fortune 500 companies, 135 of them have ZERO women in leadership positions. There has been a marginal improvement when it comes to seeing more women taking control of Fortune 500 companies. Vagianos found that from 2008 to 2013, the percentage of women in Fortune 500 company leadership positions went from 6.2% to 8.1%.But should such small gains really be celebrated? As it stands now, just 4.2 percent of all the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are females.

It is common knowledge that women get paid less than men in the same position doing the same work. Mary Barra became the first woman to become CEO of the motor company General Motors (GM). GM for all intents and purposes appeared to be helping women advance in the corporate world, but it turns out, this was not the case. After becoming CEO, Barra started earning $4.4 million a year. The problem? The CEO before her, Dan Akerson, was making $9 million a year doing is the very same job. And Barra is certainly not the only woman to become a CEO only to get short-changed for doing exactly what her male predecessor did before her. Ginni Rometty is the first woman to take control of IBM by becoming its CEO. She started her position with an annual paycheck of $16.1 million. Her predecessor’s income for doing the same job? $37 million.

Lisa Quast, a former employee for a multibillion dollar company, has some advice for women wanting to get ahead in corporate America. Quast cites hard work  as the first step for women in moving up in the corporate world. Quest contends that “excellent work…[and] outstanding results” are vital if women want to stand out of the crowd in order to be noticed for their abilities. Quast’s second piece of advice is “know what you want and go for it.” Quast encourages women to make plans and set career goals prior to starting work in corporate America. Thirdly, Quast boldly encourages women to leave to get ahead. By leaving to get ahead, Quast is not implying women quit their jobs in protest for not getting promotions or equal pay. Rather, Quast suggests that if women know for sure that their skills and knowledge are not being recognized, they go and work for someone that will. Quast is the perfect example of leaving to get ahead. When Quast quit working for a company that underappreciated her work and skills, she left the company and worked for one that would recognize and reward her capabilities. For Quast, the decision to work for another company allowed her to be promoted three times within two years. Quast’s fourth and final piece of advice is to, as she puts it, “dress well and play golf.” Her advice is simple: people will judge you, male or female, based on how you dress. Quast’s advice to “play golf” really means do what others are doing. To fit in with the men she worked with, Quast played golf with them.

Quast’s third piece of advice, leave to get ahead, might resonate with some women struggling to make it in corporate America, and in a number of male-dominated fields. For single, unattached women with no dependents, it just might be necessary to pick up and move on when your career has stalled because of your gender. However, for women with families and/or a spouse with an established career, simply picking up and taking off is not an option. Rather than encouraging women to leave positions where they’re not valued, we need to start pressuring companies to be more supportive of developing the talent they already have, and seriously addressing the corporate culture and climate issues that often prevent women from succeeding.

 

 

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