Identity Politics

By Vicky Diloné

You are betraying your race.

This statement and others like it have been directed towards me throughout my adult life. I have been called a tool of the patriarchy, an extremist, and yes, someone who hates minorities. Having said that, this post isn’t about me being a victim to hateful comments or discrimination. In fact, it is the opposite.

I am not a victim. I am not oppressed by white supremacy or the patriarchy. My failures or hardships are not the result of nationwide systematic racism. The rise of identity politics seeks to make me a victim, one that can never be saved because of who I am.

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Source: David Klein

Identity politics is defined as “politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group.”

At first glance identity politics doesn’t seem bad, nonetheless people tend to forget the last part of the definition. Claiming to be a part of a specific group does not automatically grant anyone special authority outside of that group. We are all given equal inalienable rights; we should all be seen as human and given fair treatment. If one comes from a different or even problematic culture, they are to be treated with respect.

I’m not saying that fair treatment is always given or that discrimination doesn’t exist. Boxing ourselves into an infinite number of identities and checking our “privilege” does nothing but make us hyper aware of our differences. Continue reading “Identity Politics”

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The Added Benefits of Traveling

By Mikayla E. Sievers

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about traveling. Traveling is something that opens our eyes to new ideas and ways of life. Last summer, I took a trip to Iceland. I saw lots of wonderful sights and met some marvelous people, but one person helped me pursue an academic dream I had: presenting at a university in England. I am so fortunate that I met Dr. Carrie Crisp. Dr. Crisp is a professor of ethics in Texas. She introduced me to the Oxford Symposium on Religious Studies and encouraged me to apply. I submitted my abstract and received the acceptance email the first day of this semester. I was ecstatic and thrilled to share my work with religious scholars from around the world. The Oxford Symposium on Religious Studies occurred during UI’s Dead Week.

Continue reading “The Added Benefits of Traveling”

Ways to Give Around the Holidays

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This is my last article for the Women’s Center since I will soon be graduating, and I hope it does some good. As the holidays roll around, everywhere there are places to give. The Salvation Army will have its buckets out, local churches will collect donations to help people in need, and many giving trees and winter coat donation boxes will be seen around town. What I want to focus this article on are places on the Palouse that need things for women and for the children that they may have. Toys are always appreciated, but what about warm clothes, clean blankets, shoes, razors, deodorant, or tampons? These are not often things people think about, and to people who may be down on their luck, they can make all  the difference.

The first place I explored was Family Promise of the Palouse, which aims to give all families a safe home they can go to. They have an online wish list with this statement: “The following items are utilized daily at FPP’s family day center, along with being distributed amongst the families in a move-out basket upon graduating our program. Having basic and necessary items help our families gain the confidence they need to look for employment, housing, as well as provide stability and a safe a living space crucial to their stay. Family Promise would be most appreciative for any donations or supply drives.”

Their wish list is online here and in addition to clothing and food items, it also includes basic medical supplies and home supplies that people may need. Continue reading “Ways to Give Around the Holidays”

House of Women

By Kate Ringer

When I was fifteen, I was sharing a bed with three of my closest female friends, cuddling and talking about our shared future as we lay in the dark. We later documented our plans in my journal. In the hopeful and whimsical fantasy typical of privileged young women, we believed that anything was possible; therefore we planned a future where we lived in a house entirely of women. We decided that we would share a big mansion, made possible by the combination of our incomes, and we would be each other’s lifetime companions. None of us would devote ourselves to a man in the long term, and we would be truly independent except for the girls that we would adopt and raise together. This house of women seemed like a utopia to us, somewhere we could be completely free to live our best lives, and where our daughters could develop through our shared motherhood into strong and confident leaders. Little did I know that in a way, this would soon be my reality.

Later that year my parents’ marriage met its inevitable demise. My family of five was reduced to a family of four – all women – though the youngest was only eleven at the time. Suddenly, I was pulled into my mother’s confidence, and I was free to do whatever I wanted in a way I had never been before. Our home life was by no means perfect, but we were so much happier that I frequently forget now just how unhappy parts of my childhood were. We were all incredibly busy; my mother was getting her Master’s degree, I was busy with school and with work, my middle sister was a cheerleader and a leader in her choir, and my youngest sister was devoting every spare minute to music and to art. We had never had a dog because my father hated them, but pretty soon we had a whole brood of animals and a perfect puppy. Our small home was littered with clothes and nail polish, our cabinets were filled with pads and tampons, books covered every spare table, and the neighbors could probably hear us singing along to Ingrid Michaelson well into the night.

When I go home now, not a lot has changed; we talk about what we’ve been reading and what we’ve learned, we share our ideas about things. We spend all day playing Yahtzee and other games, we run errands, we cook. There is something so freeing about the collective energy of women. When we are at home, we know that we can live according to our own rules, liberated.

When I first went to college, I joked that I would’ve rather lived in a fraternity than a sorority, that I never wanted to live entirely among women again. I could not have been more naïve. My days in a women’s dorm were not my best, I was insecure and just starting to come into myself, I felt as if I was constantly having to defend myself for being a feminist and an education major (little did I realize just how privileged I was to be constantly surrounded by women in my classes.) Living among women does not guarantee security if you have nothing to hold on to. In my first apartment, I lived with my boyfriend and two other women; I got so bogged down in the details that I failed to enjoy the beauty in that community. It wasn’t until I moved out that I realized just how much I had loved the best times I had there: the roommate dinners and game nights, cooking together, doing our homework at the kitchen table.

Now, over a year later, I find myself back in a house of women. Despite sleeping on the couch, I feel at home. The apartment is decorated with greenery, with posters of plants and tapestries on the walls. There are paper cranes hanging from the ceiling and a record player that frequently plays James Taylor or Fleetwood Mac. We are considerate with each other and supportive. Just this morning my roommate wished me luck on a test that I had forgotten I had. I know that I can trust them, I miss them when I don’t see them, and I am so happy to live there.

For much of my life, I have placed more value on romantic love than the love between friends. As I am primarily attracted to men, this means I have devoted much of my time and energy to the world of men (How can I gain his attention? How can I secure his interest? How do I keep him around?) The more time I spent at the mercy of this need to be noticed, the more powerless I felt. In contrast, I had a friend tell me recently how powerful it felt when she realized that other people found her attractive. She’s discovered that, for the most part, she can sleep with whoever she wants, and this has made her feel incredibly empowered. I would hypothesize that her power also comes from the women she surrounds herself with; she values friendship and independence more than she values romantic love. I have so valued romantic love that I have lost sight of just how important friendship, especially female friends, can be. Another friend, who chooses to live more monogamously, shared with me how she has always felt she can better connect emotionally to female friends, rather than a significant other. She only expects to have those deep, emotional conversations with the women in her life. Those relationships work to fulfill her alongside her relationship with her partner.

In Sandra Cisneros’ essay “A House of My Own,” she discusses writing The House on Mango Street and how it was only possible because she had a house all to herself. She was in constant conflict between what she wanted and what her family expected of her, “On the weekends, if l can sidestep guilt and avoid my father’s demands to come home for Sunday dinner, I’m free to stay home and write. I feel like a bad daughter ignoring my father, but I feel worse when I don’t write. Either way, I never feel completely happy.” This sentiment is echoed in All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister, a book about the rise of unmarried single women in the U.S. In a discussion of the value of friendship between women, she writes, “Female friendship was not some consolation prize, some romance also-ran. Women who find affinity with each other are not settling. In fact, they may be doing the opposite, finding something vital that was lacking in their romantic entanglements, and thus setting their standards healthily higher.” It was only in reading this texts that my experiences were suddenly validated: it is ok to choose women over men if that is what makes you happy. As Cisneros describes, however, we have been socialized for so long to value marriage and romantic love that it may be difficult to completely break free from those expectations.

Although there is certainly something to be said for the freedom of living alone, it is not a dream I have for myself. Living amongst women, and women alone, has given me a place to grow in a way no other lifestyle has. It is the perfect balance of companionship and independence. I have spent so many years putting men first. I want to be challenged; I want to be free. I want to put myself and my friendships first. Maybe that fantasy I had at fifteen doesn’t have to be a fantasy; maybe there is a world where romantic love isn’t the only answer to life’s questions. There’s a place for me among friends and equals, there’s a place in a house of women.

An ASB with Community Cancer Services

By Madeleine Clow

From November 2nd to the 4th, I went on my first weekend-long Alternative Service Break (ASB). An Alternative Service Break is provided by the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action at the Department of Student Involvement at University of Idaho. I am an ASB Coordinator, and my job is to create relationships with community partners to promote engagement and relationship building between the community partner and our student volunteers. Our mission statement is, “The Alternative Service Break (ASB) program gives students the opportunity to challenge themselves and develop leadership skills through service across the globe, grounded in social justice issues, including urban poverty, racism and domestic violence.” Our program offers a variety of ASB trips that are held during weekend, winter, spring and summer breaks. Weekend ASB provides short-term service opportunities within a five-hour drive from Moscow, Idaho. Winter ASB is a more extensive service break where student teams travel abroad internationally. Spring ASB offers week-long service trips based in the Pacific Northwest. Summer ASB sends students domestically, throughout the United States, to serve our national communities. Weekend ASBs are costless to the volunteers. To be a

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volunteer, all you have to do is fill out an online application on orgsync. For longer trips, financial aid can be applied for. We want any students who want to participant to have the financial means to do so.

My first ASB experience was a weekend-long trip to Sandpoint, Idaho. We partnered with community non-profit, CCS (Community Cancer Services). CCS was originated in 2002

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The assorted hat collection free for clients of CCS

with the mission “to improve access to medical resources, spread information about public health in rural communities, and provided emotional support for individuals who have been affected by cancer.” We volunteered “at one of CSS’s largest annual fundraisers, “A Night to Remember,” to hear the stories of survivors whose lives had been forever shaped by the staff at CCS.”

Continue reading “An ASB with Community Cancer Services”

Dress Codes in the Workplace

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This topic isn’t something I’ve thought about much, mostly because dress codes haven’t affected me in my current work setting, and so the issue hasn’t bothered me for a few years now. But my friend, who is studying bio-chemistry on the east coast, recently asked my opinion on something. My friend has large breasts, she works out, and overall is a pretty stellar human being who happens to be gorgeous on top of it all. One day in the lab, it was very warm, as it sometimes is in lab settings, so before putting on her lab coat and getting to work, she took off her long-sleeved shirt to reveal the tank top she was wearing underneath. She thought she was in a professional setting.

She quickly realized that she was not.

Immediately, the men in the room were staring at her. This wasn’t anything new, and given that she doesn’t usually show her figure in such a way, she assumed it would pass as she put her lab coat on and tied up her hair for work. It didn’t pass. Continue reading “Dress Codes in the Workplace”

Practicing in the Mirror

By Kate Ringer

Note: The following piece is a fictionalized account of real events.

Continue reading “Practicing in the Mirror”