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10 Feminist Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

Posted By Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers , Thursday, May 24, 2018

10 Feminist Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

Author: Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers | Assistant Hall Director | The Ohio State University

 

Closing is (finally) finished and summer is HERE! That means summer dresses, outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets and if you’re like me- a new book list. Though you’re probably getting inundated with Buzzfeed articles about the top 10 beach books to accompany you on your vacation this summer, I want to offer an alternative book list just for us Student Affairs folks. Many of us are self-identified lifelong learners who love to expose ourselves to new topics and stay aware of what’s happening in the world. So- this summer in between Jodi Picoult and the new John Green, why not add a book or two about one of my favorite topics- feminism!

From #MeToo to #TimesUp to Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer to the leading ladies of Black Panther (the #1 best selling superhero movie of all time- still in theaters and a must-see), this year women have taken center stage fighting for equal pay, representation, sexual justice and more. More than ever, we are being called to educate ourselves on how to better support and advocate for women. Below are 10 books that can help with that journey!

 

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Book Type: Fiction

Major Theme: Mental Health

This classic by Sylvia Plath tells the story of Esther Greenwood- a young college student who slowly struggles to keep a grasp of reality as she endures a psychological breakdown. This is a great story for people who are interested in learning about how women’s rights intersect with mental health stigma, mental health wellness, and resilience. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the story will most definitely grip you from beginning to end.

Quote: “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”

 

2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book Type: Fiction

Major Theme: Immigration

Americanah follows the story of a Nigerian student named Ifemelu who moves to America to pursue her education at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. While there, she struggles to make meaning of her new identity as an “Americanah” (neither fully Nigerian nor fully American) while navigating predominately white higher education spaces. Americanah is part love story, part immigrant’s tale, and part intersectional feminist rant (you may have heard of Adichie by the way from her voiceover in Beyonce’s Flawless!).

Quote: “She had always liked this image of herself as too much trouble, as different, and she sometimes thought of it as a carapace that kept her safe.”

 

3. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Book Type: Fiction

Major Theme: Immigration

The Joy Luck Club is the story of two generations of Chinese mothers and daughters who struggle to connect with each other and their culture while living in San Francisco, California (you most likely read it while you were in high school). What I love most about this book are the rich descriptions of Mah Jong and the heart-wrenching mother/daughter moments. Tan is an amazing, haunting writer whose words will stay with you long after the summer.

Quote:  “I will use this sharp pain to penetrate my daughter's tough skin and cut her tiger spirit loose. She will fight me, because this is the nature of two tigers. But I will win and give her my spirit, because this is the way a mother loves her daughter.”

 

4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Book Type: Fiction

Major Themes: Sexual Assault, Sexual Orientation

Before The Color Purple was a hit film (starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and OPRAH no less), it was a book written by womanist writer Alice Walker. The novel is written in a series of letters written by the main character Celie, a fourteen year old girl in the South who is forced to marry an abusive man. In the letters, Celie writes about her hopes, dreams, and how much she misses her sister, Nettie. Fair warning- this book will make you cry a ton!

Quote: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.”

 

5. Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Book Type: Memoir

Theme: Trans Identity, Intersectional Feminism

In Redefining Realness, Mock tells the story of how she is able to step into her trans identity while growing up as a young girl in Hawaii. The memoir is a story of hope and resilience that calls each of us to be our true selves and live our deepest truth. While you read this, you will find yourself highlighting and underlining many of Mock’s awesome one-liners.

 

Quote: “I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community.”

 

6. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Book Type: Essays

Major Theme: Sexual Assault, Sizeism

Through a number of poignant essays, Roxane Gay (famously known for her book of essays entitled Bad Feminist) takes on the topic of sizeism. Gay encourages us to consider why we are so obsessed with size as a culture, and tells stories of how size has personally affected her as a professor and feminist. This book will definitely check you a ton so get ready for learning!

Quote: “This is what most girls are taught — that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. We should be seen and not heard, and if we are seen, we should be pleasing to men, acceptable to society. And most women know this, that we are supposed to disappear, but it’s something that needs to be said, loudly, over and over again, so that we can resist surrendering to what is expected of us.”

 

7. Zami, A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

Book Type: Memoir (Biomythography)

Major Theme: Sexual Orientation & Ethnicity

Audre Lorde is a prolific feminist writer who is most widely known for quotes like “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” and “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” Lorde’s prose is just as poignant. In Zami, Lorde tells us the story of growing up as a black (West-Indian) lesbian in New York City and eventually moving and living in Mexico. Zami is a coming-of-age story and a love story that focuses on communities of women who support and nurture each other.

Quote: “I remember how being young and Black and gay and lonely felt. A lot of it was fine, feeling I had the truth and the light and the key, but a lot of it was purely hell.”

 

8. Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

Book Type: Nonfiction

Major Theme: Feminist Spirituality, Mythography

Estes is a Jungian analyst, storyteller, and poet who utilizes mythology to uplift women and help them to gain greater clarity in their lives. Each chapter of this book starts with an ancient myth and ends with a message on how it can apply to our lives as “wild women.” The book talks about everything from motherhood, to sex, to dream interpretation. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in thinking about global womanhood and feminism.

Quote: “I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories... water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

 

9. Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

Book Type: Poetry

Major Theme: Intersectional Feminism, Love, Sexual Assault

Kaur has become THE poet of this generation offering up hundreds of poems that encourage readers to think about love, loss, abuse, longing, violence, and womanhood. Originally known for her popular Instagram poems, Kaur has reached international acclaim by performing her relatable poems around the world (she recently even made a stop at my institution!). The poems in Milk & Honey, accompanied by small gorgeous drawings, are perfect for those of you who may be at a loss for time and want to read something short and sweet.

Quote: “Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself.”

 

10. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Book Type: Fiction

Major Themes: Sexual Assault

Let’s end with a little teen fiction (no vampires or werewolves, I promise)! Speak is a book that has stuck with me since I was a teenager. It chronicles the story of Melinda, a high school student who stops speaking after being raped at a party by her classmate. Melinda struggles to cope with what happened, but is able to seek out healing and freedom by expressing herself in her art class. This book is definitely a tear jerker (let’s be honest-all of these are), but it is also a powerful story of resilience and hope that will remind you how important it is to speak and live your truth.

Quote: “You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.”

 

Though I’m sure you’re ready to add all of these to your list, I know that 10 books is limiting. If none of these interest your fancy, check out the links below to discover other feminist books. Happy reading!

 

https://www.refinery29.com/2017/03/142549/best-feminist-books-for-modern-women

https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/queer-trans-women-books/

https://www.bustle.com/articles/93246-69-books-every-feminist-should-read-from-mary-wollstonecraft-to-roxane-gay

Tags:  feminism  feminist  intersectional  summer reading 

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Jesus, Easter, and the Walking Dead

Posted By Brian Medina, Sunday, April 1, 2018

Today, many in the United States will be celebrating fertility in the form of a bunny who somehow expels pastel colored eggs. Just as many will celebrate the life, death, and rebirth of a God turned man named Jesus of Nazareth. For billions of Christians, Easter demonstrates the conquering of death, of sin, and literally ascending in the flesh despite a torturous crucifixion 3 days prior.

 

Myths of demigods or of overcoming death are as ancient as human language. Crossing into the underworld only to rise above it demonstrates the human desire for immortality in this life or the next. What many Christians do not know is that the physical embodiment of the resurrection has been hotly debated from the outset, most often attributed with the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. It was during this meeting that many wealthy men of stature rejected the competing Gnostic narrative which focused on a spiritual awakening, devoid of bodily interference (see also: Irenaeus and Justin Martyr). This meeting also established the preferred date for Easter and what is now referred to as the Trinity, among other matters.

 

And yet Easter espouses that our bodies are an essential component of who were are. When Jesus leaves the tomb, he interacts with Mary Magdalene and then later with his disciples. The infamous doubting Thomas is asked to touch his wounds, clearly distinguishing the physical nature of Jesus’ existence. Jesus’ ascension in Acts was seen from many of his followers as a physical lifting into the air, taken away by the clouds (presumably to go back to God). There are many more scriptures that reaffirms the body of Jesus (and not just a spiritual figure) and the importance of our bodies after death. While plenty debate surrounds Revelations, the ‘final coming’ of Jesus is said to be a corporeal one and not simply a spiritual return. In the end of days, Jerusalem is said to be reborn and remade physically, for all time.

 

Similar by degrees, The Walking Dead portrays another overcoming of death alongside an apocalyptic world. Most would believe zombies a myth of science fiction, yet the Centers for Disease Control released a guide to prepare for a zombie outbreak. While it may have been more for fun than in anticipation of zombification, there remains a wide variety of similarities with zombies and the diseases humans continue to encounter. Besides, most of the films and shows about zombies are making not-so-subtle jabs at the human condition whereby most of us have become a bit mindless, seeking after our own all-consuming desires, ostracizing those different than us as worthy of killing. Zombie lore varies greatly, but the common core of the death of a human only to be reborn in the flesh remains the same. For those encountering the death of a loved one during a zombie outbreak, there is both fear and awe for their resurrection, knowing that their rebirth is a blessing and a curse.

 

Further, the breakdown of civilization during a zombie apocalypse illustrates the best and worst of humanity. People become possessive and primal, untrusting (perhaps understandably so) of those wanting to get to safety within an encampment, and the distinctions of ‘us and them’ become essential for survival. Weapons, food, water, and the protection of walls become far more important than the classist luxuries that currently divide us. However, the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ are still pervasive among survivalists, as those who can conquer others and enslave them for their own gain will likely live far longer than those who try to survive alone or in a small group. In this eschaton, you are not just fighting zombies, but other people, hunger, dehydration, weather, and disease without the assistance of active hospitals or clinics.

 

Perhaps Jesus of Nazareth was the best zombie in history, finding a means to communicate with those around him and encouraging them to serve him rather than the selfish human leaders in their midst. Jesus clearly found himself an impressive following, with nearly 2.2 billion humans alive today calling themselves Christians and countless more from over the centuries.

 

And so, in the spirit of Easter, I wish for you lots of chocolate, good seed, and a fantastic bodily experience when you die.

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Teaching Critical Leadership: Challenging Student Assumptions About Leadership

Posted By Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers , Saturday, March 10, 2018

 

Teaching Critical Leadership: Challenging Student Assumptions About Leadership

 

Author: Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers | Assistant Hall Director | The Ohio State University

 

Though we had been talking about the surface level things for a bit (how our days were going, what the weather was like today, etc.), I was surprised when the student in my office suddenly admitted that she doesn’t view herself as a leader. This surprised me, especially, because the student was in my senior seminar leadership course.

 

“I just don’t see myself as a leader like everyone else in the class. I work 40 hours a week as a manager at a retail store and I work as a Wellness Coach on campus part time... but, I’m not a member of all these clubs on campus or the president of anything.”

 

This is not the first time I am hearing this. When I asked a student why they ran for Secretary of a club rather than President, the student shrugged her shoulders and said “I’m not a leader like that.” Prior to that, a black, female student said that she wanted to get involved on campus but never had time so they just worked as an Office Assistant rather than doing all the campus clubs and “leadership stuff.”

 

Our society constructs leaders as being upper-class, extroverted, assertive white males in positional roles of leadership. Students with these identities have not had the chance to define what leadership means for themselves, and students outside of these identities have a harder time recognizing their leadership ability at all.

 

What are some ways that we can support our students to develop their own definitions of leadership that are in alignment with their values, strengths, interests, and personal identities?

 

 

Get Them to NAME Their Assumptions

 

When the student told me that they don’t consider themselves a leader, my first questions were “Who do you consider to be a leader? What personality traits do you think all leaders must have?” Immediately, the student began to list off qualities like assertiveness, extroversion, and a positional role on campus- all identities that the student does not hold. Ask reflective questions that will help your students to become critical of their views of what leadership can be. If time permits, consider meeting regularly with the student to see how their concept of leadership changes over time. If not, suggest that they have conversations with past supervisors and mentors about defining leadership, and continue to engage in reflection as they develop their understanding of leadership.

 

 

Hold Yourself Accountable for Creating an Inclusive Leadership Environment

 

We must focus our efforts on student leadership development for positional leaders and non-positional leaders. This is not a practice that many of us are used to, so it is important to reflect on our own identities and practice before we try to hold these conversations. Consider these questions:

 

(1)  What are your own personal biases about leaders? Where did you get those ideas from? Do these ideas align with your leadership style? How can you help students to develop their own leadership definitions when you hold different identities from them?

 

(2)  How often do you engage with the members of your Hall Council or residents in your building to talk about their leadership development? Are there opportunities for them to gain leadership training?

 

(3)  How are you collaborating with other offices in your division to gain knowledge of the needs of certain populations? Are there ways to create programs and initiatives in your building that help students to re-define what leadership means to them?

 

 

Expose Students to Different Ways of Practicing Leadership

 

For a long time, my concept of leadership was based in stereotypical masculinity. Though I wanted to be bubbly, humorous, creative, and empathetic in my professional life- I felt that I had to be assertive, strategic, and stoic to succeed. This changed as mentors provided me with books, films, and connections that changed my understanding of leadership. Eventually, I began to seek out my own leadership representation which helped me to realize that my style of leadership was valid! What kinds of leaders are we inviting into our Residence Halls to speak to students? What kinds of leaders do we constantly refer to in our work? How can we help to expose students to leaders who have similar identities, values, and interests to their own?

 

**

 

At my institution, we recently held our 2nd annual Sophomore Inclusive Leadership Retreat. As a facilitator, I got to work with two colleagues to lead a group of students through activities that helped them to recognize their privileged and marginalized identities, and develop their understanding of leadership. One student identified as Latina and was very vocal about her Puerto-Rican upbringing throughout the day. By the end, I was glad to hear that the retreat had helped her to reconsider her understanding of leadership.

 

She said: “You know that old quote ‘It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you’re going?’ I think that leadership is often framed like that... but after this workshop I am realizing that it should be both. It really matters where you came from AND where you’re going.’”

 

Though leadership is rarely tied to social justice work, I think it is important to know that when we help students to define leadership for themselves, we are affirming their experiences, their backgrounds- who they are. This re-writing is an important component of social justice work that I know all students can benefit from.

 

Tags:  critical leadership  inclusive leadership  leadership  leadership stereotypes  social justice 

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Beyond Sighs and Heartbreak: White Allyship Fatigue vs. Racial Battle Fatigue

Posted By Aislinn Strohecker | she, her, hers , Tuesday, February 20, 2018

 

Beyond Sighs and Heartbreak: White Allyship Fatigue vs. Racial Battle Fatigue

Author: Aislinn Strohecker | she, her, hers | Lehigh University

 

The morning of October 2nd, I walked through my university’s student center and looked up at the television screens mounted on the wall. Seeing the news of another mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas, I let out a sigh. I did the same when Donald Trump announced his plan to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. And when the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile was acquitted of manslaughter. And countless times since.

 

It’s emotionally draining to read these headlines day after day. Activists fighting for social equity feel even more fatigue when it seems that despite their efforts, nothing has come to fruition. Though we all may feel some form of weariness, there’s a distinct difference between the experiences of people of color and of white people.  

 

From birth, I have experienced many privileges as a white, middle-class woman. One of the greatest privileges I’ve had is that I have not had to face systemic barriers as countless others have. People of color navigate a world full of bigotry, biases, microaggressions, (threats of) physical danger, and institutional racism. This happens day after day, in an exhausting cycle. Maneuvering in such a world takes a heightened sense of awareness and hypervigilance, which takes a toll on physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. This stress and anxiety is labeled as black weariness or racial battle fatigue and can only be experienced by people of color.

 

While I may sigh at the disheartening news stories we see on a daily basis, my white allyship fatigue is nothing compared to black weariness. So how can I be an ally when I feel this way?

 

1.     Be a full-time ally

            It can sometimes be too easy for us as allies to distance ourselves from our allyship when experiencing fatigue, especially when we do not face systemic obstacles on a daily basis. But being an ally isn’t a part-time job where I come home and hang up my ally hat at the end of the day. My favorite definition of allyship comes from my institution’s LUally training program: “We believe that allyship is an active, lifelong commitment to showing up for and advocating alongside historically marginalized communities. By leveraging power and privilege, allies practice ongoing learning, embrace challenges, & own their mistakes in order to create a socially just world for all.” I’ve made a lifelong commitment to being an ally and I must continue to engage by examining my own privilege and whiteness, as well as working to eliminate oppression.

 

 

 2.     Listen and validate others

 

            I remember being in high school the first time I learned and thought about active listening. One of my teachers quoted Stephen R. Covey: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Though I realized I was often guilty of listening to reply, I didn’t realize the importance of the distinction and brushed it off. Then came college. Nearly all of the discussions related to social justice issues I’ve participated in during college have started with setting ground rules and expectations for each other during the discussion, and most of the time “active listening” or “listening to understand, not to respond” have ended up on the list. Participating in thoughtful conversations about current issues and how to address them gave me a newfound appreciation for active listening. Now, I often find myself silent during these conversations as I mentally unpack what has been said.

 

            As allies, it is imperative that we step back and actively listen to marginalized individuals and groups. This not only gives allies a chance to understand, but it gives targeted individuals and groups a platform from which to speak. And when people of color share with us their experiences of discrimination, institutional racism, or any number of barriers, and their resulting weariness, just listen. Listen without the intent to reply and validate what is being said and felt. Sometimes listening speaks volumes.

 

 3.     Learn and educate

            As a lifelong learner, it is my duty to continue to gain knowledge of inclusive practices. Many of us are privileged to have opportunities to learn about diversity and social justice issues, so take advantage of them. Take a class, visit your institution’s multicultural center, attend a lecture or forum on issues of diversity and equity, talk with marginalized folx about their experiences. Often times, I find myself staying silent in discussions of race and ethnicity, for fear of saying the wrong thing. Though it may be intimidating, allies should share their thoughts because even if we get it wrong, a friend or fellow ally can point us in the right direction and towards a greater understanding of the issue at hand.

 

            When possible, allies can educate others on racism, discrimination, and systemic barriers. It doesn’t have to be standing in front of a class full of students, it can simply be drawing attention to the issues that exist as we see them. For instance, at a recent family gathering, my cousin and I described the ways in which the yoga my aunt practices may be culturally appropriated. We had a thought-provoking dialogue on if “yoga is racist” (a news headline my aunt saw that sparked this conversation).

 

            On the evening of February 14th, I once again walked through my university’s student center and looked up at that same television screen on the wall. I felt my heart constrict at the news of another mass shooting, this time at a school in Florida. I thought back to that sigh I let out in October. As I reflect on these guidelines, I will still give myself space to sigh at the next headline that breaks my heart. I will take a moment to validate my own feelings, just as I did this week. It is what comes after my fatigue and how I cope with it that matters most to me. We have a lot of work to do as white allies, and my disapproving sigh doesn’t make a dent in that.

 

Tags:  allyship  black weariness  racial battle fatigue  whiteness 

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Three Ways to Support Students with Invisible Disabilities

Posted By Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers , Saturday, January 20, 2018

 

Three Ways to Support Students with Invisible Disabilities

Author: Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers | Assistant Hall Director | The Ohio State University

 

Last semester, I got the opportunity to interview a few students with invisible disabilities for a class project. In the interviews, I was astounded to hear that these students often feel erased in their daily experiences on campus.

One student talked about how embarrassing it was to disclose their invisible disability to others. Another student talked about the anger they face from people who assume they are abusing handicap parking spaces or other accommodations because they “look fine.” Many students even mentioned how their other identities (like race, sexuality, size, etc.) affect the way that people perceive their disability. For example, a black, female student I talked to often had to miss class because it was too painful for her to walk there in her condition. Though she presented her professor with doctor’s note after doctor’s note, he continued to ask for more proof. She wondered if he couldn’t bring himself to believe her because she was black, because she was a woman, or because he just couldn’t understand that her disability was invisible.

Typically, when we discuss disability issues in higher education, we center our conversations around access for students with physical disabilities. Though these conversations are still needed, and should be valued in our practice, we need to also explore how we can better serve students with invisible disabilities. Below, I have gathered a few starting tips on how to support students with invisible disabilities based off my conversations with these students, but I also highly encourage you to connect with the Office of Disability Services at your institution as they can help to provide you with even more information!

 

Tip #1: Educate yourself

The term “invisible disabilities” encompasses a whole array of disabilities that range from mental health disabilities like anxiety and depression, to medical conditions like Crohn’s disease, Lupus, or severe IBS, to learning disabilities. There are so many that I can’t list them all here; for this reason, it is necessary for us to continuously educate ourselves on how to best support these students.

Like all social justice work, the first step will always start with educating yourself about yourself. What is your present knowledge of invisible disabilities? Do you have an invisible disability? If so, how does that shape your practice? If not, how does that shape your practice if at all?

Next- it’s your job to listen. Read articles about how students navigate campus with depression or attend an event that centers students who have eating disabilities. Listen to students when they express their concerns about accommodations and figure out ways to create discussion around invisible disability in your Residence Halls.

Though Netflix and other media portrayals can be good to educate you on certain topics (shows/movies like 13 Reasons Why, To the Bone, and Atypical for instance) check the information you receive with critical, online responses by people with invisible disabilities. Connect with offices like Office of Disability Services and Mental Health Services before you utilize media portrayals like this for programs because they can often be triggering for people with these disabilities.

 

Tip #2: Make Your Practice Inclusive

When you host fun programs or retreats for your staff, do you typically choose bonding activities like laser tag or kick ball? How can these types of activities other students with invisible disabilities? Are there possible accommodations that you could provide for students with invisible disabilities for laser tag or kick ball? Or, can you have just as much fun if you do a Chopped-style cooking competition or a karaoke night that could be more inclusive? Are there ways to make my last examples more bearable for students who may have unhealthy relationships with food or anxiety about singing in front of others?

Though I understand it’s not possible for every event to be completely inclusive of all students every time, we need to think about how to practice inclusion in every experience we provide for students from staff meetings to trainings to bonding activities. The first question that each experience should start with is “How can we do our best to make sure that we are including all students in this space?”

 

Tip #3: Validate their Stories

Many of the students that myself and my group members talked to were hesitant to identify with the term “disability.” A student with severe IBS said that he felt like he was taking power away from students with physical disabilities by identifying himself with disability. Students with mental health disabilities have been told so often to “suck it up” and just “get over it” that many even wonder if their disability is real. Disability, in our culture, has been tied to physicality, and this binary of “physically disabled” or “able” has led to the oppression and erasure of many students.

Students with invisible disabilities have their own coming out process where they are forced to continuously disclose their disability to receive accommodation and validation.

When we are confronted with that moment, it is our job as professionals to offer comfort and assurance that their stories matter. It is our job as professionals to accommodate their needs as much as we can by being inclusive in our practice and continuously educating ourselves, our staff, and our peers about invisible disabilities.

So much of Residence Life is about creating homes away from home. If we are really dedicated to that mission, then we have to foster belonging for ALL students whether they “look fine” or not.

Tags:  access  disabilities  erasure  intersectionality  invisible disabilities 

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The Life of a Dreamer

Posted By Evita Oldenburg | She, Her, Hers | Delaware State University, Sunday, December 17, 2017

 

The Life of a Dreamer

Author: Evita Oldenburg | She, Her, Hers | Resident Director & Adjunct English Professor | Delaware State University

Co-Author: Tania Hernandez | She, Her, Hers | Student | Delaware State University

 

 Below is a personal account of one student’s experience as a DREAMer. We share this story from our region to honor Tania’s story, and to bring light to all undocumented folx regardless of their conditions and/or choices. We uphold the value of all people, hold the truths of multiple realities, and pursue justice alongside our undocumented students, colleagues, and community members.

 

       There is something beautiful about acknowledging and celebrating cultures across the world. College/University Campuses are encouraged to embrace diversity. It is important for institutions to know just who their students are and the challenges that they face daily or even nationally. An opportunity called the DREAM Act provided DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students the chance to attend higher education institutions. These students, better known as DREAMers, have had outstanding success in their journey through college. However, DACA students are facing a variety of challenges now that revisions to DACA have been suggested in the United States. Challenge is nothing new for a DREAMer. Tania Hernandez is a student who is a DREAMer at Delaware State University. She shares her heartfelt story and why she advocates for her rights by lobbying when she can. Here is her story:

       “My name is Tania Hernandez. I am a 19-year-old freshman DACA student at Delaware State University. I am originally from the country of Mexico and was brought to the United States at the early age of six years old… one hour I was trick or treating with my friends, and the next I was dressed in warm clothing and on a bus with no clear destination. There I was in America where people around me spoke differently, looked and dressed differently, and did things differently than the people back home.

       However, I would only notice these differences for about a year. My parents told my brother and I that we would need to learn to act like the people around us because we would be here for a while and we needed to blend in. Soon, I began to forget everything about Mexico and learned how to live as an American. At school, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and had morning prayer. I began to speak fluent English and even began dressing like my new friends from school. A year later I could no longer see the differences; to me I was a regular American child.

        I learned what immigration was when I was in the seventh grade. In history class, we were discussing how the Europeans had immigrated to the new world and then one of my classmates said “yea, like Tania did.” Normally, I would have been alright with being used as an example, but from his tone of voice I could tell that this was neither a pleasant one, nor did I want to be the center of the example. I asked my teacher to further explain immigration to me after class and later that evening I went home and asked my mother if we were immigrants. She said yes and explained that we were one of those many families that the news crew kept reporting on when they were separated. From that moment forward, I felt like there was a giant bullseye marked on my back telling everyone that I was unwanted here. The issue was more like the elephant in the room all throughout high school. Many of my classmates suspected my status but would never have the courage to ask me upfront.

        My senior year, my world came crumbling down. Up until that point, I had been able to mask my status due to my approval for DACA since it granted me the opportunity to work and receive my driver’s license just like all the other teenagers. However, my dream career has always been to join the military and I passed all the requirements except one: my citizenship status. Recruiters wanted me to join their branch, since I had received an 87 on my most current ASVAB examination. They would take me through the whole pre-requirement screening and then be puzzled when the system would reject my social security number. They too were confused that I had a valid social security number but that because I was classified under DACA, the system would not clear me for enlistment. I was heartbroken five times, and each was harder and harder. I could not wrap my head around the fact that I was there willingly volunteering to serve and fight, so someone else’s child, husband, or brother would not have to. All I wanted was the chance to repay the country that had become my home and given me so much just a little bit by fighting to defend it and the freedom it offers. I close with this: allow me the chance to live my dream just like you have had. I want to repay this country that I have come to call home, because it is the only home I can honestly recall.”

       It is imperative that we understand our DREAMers, who they are, what they stand for, and why it is important for us to stand with them. Martin Luther King once said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everting that stands against love.” The DREAMers deserve to be able to embrace the rights of the only Country they know. A Country filled with opportunity and that allows for the voices of others to be heard. The DREAMers are stronger with the support of others. Only together can we help a dream come true!

 

For more institutional context, please visit: https://www.desu.edu/news/2017/09/provosts-statement-daca-dsus-dreamers.

For more national context, please visit: https://www.thenation.com/article/we-need-to-fight-for-all-undocumented-migrants-not-just-dreamers/.

For resources, please visit: unitedwedream.org or www.nilc.org.

Tags:  DACA  DREAMer  immigrant justice  liberation  undocumented 

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Thoughts on Pronouns

Posted By Kevin Castiglioni | He, Him, His | Graduate Hall Director, Rutgers University, Wednesday, November 29, 2017

 

Thoughts on Pronouns

by Kevin Castiglioni

 

       I think about respect for trans people a lot, and much more recently since my sibling came out as trans a few years ago. In a Higher Ed context, I think a lot about pronoun use when it comes to a classroom setting or a setting where there is a facilitator. Often the person leading the group will ask the group to share their pronouns during the introduction. Announcing names and pronouns at the beginning of a gathering is always a complicated issue. On one hand, the facilitator asking everyone to share their pronouns is beneficial because it creates a space where the facilitator is seen as progressive and cares about gender differences. On the other hand, the vast majority of the people in the room are probably cis-gender and have most likely been exposed to mainly other cisgender people. The addressing of pronouns for them is either arbitrary or a way for them to be conscious of their own gender identity.

       What really troubles me is the experience that trans people could have with this. It could either make them feel more comfortable because they are in a space where gender identity is seemingly accepted, or it could out them. Trans people may not want to share their pronouns with a large group of people for fear that people may treat them differently or exclude them altogether. Although I do not think there is a right way or wrong way to approach this, I do think that much consideration must go into the process of asking a whole group of people to announce the pronouns they use.

       I also want to highlight “pronouns used” because many times “preferred pronouns” get brought up. The word “prefer” assumes that there are other pronouns that may be used on me and I am directing which pronouns you should use to refer to me. Saying “these are the pronouns I use” gives power back to the person who uses those pronouns. When thinking about the acknowledgment of pronouns by cis-gendered people in a large crowd it is critical to explore the effects that this may have for a transgender or genderqueer person who may be in the space.

       All of this being considered, I believe there are some ways in which we can be more inclusive around pronouns. For example, one way is for the facilitator to announce their pronouns when introducing themselves and state why they think pronouns are important. This allows them to be transparent when asking the group to share their pronouns if they would like, but reminds them that this should be a conscious decision. In the end, there is one clear reminder for me-- It is a privilege not think about your pronouns and to forget to say them as a result.

 

Kevin Castiglioni
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Graduate Hall Director, Rutgers University

 

 

Tags:  gender  genderqueer  privilege  pronoun sharing  pronouns  trans 

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Domestic Violence: A Community Solution

Posted By Brian Medina, Saturday, October 14, 2017

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and while it may be heavy to talk about, I think it important to support identities often hidden by harsh realities and pain.

 

You should know that I am a volunteer on the national crisis hotline, RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). I actually just finished a 5-hour shift, assisting survivors of violence from all around the country and world who need to talk to someone about their experiences. I volunteer through the Online Hotline rather than the Phone Hotline, which means that I am using a chat window to communicate support and care. While it is certainly convenient to help someone while at home in my PJs, I have the added challenge to be without verbal or non-verbal communication to rely upon. It often means that comforting words such as “I am here for you” or “you are not alone” can make a huge difference.

 

The truth is that for many survivors of violence, self-blame can be pervasive. We all want to understand why someone would hurt us, and yet we often are left with few answers. Sometimes, a survivor of domestic violence will get their answer in the form of further pain. You may have heard of the ‘cycle of violence’ so often experienced by survivors. Attached to this post is one version that I pulled from San Jose State University that aptly demonstrates what is so challenging about the cycle of violence.

 

I have spoken to many who say, ‘why don’t they just break up with their partner?’ The reasons are complex, but it often comes down to this: when you love someone, you want to see the best in them rather than the worst. Add kids, financial dependence, and maybe a house or car to the equation and you can see how difficult it would be to simply walk away. Realize that domestic violence often isolates someone from their close friends and family, or at least hides the scars (physical or emotional) from them. People will often say, ‘their relationship is not my business,’ forgetting that all of us need one another to support us through life. Not everyone has the means or training to insert themselves into an abusive relationship, but there are ample resources available to those in need.

 

For starters, be a listening ear and an observant eye. Survivors may not share anything with you if they think they will be judged or blamed for their abusive relationship. There are a plethora of signs that a relationship isn’t going well. The obvious fighting or yelling may be telling, but there are plenty of perpetrators of abuse that are quieter with their control so they don’t raise suspicion. If your friend used to be able to hang out with you regularly but their partner now doesn’t ‘let them’ go out, keep that in mind. It may simply be that they want a private date night once in a while, but consistent isolation is surely a sign of inappropriate control.

 

Domestic violence takes time to develop. Rarely does an abuser show their anger and violence in the first few weeks or months of a relationship. It may take years for someone to groom their partner into expecting increased fear when things aren’t ‘how they like it.’ The challenge is that abusers can be quite nice and charming during the honeymoon phase, making it look as though they can genuinely change for the better. Apologies, gifts, even short term peace can all be a part of the cycle, only to be interrupted by some argument or small area of concern that continues to escalate.  The major eruption (physical, emotional, or otherwise) often creates an environment whereby the survivor would be in MORE harm if they tried to leave than if they stayed. Sure, they may be beaten, but at least they are alive.

 

If you think that someone has been experiencing domestic violence, it may not be the best idea to ask either party directly. Rather, read up on the literature and share it with the potential survivor. Letting them know that you are available to listen if they need can go a long way in building trust. Researching local crisis centers or counselors may be a more confidential avenue they would like to take rather than one that could involve friends or family. Often, a survivor will be controlled financially, and so simply moving out and getting a new place to stay isn’t practical or possible. Many crisis centers have emergency shelters for temporary use, and they can connect with lawyers or police if someone wants to file a protective order.

 

For some survivors, isolation means that they have to stay in the house most of the time. While some perpetrators monitor computer and phone use, it may be worthwhile for a survivor to know of the national domestic violence hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/

 

Other helpful links are:

http://www.loveisrespect.org/get-help/should-we-break-up

http://www.loveisrespect.org/for-someone-else/is-my-relationship-healthy-quiz/

 

Not everyone will reach out online or by phone. It’s hard for a survivor to think of themselves as such, convinced that the person they first started dating may resurface if only they wait patiently. And while it is true that people can change, domestic violence situations rarely improve significantly. Some learn to manage through the pain or wait until the perpetrator dies or decides to break up on their own.

 

The more we learn to support one another in having healthy boundaries and relationships, the more an abusive relationship and its warning signs will be made clear. Families will work up the courage to confront the situation and provide housing and financial support for the abused. Workplaces will provide counseling to all of its employees at low cost and gently assist their employees when they see signs of physical trauma. Crisis centers and emergency shelters will be funded and staffed according to their needs, rather than scrape by to barely keep operational. Doctors, lawyers, and politicians will be better trained to understand cycles of violence, ensuring that immediate medical care, legal options, and institutional or governmental protections improve our society overall. And while it may never be easy, the route toward healing and recovery may soften and shorten. Perpetrators can be held accountable and survivors can be given opportunities to live anew, among loving and supportive people within their community. 

 

If you ever want to talk to someone or want more resources than what I've provided, let me know. My private email is brianmedina1@gmail.com

 

Best,

 

Brian

Tags:  dating violence  diversity  domestic violence  perpetrator  survivor 

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Navigating Accountability in our Allyship Journeys

Posted By Amanda Slichter (She, Her, Hers) | Lehigh University, Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Is it tough being an ally? Are you exhausted from calling out your well-intended cisgender coworker, your blatantly racist family member, or your institution’s weak efforts to make your campus more accessible? 

I know that I am. It’s okay if you are, too.

But allies don’t get a gold star, and we certainly don’t get to give up. 

Allyship 101¾ If we have an identity that warrants us privilege, we should do our best to leverage our words and actions to realign the scales by addressing harmful language and behaviors. It might be uncomfortable or “cause conflict,” but it pales in comparison to the discomfort of active oppression for those who hold the marginalized identity. Furthermore, is your response to the injustice causing the conflict, or does the inherent conflict lie in the harm being done by the oppressor? This is a rhetorical question, because your magnifying glass is not the weapon.

With that reminder about basic expectations for allyship as a verb, I do want to recognize that the time and labor invested in active allyship can feel exhausting at times. I’m not denying that. I’m simply asking us to be accountable in knowing the difference between convenience and comfort, as opposed to safety. I’m simply asking us to truly, fully, and publicly live out the values we tout.

Putting parameters on your engagement, or taking a purposeful period of self-care that allows you to re-engage at a more productive point? Absolutely fair.

Ignoring your aunt’s racial slur because it will make the conversation awkward? Not fair. There are a plethora of ways to handle this racism, and you know it. Mentally assess the situation, decide on your strategy, and be an accomplice in dismantling white supremacy. Remember, “The lines of oppression are already drawn… we’re in a fight, so be ready for confrontation and consequence.”(Indigenous Action Media, 2014).

I say all of this knowing that we will often fail. In the last year, I can think of specific instances along my own allyship journey that are marked by moments of shameful inaction. So when I ask for more accountability, don’t think that I exclude myself from this plea.

In fact, to move beyond the abstract and into something more tangible, I’m going to name three specific allyship expectations I’ve struggled to consistently uphold, summarized from this article. If you need an accountability buddy, feel free to join me in re-focusing your own allyship journey.

I’m going to ask friends and colleagues to hold me accountable if…

               #1) I fail to engage.

As mentioned above, stepping up and living up to our values is the crux of allyship accountability. White silence is violence, and human lives are not something to be complacent about. We have a lot of work to do, so engage in responsible call out culture by addressing the issues. But beware of one pitfall¾ The “all opinions are welcome and valid” troupe. Um no, some “opinions” are violent and do not deserve equal space and consideration. (Example: We are NOT here to debate the humanity or worth of trans+ folx. Shut that down.)

               #2) I fail to work WITH marginalized communities.

I need to stay in my lane, because most times it is not my truth to speak. As allies, we need to better recognize when to simply shut up and listen. This will allow us to work on genuine understanding before aimless action and misplaced intentions cause further harm. It’s about working alongside communities and lifting up silenced voices¾ not doing things “for them.” To check in with myself on this, I should internally ask, “What assumptions have I made about this community?” or “What voices or causes are already in place for me to amplify?” The last thing a grassroots cause needs is a well-intended white savior misplacing resources or drowning out community voices.

               #3) I fail to give credit.

Although this can be more challenging, a little extra thought or research goes a long way. If I don’t automatically remember where/who I got the language, idea, or resources from, I need to take the time to loop back and find the source. I can google it! Information is abundant, and whenever possible we must attribute the work to those who have done the labor. We should not co-opt a movement to re-center our own community’s needs. We should not profit off of black or queer creativity. We should not colonize intersectionality by erasing its roots in Critical Race Theory, or fail to give credit to Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw. Instead, we should take the time to read up on the activists who have come before us. We should come up with our own intellectual property while supporting preexisting liberation movements.

In recent months, I’ve noticed this thirst for accountability more than ever. I want it for myself, for my peers and colleagues, for my institution, and for Student Affairs as an entire field. A lot of harm is being thrown around without consequence. In fact, simply calling ATTENTION to harm seems to hold more risk than actually CAUSING harm via racism, xenophobia, or transphobia. (I see you, Dr. Higgins.)

We can do better. Our colleagues and our students deserve to see accountability when harm occurs. To start, we need to hold ourselves accountable. How will you intentionally look inward to focus on this? Simultaneously, how can our institutions and colleagues be held accountable? There’s a lot more to explore here, and work to be done. How are you serving up justice and accountability, MACUHO? I hope it starts within yourself and expands into all the circles you inhabit.

 

 

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  Allyship  identiy  marginalized  privilege 

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[New Webinar] MACUHO Diversity Committee Presents...

Posted By Kurtis Watkins, Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Greetings Colleagues,


Join the MACUHO Diversity Committee as we launch a new initiative titled, "In Practice: A Webinar Series on Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice at MACUHO Institutions." Our first webinar will take an in-depth look into the new Inclusive Communities Committee (ICC) at Towson University. The ICC promotes initiatives for creating inclusive and welcoming residential communities by improving awareness, knowledge, and skills in the areas of social identity, advocacy, allyship, and cultural competency for staff, students, and residential communities.  

 

The webinar will take place on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 2:00pm EST. This is a free webinar for all student affairs professionals, but you must register to access the webinar. See attached flyer for details, and please feel free to share with your colleagues

Free Registration Here: http://bit.ly/2sxxE6Q

 

Tags:  diversity  equity  inclusion  social justice 

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