Activism project turns into day-long festival of feminism

A project for a Women and Gender Studies class turned into a campuswide program last Wednesday, with the all-day program, Fem Fest. Discussions and workshops were held throughout the day in Forcina Hall while information tables were set up in the Brower Student Center to inform and educate students about feminist issues.

The idea for Fem Fest began when students in a women’s and gender studies course were assigned to do an activism project. Jaclyn Castaldo, junior history and women’s and gender studies major, decided to put together a day of education, information and discussion about activism and feminism for the project.

“We just hope we get our ideas across,” Castaldo said.

The day of activities was kicked off by a welcome address and a workshop called “The Modern Family.”

The welcome address was given by women’s and gender studies director Ellen Friedman and President R. Barbara Gitenstein. Friedman and Gitenstein both commended Jaclyn Castaldo for her success in actually putting together Fem Fest.

“Our fight is not yet over,” Friedman said in the welcoming address, speaking about people’s ideas of feminism and activism. She explained that most people think feminists are man-haters. She further insisted that most people think feminists “don’t want equality, but rather, expect more than their fair share of pay and opportunity.”

“Feminism has nothing to do with male-bashing,” Friedman said before bringing up that women still make approximately 75 cents to the dollar men make in the workforce. She explained that feminism is not anti-male, but rather anti-female beating, pro-equal rights, and pro-equal pay.

President Gitenstein followed Friedman’s talk by discussing her role as a female professional and the steps taken to get where she is today. Gitenstein, a proclaimed feminist, started off talking about her education and explained that “values need to be questioned” in order for progress to occur. She further discussed the advantages of having a woman president at a college.

“We (women) definitely think differently,” Gitenstein said. “We bring up different issues.” She then noted the reluctance of male presidents at colleges to recognize topics such as date rape which are “more likely to be brought up by a female.”

She concluded by acknowledging feminist progress. “We have to begin by recognizing and acknowledging that there has been change,” she said.

The workshop on “The Modern Family” given by Cynthia Paces, professor of history, spoke of the modern family in which both parents not only share working responsibilities, but also child-rearing responsibilities.

It also touched on feminism and equality, not in the workforce, but in the household. Paces, with the help of other working-mom professors Felicia Steele and Eliza McFeely, spoke openly about the difficulty and payoff of juggling both work and motherhood.

“It’s hard but it can be fun,” Paces said, explaining the guilt associated with being a working mother. She said that a working mother tends to feel guilty about having a child when she is at work and about having a job when she is at home. Paces and Steele further explained that careers and children each take time away from the other but with the right teamwork in the family it is possible, and even enjoyable, to have both.

At the end of both the welcome address and workshop, Jaclyn Castaldo presented the speakers with Fem Fest T-shirts and certificates of appreciation for helping to make the day a success.