The United States is one of approximately six countries that has not signed a document that provides a universal definition of discrimination against women as well as the pledge to aid in the elimination of this gender discrimination, Carol Boyce Davies, director of African-New World Studies and a professor at Florida International University, said last Wednesday. Davies, a Trinidadian native, was warmly welcomed by a large congregation of students at the College.
According to Davies, one of the reasons the United States provides for its refusal to sign the document is that women in our country already have rights protected under law.
“There’s a problem with that,” Davies said. “It is just shocking how much of the world is controlled by men and how we really haven’t come all that far when you look at feminism from an economic standpoint.
Davies also talked about women and leadership as well as how women in power are treated and regarded around the world. She specifically referred to Harriet Tubman and her remarkable hard work and dedication to liberating so many oppressed people from slavery.
Davies brought to light the high number of significant female leaders who seem to have disappeared from the historical framework they impacted.
For much of her speech, Davies focused on journalist Claudia Jones, who she said is responsible for bringing the idea of feminism and gender equality into the idea of communism.
“Where Karl Marx would question workers’ exploitation in labor, Jones would ask where women fit into this equation,” Davies said.
Drawing another connection between Marx and Jones, Davies displayed a picture of Marx’s gravesite in London, England, and brought to the audience’s attention the left sign of the photograph, where the gravesite of Claudia Jones is visible.
This picture inspired Davies with the title of a book she is currently working on about Jones entitled “Left of Karl Marx.”
Davies also discussed Article One of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
According to the Division for the Advancement of Women Web site, the ideas expressed by CEDAW serve as an “international bill of rights for women” which “defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.”
“It was interesting because I didn’t know a lot about Claudia Jones,” C.J. Fitts, a Bucks County, P.A. resident, said. Fitts noted that this was one of Davies’ points – that Jones, along with other femaile leaders, has been erased from history.
Davies received both a response of humor and used a recent media occurrence as an analogy to the bigger picture of how men and women, blacks and whites are regarded by society.
“I’m sure all of you were horrified about how Janet Jackson was treated compared to Justin Timberlake,” Davies said. “He is questioned and moves on, and yet Jackson is continuously questioned about the incident, (when) Timberlake was essentially the one (who performed the action).”
“Carole Boyce Davies’ lecture was empowering for all the students in attendance,” Allison Lorenzo, junior psychology major, said. “We need more informed and outstanding women to be recognized for their contributions.”
Michael Pesa, sophomore biology major, said he could not believe the United States has refused to sign to U.N. treaty on women’s rights.
Gloria Dickinson, African American Studies department chair, provided a lengthy address referring to the guest speaker’s various accomplishments, and Davies expressed her satisfaction with the number of students present.
The lecture was held in honor of Women’s History Month and was co-sponsored by the women’s and gender studies program, the Women’s Center, Women in Learning and Leadership (W.I.L.L.), the committee for Cultural and Intellectual Community, General Education, the College Art Gallery, the English department and the Writer’s Conference.
– Information from un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/