EMU holds women’s issues discussion

Panel members from Haven included (from left) Liz Ratzloff, Kathryn Kucyk and Cristy S. Cardinal.

After “The Vagina Monologues,” concluded, Eastern Michigan University held events for V-Day, a global movement started to end domestic violence towards women and children.

The EMU Women’s and Gender Studies Student Association presented a Women of the State session at Halle Library with discussions on the Violence against Women Act, birth control, reproduction and issues affecting women in society.

Guest speakers from Haven, an organization that offers prevention services for domestic violence and sexual assault, included Program Director Cristy Cardinal, prevention education specialist Kathryn Kucyk and Liz Ratzloff, a field organizer for Planned Parenthood.

Perception and language toward women were explored, particularly on “how much people hate women.”

Cardinal said she heard a commercial on the radio that said women want to be cat-called.

“That was the message, ‘You get out [of] classes, you’ll get whistled at on the street. So there’s this pressure on women to like the shitty ways we’re treated. Like we’re supposed to enjoy, seek it out or look for it,” Cardinal said.

The negative outlook women have toward themselves and one another is trickling down to young children.

Cardinal, a very vocal feminist, realized this disturbing perception with the birth of her daughter and the unachievable standards that’s expected whilst being a woman.

“When my oldest daughter was born, the nurse picked her up and was taking her over to the scale and said, ‘Let’s see how fat you are.’ She was not even thirty seconds [old]and it was already about her body,” Cardinal said. “And then when they weighed her and she was six pounds, which is small for a full term baby, it was, ‘Oh you look like you’re a bit underweight.’ So in a second, she was wrong in this direction and then wrong in that direction.”

Ratzloff made a point on how the presence of sexism exists not only in society but also in politics.
Ratzloff said the Senate revised health insurance regulations to not cover abortion as it did prior, creating more conflict on a women’s right to choose.

Kucyk said she believes in taking the initiative for prevention of sexual assault by creating programs starting from kindergarten to college, while educating on how to navigate in a sexist world.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and Kucyk has created a teen advisory council to bring awareness on the issues, and brought up the Violence against Women Act for the state of Michigan.

“We try to get a core group of students that help Haven with its mission and to be more accessible to teenagers because we know that teenage dating violence is huge,” Kucyk said.

She then went on to talk about the Violence against Women Act.

“It doesn’t necessarily matter if it’s legal when these things are not reported because someone knows that they won’t get any support from their community or from the legal system. When it is reported many perpetrators plea out and get it removed from their records,” Kucyk said.

She said tt brings into question as to why the women’s movement has relied on the justice system.

When an audience member asked, “Why do you think that the United States feminist movement seems to be so academic and really white?”

Cardinal said she wished she knew.

“It’s one that frustrates me all the time because I’m not academic; I don’t aspire to be. I sometimes take it personally because I feel like you’re discounted, if you’re not an academic feminist, then you don’t have enough value. The whiteness has been a problem forever,” Cardinal said.

“All those things are barriers to making feminism work,” Cardinal said. “I think feminism needs to center the lives of women of color immediately. We center in the lives of women of color and there are more women of color on this planet than any other kind of people. Why aren’t they centered to this conversation? If feminists aren’t making the effort to put women of color in the center of the conversation, women of color aren’t going to show up.”

For more information on Haven go to Haven-Oakland.org.


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