Hello all, and welcome to the Women in Leadership blog!
My name is Val Armstrong and I am one of two Women in Leadership interns for the Fall 2011 semester. I am currently a junior majoring in Mathematics and a Women in Leadership certificate candidate. I am also involved with the school’s newspaper, the Pierce Arrow, and the Honors Program at Franklin Pierce. As an intern in the Women in Leadership (WL) program, I work on a variety of projects to bring awareness to women’s and gender issues that surround all of us in our lives. From our Newsflush publication to our events, such as the Vagina Monologues and Take Back the Night, our goal is to reach out and educate the Franklin Pierce community on these issues and empower everyone, regardless of gender, to take a stand on the issues that may face you one day.
Now the big question everyone has been waiting for: what made you realize you were a feminist? When did you first start becoming concerned with political, cultural, economic, social and overall equality of gender? What was your “Click!” moment? My first “Click!” moment occurred when I was about seven years old while I was visiting with my grandparents. My mother and grandmother were talking, and though I could not even tell you what the conversation was about, I remember very clearly a response my grandmother gave during the discussion:
“I don’t need to get down in a ditch with a man to prove I’m his equal. I’m a women and I’m superior to that.”
For some reason, those two sentences stuck with me and though I thought it was in some ways true, it made me angry. Why couldn’t a woman get down in that ditch to prove it? Doesn’t she have the right to? What about the man? What makes me superior to him? Is superiority what I am aiming for, or is it something else?
Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother is one of many people I greatly admire, and I think she is a feminist in her own right. I love being able to pick her brain about what it was like for her, as a woman, in the early 1950s. I feel that she lived through such a critical time in our history when the idea of the American Dream changed for women. However, it has been around 14 years since I first heard her make that statement, and only now did I ask her this in response: Why?
The reason is simple, if you know her personally. My grandmother is a devout Roman Catholic and has made religion a big part of her life and the basis for some of her beliefs. So when I asked her why, she told me the story of the Marriage at Cana from the gospel. In John 2:3-5, it was discovered during the wedding ceremony they had run out of wine. It was then that Jesus’ mother (who was unnamed by John) told Jesus that there was no wine. In reply, he said, “O Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come.” Then, his mother instructed the servants to “do whatever he tells you”. In telling me the story, my grandmother said that the blessed mother knew what was going on and that Jesus would handle it and did not need to ‘get down in a ditch’ with anyone to prove that she could take control of the situation.
Understandably, some may be critical of religion because of its past dealing with women. However, it is has provided a source of strength to my grandmother, both as a young woman in the 1950s and today. Though I personally am not religious and do not agree with the way that some religions have and do treat women, I do agree with the underlying message of the things she had told me over the years. It is that women know, as well as men, that we can be just as much as an equal to anyone and have a voice. There is no need to get down in a ditch to prove it; it should be recognized that in the end, we are all human, and we should not let gender control us in society.
Since the time my grandmother was a young woman, things have changed drastically and for the better. Laws, regulations and even our own culture have now allowed women to have their voices heard, to take charge and to stand up for themselves against all types of prejudice. However, equality for both genders has not been accomplished; we are not there yet. Gender issues are still affecting each of us, even here in our small corner of the world known as Franklin Pierce. I hope over the next semester our program can shed some light on these issues and we can all take a stand against the injustices that we are still confronted with today.
Women in Leadership Intern