Guilford celebrates Women’s History Month

“When women tell their stories, other women sometimes can raise their voices as well,” said Associate Professor of English Mylène Dressler.

Dressler, along with other Guilford faculty members, spoke at the HERstory Month Celebration on March 15. The celebration was an interdisciplinary celebration of Women’s History Month and featured artwork, presentations, a book reading and performances.

The celebration shared stories of impactful women in the past and present. It also allowed members of the Guilford community to reflect on current social movements, specifically the #MeToo movement.

“Hollywood has been shaken and individuals who seemed untouchable, even by very famous and powerful women, have been taken down,” said Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages Karen Spira.

Spira’s presentation titled, “#MeToo in Peru: How a Novel Speaks to a Movement,” analyzed the novel, “La Sangre de la Aurora” by Claudia Jimenez, and its relevance to the #MeToo movement today.

“As a language professor and as a literature professor, I’ve been really interested in the #MeToo (movement),” said Spira.

Spira used “La Sangre de la Aurora”, which translates to “The Blood of the Dawn”, to show the power in the #MeToo movement, as well as some critiques of the movement.

“I think that ‘Blood of the Dawn,’ the novel, is a helpful corrective to the #MeToo movement,” said Spira. “One of the critiques of #MeToo is that it has been too focused on the stories of white women and of professional women, and that stories of women of color and working-class women … have been marginalized and sidelined.”

In addition to discussing #MeToo, attendees were also able to reflect on women’s historical presence leading up to modern times. Assistant Professor of History Sarah Thuesen shared this in her presentation titled, “Change in the Academy: The Case of History.”

“Having an organized presence in the profession and in the narrative is a really recent phenomenon,” said Thuesen.

Thuesen shared information about pioneering women, both in historical professions and historical narratives.

“In the very early days of the historical profession in the U.S., women were very much in the margins of the profession,” said Thuesen.

Thuesen also reminded attendees of recent and impactful strides made to increase women’s rights.

“I was born into a world where there was no Women’s History Month,” said Thuesen. “There wasn’t even a Women’s History Week yet.”

In addition to sharing the stories of impactful women, the HERstory History Month reminded attendees of the significance of empowering women and allowing their voices to be heard.

“I think that the most important lesson I have learned … is that, you know, it’s not about me,” said senior Kaeli Frank. “It’s about the people’s voices that we are reading and that we are hearing, and it’s about their language and their culture.”

Frank shared her presentation titled, “A Student’s Perspective on The Blood of the Dawn,” and shared her experiences with and reflections on “The Blood of the Dawn” and what readers can learn from the novel.

Another presentation, “Women’s Movements in U.S. Politics: Strategies for Change,” was shared by Associate Professor of Political Science Maria Rosales. Rosales spoke about impactful women in the past and related their stories to those who are working on various social movements today.

“Beyond infrapolitics, even in actual, real social movement work that we label as social movements, there are many crucial roles,” said Rosales. “Not everyone can be a public leader and also not everybody should be. I think that’s important because movements need all of these things.

“Movements need food, childcare, planning, space, resources and presence and numbers.”

The presentations given at the HERstory Month Celebration helped attendees learn about what can make social movements impactful in today’s culture and society.

“When I interpret #MeToo, or the phase ‘Me too,’ I think that it means that sexual harassment or assault is pervasive and that they are repetitious,” said Spira. “The different experiences that women have repeat one another in a way that is almost eerie.

“And also, that this is a shared experience among women and others who have experienced assault or harassment.”

Despite the large strides that have been made for women, there have also been some setbacks.

“Wins lead to backlash,” said Rosales. “They always do … What people attack shows what matters.”

Attendees were reminded of the importance of recognizing impactful women, as well as the importance of facing challenges head-on.

“History is not always a linear progress,” said Thuesen. “There has been an upward trajectory, but more progress remains.”