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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

Women’s History Month

WOFFORD’S PAST AND PRESENT INVOLVEMENT, PLUS PERSPECTIVES FROM WOFFORD WOMEN—

March is Women’s History Month, a month dedicated to educating on and spreading awareness of women’s history. Each year, Wofford hosts events and activities in support of the month. This year, there are three main events. March 13, SCATE Night will highlight Women’s History Month, HUB CITY Bookstore will host a poetry reading titled “Lady Parts” on March 19 and finally March 20 Susan Benson-Sokmen from University of Toronto will present on “Women and Participation in the Armed Struggle.”

Dr. Laura Barbas-Rhoden, a faculty member from the Spanish department also involved in the Gender Studies program, reflects on past Women’s History Months at Wofford.

“There have been amazing Women’s History Month’s on campus and there have been not so great ones,” says Barbas-Rhoden. “An extraordinary one was designed by Jennifer Dillinger when she was a student (Jennifer Almond). It was well executed and it sparked discussion and action.”

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Dillinger planned the March 2006 Women’s History Month. She explains that she got interested in getting involved and taking initiative because of the 2005 Women’s History Month.

“My sophomore year, Women’s History Month consisted of a screening of the Johnny Depp film Chocolat, and Wofford hosted pedicures and a chocolate fondue fountain,” says Dillinger. “I attended the program thinking it was a fun night for women and when I realized it was meant to be away to respect and honor the people involved in Women’s History Month, I was really truly appalled.”

Dillinger was disappointed in the theme and small size of the event. As a student the following year, Dillinger headed up a student committee that planned several panels for Women’s History Month.

“All the events involved local women who came in and spoke about their struggle to have leadership opportunities, to hold office, to break through the glass ceiling. All of our events were geared towards discussion, education and content.”

Dillinger explained that feminism was not a word used within the Gender Studies program at the time she was a student. She remembers the year she helped plan Women’s History Month as a true shift in perspective at Wofford.

“Honestly for the first time ever—and maybe that’s a bit strong—but for the first time in my career at Wofford there was a space to discuss feminism. To have someone who says ‘I love pink and dressing in cute clothes’ to begin to understand what it means to be a feminist, or to have Linda Powers saying she was a feminist, and to have men involved in that discussion…We had really great participation in the events. It was the first time that we shifted from a fun play time for women during Women’s History Month to a true educational opportunity for women.”

Dillinger remembers that part of the success of Women’s History Month in 2006 was because her committee worked alongside the committee who planned Black History Month events, which occurred the month before, having a seamless flow between the two months. This year, the Women’s History Month events and activities were supported by faculty members Beate Brunow and Carey Voeller. Senior Courtney Parsons, a student on the committee, explains that a similar springboard between awareness months is planned for 2015, but between Women’s History Month and Sexual Assault Awareness month in April with a clothesline project and a speaker in conjunction with Spectrum.

Lindsey Perret, the Presidential Scholar for 2014, is hopeful that this year will have the same sort of student participation in Women’s History Month that Dillinger saw in 2006. Perret is a Gender Studies concentration, and her Presidential Scholarship highlighted international female empowerment.

She studied women who worked collaboratively with others to make changes in favor of more inclusive communities.

“My Presidential Scholar proposal was about trying to find women as agents of change,” says Perret.

“I noticed that microloan companies gave more loans to women. So I wondered if women are more dependable at paying back loans, what other ways were they making change?”

“I talked to lesbian women activists in Cuba, women fighting domestic violence in rural Nicaragua, and an organization in the Dominican Republic that put more emphasis on educating girls because more boys go to school than girls and the girls that do attend school only go for half of the day. I learned how women help other women—not the US coming in, but women helping in their own communities.”

From the Gender Studies and Language departments, Barbas-Rhoden says, “Ideally everything we do as a society is inclusive, but until we get there, awareness months bring attention to history and experiences that often get overlooked or marginalized.”

“It is very, very easy in today’s world to forget that there was a time when women didn’t have the choice to enter the world of work,” says Dillinger.

“Fast-forward a few years from that point in time and women had three choices of work: teacher, nurse, librarian. Every step forward that we’ve made needs to be honored and remembered. A series of events or a month help us to pause, look back, remember, or simply be educated because the current college female will not experience the same things that Roberta Biggers, Linda Powers and Carol Wilson did. We need to respect and honor their experience.”

Perret has a global perspective on the importance of Women’s History Month. She says “We know we live in a patriarchal world where history means men’s history implicitly, so to take part of the year—if not more time than that—to say ‘hey there were women who did cool things, too’ is important. I like to ask men what women they know in their fields that have been influential. Male mathematicians, for example, might focus on Newton but Hypitaia they do not know, and she was incredible. I think that whether your interests are math or the arts, you should just take a moment to acknowledge that history books didn’t cover women as adequately as they should have. White men write history so why don’t we go back and rewrite it and make it more accurate?”

Both Dillinger and Perret had influential men in their lives that helped them become feminists, and they would like to invite all men to participate in the month’s events.

Perret says, “I’m a gender studies concentration and it started with Dr. Carey Voeller. I was raised by a single mom, and I realized maybe she was missing jobs because she was a woman. I started to wonder about how the structure of masculinity fits into Wofford.”

Dillinger says, “The person that most inspired me to be a feminist is my dad and his unwavering belief that his daughters could do any of the things that other men could do—sports, math or science. Without his support and belief in me I never would have had that confidence. I think that’s where it starts.”

Parsons agreed with Perret and Dillinger.

“Men should definitely be involved. We actually had a male student on the committee last year before he graduated. Women’s History Month is about celebrating women, and men can definitely do that as well.”

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