In the spirit of collaboration and mutual support, a working group of faculty, students
and staff members selected “Women's Power, Women's Justice" as a 2016-2017 intellectual
theme that reflects faculty-led interest that we hope will permeate the campus community
and conversations throughout the academic year.
In the United States today, women’s contributions in a wide range of endeavors are
both expected and celebrated. Women are leaders in politics and business with increasing
numbers of women representatives, company leaders, and local officials. Women’s creative
work in the arts, entertainment and literature is garnering not just attention but
also national and international awards. More women are attending college than ever
before, more are receiving advanced degrees, and nearly 200,000 women are currently
athletes in programs across the country. But these examples of success are relatively
new, and equal justice for women has not always been found here and around the world.
Women represent over fifty percent of the world’s population, which might suggest
that women could easily achieve equality and the opportunity for equal representation
in a democratic society. However, in the United States and all over the world, women’s
opportunities to lead self-directed and meaningful lives and make strong leadership
contributions in their communities are challenged by cultural expectations, religious
ideologies, and political restrictions.
In the United States, women and girls have fought to address these injustices for
centuries, with a series of victories along the way, beginning with the first women's
rights convention held in Seneca Falls in 1848 (with the signing of the Declaration
of Sentiments), organized by the Quaker Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
At an 1851 women's rights convention in Ohio, Sojourner Truth, a freed slave and abolitionist,
demanded the inclusion of black women in the call for women's rights. Women’s struggle
for their rights continued with the opening of the first birth control center in 1916
by Margaret Sanger (leading to the founding of Planned Parenthood), the passing in
1920 of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote, the
publication of the groundbreakingThe Feminine Mystiqueby Betty Friedan in 1963, followed by the second and third waves of the feminist movement.
By 2015, women found opportunities for equal pay with the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay
Restoration Act and increased presence in government, including Supreme Court justices
Ruth Bader Ginzburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
The articulation of women’s power and women’s justice may be seen in novels, sermons,
political campaigns, legal rights work, and philosophical treatises, and all of these
provide the opportunity to learn and change. When societies offer fairness and equality,
women may find their power in education, job opportunities, caring relationships,
and personal agency. Our failure to provide equality leaves women unable to choose
their own life paths, work at satisfying jobs, receive fair compensation, address
pressing healthcare needs, and care for themselves and their families adequately. This
is the heart of the justice that women still seek: not anger against men or hate for
social norms, but sharing and self-determination on their own terms. One of the first
to explain these connections was Mary Wollstonecraft, author ofA Vindication of the Rights of Women, who wrote in 1792, “I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over
themselves” (Vindication, Ch. 4).
Much work remains to create the world we envision for ourselves and others. In the
twenty-first century, women will--with the support of fair-minded men-- step up to
take on the challenges that still remain and that newly confront them and work to
institute equal rights and social justice in all of their roles.
The theme of “Women's Power, Women's Justice” invites us to cross, intersect, and
transcend borderlands in the ways we think about others and ourselves by deconstructing
notions of gender and identity. We invite all students, faculty, and staff to explore
the concepts and realities of “Women's Power, Women's Justice” and we encourage you
to think about how this theme can be a part of the programs that your department,
class, or student organization may sponsor this year.