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What it means to be a woman

International Women’s Day has come and gone at Rollins, and many students are still reflecting on how this day made them feel about their gender and the way society contributes to our most personal identities. The day before “A Day Without Women,” a small gathering formed on Olin lawn with Dr. Kim Dennis of the Art History department and several Lucy Cross Center students.

Their outdoor discussion focused on how it felt to be a woman in 2017, given the current political climate, stigmas, and lifestyles in America. Many different topics were covered during this hour-long talk, one of which was the privilege of being able to participate in “A Day Without Women” by choosing not to go to work.

Dr. Dennis talked about how easy it is for her to cancel class because of her tenure. She does not have to worry about getting in trouble with Rollins due to her privilege, while many women throughout America don’t have that same opportunity. Women who desired to participate may have found themselves unable to do so due to fear of repercussion from workplace administrators—even though the point of “A Day Without Women” is to emphasize how different the workplace would be without women present.

When asked what “being a woman” meant to participants, one of the first things mentioned was the experience of being catcalled. Women took turns explaining their perspectives and shared stories of being catcalled and how it made them feel to be objectified so blatantly. Although the first conversation topic was inarguably negative, the discussion turned to the positives of being a woman very quickly.

Emotional expression was popular upside of being a woman. In a country where men are encouraged to remain stoic in times of despair, women are expected to hold a better understanding of their emotions. This is something many women appreciated, and although it often leads to negative stereotypes of PMSing demons and women who “cry over everything,” most of the participants agreed that they’d prefer to have a healthy emotional state rather than bear the pressure of keeping all emotions bottled up inside.

When asked by a professor what it is like to be a young woman here on campus, most agreed that Rollins isn’t perfect in terms of gender equality, but that it wasn’t the worst they’d experienced, either. Greek Life was mentioned as a major influencer of the way women are treated on the Rollins campus. The intermingling of fraternities and sororities often leads to stereotypical expectations of the other group. One student mentioned that a fraternity member told her that everyone in her sorority’s new pledge class is fat. The belief that all sorority members must be white, skinny, and enthusiastic about fraternity life can often contribute to women’s feelings of objectification on campus.

The conversation on Olin lawn covered a broad range of topics, but they all revolved around how it feels to be a woman. The reflection allowed “A Day Without Women” to be even more impactful, considering the depth the group covered on femininity and stereotypes.

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