By MacKenzie Brady
Student Life Editor
On Wednesday, Nov. 6, Cleopatra’s Sisters hosted the “Are You Listening to Her?” panel, filled by Assistant Director of Student Engagement Sarah Tansits, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Emerald Stacy, senior and member of Cleo’s Sisters Emily Dobson, and sophomore and member of Cleo’s Sisters Zairel Luna.
According to the promotional email, the event was a “campus-wide discussion about equality, Women’s Rights, and our truest feelings about Womanhood.”
To have this type of discussion, panelists pulled responses from a three-question survey that had been sent out to campus. These responses served as the jumping off point for discussions between panelists and attendees.
First, everyone discussed self-confidence and acceptance.
Some thought that kids today are exposed to more body-positive media and therefore have less issues with body shaming.
“It’s not only about feeling confident, it’s about making sure everyone else recognizes different kinds of beautiful,” one audience member said.
“Being beautiful is not the rent I pay to be a woman,” Stacy said, paraphrasing a quote by Erin McKean, a lexicographer and founder of the not-for-profit Wordnik.com, the world’s biggest online dictionary.
“Representation is very important for people outside of the marginalized,” another audience member said. “It’s not our job to educate other people about our bodies.”
“You might not always have self-confidence, but you should say to your friends that you need help building your self-confidence,” Tansits said, emphasizing the importance of reaching out to friends when you need help building yourself up.
Audience members and panelists also discussed the importance of appropriate compliments, especially towards black women and their hair.
Attendees talked about complimenting without over-exaggerating, because it takes away from the compliment entirely, and stressed the importance of not touching hair when complimenting it.
The topic changed to stereotyping men as being stronger than women. This strength varied from literal physical strength, to mansplaining and emotional strength.
Attendees discussed mansplaining that they have faced and that they have seen in classrooms, as male students will try to correct their female professors.
Stacy recalled a time in graduate school when she was doing group work to solve equations. She had done work on the board and was told she was incorrect, but when one of the men in her group put the same work on the board next to it, it was decided that he was right.
“The only reason you thought she was wrong was because she had tits,” Stacy said the other woman in their group said after pointing out that the work for both equations was identical.
Another anonymous response was pulled, which discussed salaries and the importance of knowing what others are making to know whether or not you are asking for an appropriate amount in negotiations.
“It’s important to learn how to negotiate,” Tansits said.
“The best way to close the wage gap is transparency,” Stacy said. “At this school, it’s in the faculty handbook that it’s forbidden to disclose your salary.”
Stacy explained the importance of salary transparency, citing that everyone knowing what others make ensures that they are all being paid what they are worth and are able to negotiate appropriately based on the salaries of their colleagues. Because Washington College forbids discussing salaries, it is hard for professors to know whether or not they are getting fair pay.
Tansits mentioned the importance of filing C.A.R.E reports for bias incidents. “Put it into a report and we can do something about it,” she said.
Attendees also discussed the importance of calling people out for their rude comments, be they racist, sexist, or anything else.
“I feel as a professor you have to speak up for all students, not just the white ones,” someone from the audience said.
The conversation turned to talk about the importance of speaking up, with different arguments being made for who should be doing the speaking up.
Some attendees mentioned concern for their safety if they were to speak up. One student talked about getting harassed at the crosswalk and having to bite her tongue because she didn’t want people to know where she lived as she walked into her building.
“You should stand up for yourself, but prioritize your safety,” an audience member said.
“I am grateful you want to be our spokesperson, but it just baffles me that we need a white person to be our spokesperson,” another audience member said, referring to the white people in the room who offered to speak out on the behalf of others.
At the end of the event, both Stacy and Tansits said they were available as a resource for anyone who needs it.
“If you want someone to hear your story, it doesn’t mean we have to fight unless you want to,” Stacy said, explaining the importance of having your story heard.
“We’re here for you. We’re always here,” Tansits said.
Throughout the panel, Tansits was taking notes on the various suggestions being made about how to improve students’ experiences on campus, particularly those of marginalized students on campus. Suggestions included starting a conference to promote self-confidence and representation, and having a conversation about the importance of respecting others on campus.
There are no definitive plans as of yet for when this conference would occur, or what exactly it would entail.
Cleo’s Sisters also had a poster that said “Just because I am a woman doesn’t mean…” for attendees to sign and include personal messages and anecdotes on.
For those students interested in continuing conversations about representation and women’s issues, Cleo’s Sisters meets on Mondays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Goldstein 100.