From coffee talks on the commons to film showings about influential women battling for their rights, Kristen Wylie’s “Women in Politics” class hosted a week of events in honor of Women’s History Month. Wylie is a professor in the political science department and teaches a women in politics course at JMU.
“I really want students to take what we’re doing and apply it in their daily lives,” Wylie said. “I don’t want such a thing to stay with them in the confines of a classroom. I want to help them to make sense of the world around them and to enrich conversations they have about politics and become more informed, critical citizens.”
Each semester that Wylie has taught “Women in Politics,” she’s had her class create a weeklong civic engagement project like this; however, this year was the first time the class hosted coffee talks and film screenings.
The coffee talks covered subjects such as intersectionality, women in media, women in politics, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Additionally, the films ranged from a documentary on Anita Hill, an attorney who stood up against her accused assaulter, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There was also a documentary series about the fight for women’s reproductive rights called “No Choice.”
During the “No Choice” event on Wednesday, Tannis Fuller from the Blue Ridge Abortion Fund answered questions and talked about how the organization operates. The Blue Ridge Abortion Fund is located in Charlottesville, Virginia, and helps women pay for and coordinate safe and legal abortions. Fuller said there’s plenty of discrimination against women who have abortions, so she aims to end the stigma around them and inform women of their reproductive rights.
“Women are discriminated on the basis of them being able to get pregnant,” Fuller said. “[This will stop] only when people stop oppressing women for this and accept that they can make their own choice with what to do.”
Similar to Fuller, junior political science major Amel Al-Kilany believes these events are vital in starting the conversation about women’s rights and opportunities at JMU. Al-Kilany is one of Wylie’s “Women in Politics” students and she said she thinks these events spark a deeper understanding of women’s empowerment that can’t always be reached in the classroom.
“I think these events are very important just because first off we’re a campus of majority women, and some of these topics you don’t really hear about,” Al-Kilany said. “There’s the role model effect and you want to feel represented whether it be descriptively or substantively.”
In addition to inspiring and helping others, Al-Kilany believes that hosting these events are beneficial to her and her classmates’ ability to become more engaged and involved at JMU.
“We wanted to take it outside of the classroom and get JMU more engaged in understanding women in politics, women in media, women in the military and all that kind of stuff,” Al-Kilany said.
Much like Al-Kilany, Wylie thinks this week was a success since she’s never seen one of her projects with an outcome this positive. There were more people at this year’s events than in prior years Wylie said.
“We’re bringing more people into the conversation rather than just the same committed few that show up for women’s rights,” Wylie said.
In addition to viewing last week as a success, Al-Kilany appreciates how this is the first time a class has made an impact like this for Women’s History Month. However, she feels there could be more events like film showings and speak outs held for Women’s History Month and women in general at JMU.
“It’s 2019, and like I said, this is a campus of majority females so you would think there would be more educational purposes or more ways to to educate people,” Al-Kilany said. “Better late than never.”
Contact Carley Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.