Published: Wednesday, 14 October 2020
This conversation has been formatted for the purposes of the article.
Knowledge is Power
Though both of these movements have made great strides in the last decade, the battle to protect women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights is far from over. Both groups continue to face injustice in their day-to-day lives, from the extremes of violence and hate crimes to discrimination and microaggressions. The current divisive climate translates into higher education as college students who belong to historically marginalized communities continue to face a multitude of social justice issues on campus. Lobby Corps aims to deepen students’ understanding of these issues and empower them to find solidarity within their communities.
Voices from our Beach Community
To hear some of the voices of our campus, we reached out to CSULB’s very own Women’s and Gender Equity Center (WGEC) and asked Courtney Leos and Liliana Mora, two of their incredibly passionate student assistants, to share their thoughts on feminism, equality and the importance of voting.
Can you explain your background and why you wanted to work at the WGEC?
Leos: I’m a women’s, gender & sexualities studies major in-training to become a full-spectrum doula. For the past two years I have worked for The Sex Ed, a digital sex education platform that focuses on sex, health and consciousness education with a lot of advocacy work. The WGEC has all of the components I’m interested in - gender equality/ advocacy, support for pregnant and parenting students, community building, education and self-empowerment. When I saw the student assistant opening, it was a no brainer, I knew I would be a good fit for the WGEC and I knew it would help me grow professionally, personally and educationally.
Mora: I am a product of migration. My parents left Mexico to find new opportunities and ended up in Santa Ana, where I was born and raised. Despite the strong gender roles that existed in my community, my parents always pushed me to pursue my education. Thanks to them, I am the first to graduate from high school, attend college and now be in a master’s program. Education has been transformative for me. I began to understand how the barriers that families like mine face are systemic. But I don’t think it should have taken higher education for me to see the systemic oppression or how it worsens based on our varying identities. I decided to work at the WGEC because I saw how the team focuses on bringing light to that intersectionality of identities and provide support for people to feel empowered to advocate for themselves. It is the kind of space that I want to grow from and provide for kids in public, K-12 education so that these conversations and empowerment starts at an earlier age.
What issue relating to women are you most passionate about and why?
Leos: I’m most passionate about womxn having the education, resources and confidence to advocate for ourselves. Whether that advocacy be at work, school, regarding our health or just standing up for ourselves in general.
Mora: When I think of issues relating to womxn, I think of gender roles, mental health, and shame amongst womxn. With gender roles, womxn are often dismissed as too emotional or weak leaders. The worst is when womxn end up “gaslighting” themselves. From what I have experienced and seen around me, there is often fear to take up space, voice an opinion or feelings. There is a lot of shame if womxn don’t do what’s expected and often competition amongst womxn that is all very detrimental to mental health and healthy relationships. I am passionate about womxn seeing their own worth and recognizing the value in mental health services and self-care for healing. Our feelings are valid and our issues are often systemic. So taking care of ourselves first, allows us to help others find their voice and work together to change the narrative.
What are your thoughts on the experiences of women in higher education?
Leos: Higher education has a long history of being classist and sexist. I’ve heard countless stories about womxn in higher education feeling like they’re not taken seriously because of their identity and that is extremely discouraging. However, I think the more we take up space and use our voices, the more we can shift the hierarchies within education.
Why do you think it is important to vote?
Mora: Voting is important because it’s not just about the president. Voting starts at the local level with city councils, mayors and school board members. They are the people that determine what our police budgets look like, how schools will operate during a pandemic and what rent increases will take place. Those local and state representatives also impact presidential nominees and even elections. We saw how the 2016 election was decided by an electoral vote instead of a popular vote. If we can stay in the loop with the decisions being made at the local level, make public comments, find people that will be good representatives and vote for them, then we will start to see positive change.
Leos: I think it is important to vote because those of us between the ages of 23 and 38 make up the largest demographic in the United States. The majority of elected officials are older than we are, which means there is a disconnect between what they think is best and what we really want. If we all research nominees and their politics, we can work towards creating important changes and having officials in office that reflect our views.
Where do you see or hope to see the feminist movement in 10 years?
Leos: I prefer the Womanist movement over the feminist movement, womanism is more inclusive and emphasizes the role intersections of race, class and gender oppression relate to gender issues. With that being said, I hope in 10 years we are in a place where womxn are equal with each other, we cannot ask for equality among all genders when there are sub-hierarchies within our gender identity.
Mora: To be honest, most of my life I stayed away from feminism. I felt disconnected from it. With time I realized that I had only seen "white feminism." I am excited about the progress with the new waves, but I hope that in 10 years, it’s not about a single identity of women in relation to men. Rather, I hope that we move past the gender binary and better understand how people’s gender intersects with their multiple identities. Through these intersections, we can find our common struggles and find ways to change systems of oppression.
Can you talk about any events you have coming up or that you are excited about?
Leos: I’m excited about The Womxn’s Collective and to see what new programming we come up with for the academic year.
Stay Connected with the WGEC
Voting Resources for You
For information on how to register to vote, how to mail in your voting ballot, upcoming deadlines and the process to become a poll worker, students can refer to www.csulb.edu/vote. The deadline to register to vote by mail is October 19. For more information on voting in your county look for your county’s voting website or your county clerk’s office. This election is crucial to protect our communities. CSULB urges that its students vote on November 3 and actively engage in this election.
This article was written as a part of the ASI Student Government advocacy series by Hannah Peedikayil, a second-year student at CSULB majoring in Healthcare Administration, serving as Lobby Corps Student-At-Large.