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Spring 2014 Issue 41

We are Mills

Student Op-Ed: Raising the bar of social justice and inclusivity among the privileged by Taryn Marshall Originally, I was going to write about the wonderful Pocketbook and Panza Monologues event put on by the Black Women’s Collective and Mujeres Unidas this year at Mills College. While I do want to acknowledge the amazing Black History Month programs in February, a series of recent events undermined what was supposed to be a celebration of the Black and African diaspora. An anonymous post, broadcasted on the unofficial Mills College Confessions Facebook page, allegedly claimed that the Black women on campus are too aggressive and they should be lynched, followed with #HappyBlackHistoryMonth. I first heard about this hateful post from a roommate, who was notified by text from an online witness. As black women, understanding the historical depths of that statement, we held each other in a silent acknowledgement of this assault. Shock became anger and disgust. Evidence of this racist hatred has since been deleted, but those who were targeted have been left deeply triggered and hurt by its threat. The Facebook post, the

Silent demonstration protest. Adams Plaza. March 5th, 2014. subsequent rumors, and the administration’s initially evasive response, are just the frustrating surface ripples of a much deeper issue. Racism has always existed on this campus— as it does everywhere—and it has always been felt by Black students. Students have long felt ignored and marginalized by racism as it unconsciously and consciously makes its way into classrooms and dorms, Continue on page 6

In This Issue

2...Department Updates 3...Student Awards

4...Bahamian Women’s Suffrage 6...Student Op-Ed

7...BWC list of demands 10...Backpage


Faculty News Elizabeth Potter

Attended the 2013 American Philosophical Association Conference in Baltimore, MD and participated in the panel discussion Society for Women in Philosophy Topic: Panel Celebrating Alison Wylie, 2013 Distinguished Woman Philosopher. She will return from sabbatical this summer and will resume her duties as chair of the department.

Priya Kandaswamy

Presented on “Intersectional Research and the Domestic Workers Movement” at the National Association for Ethnic Studies Conference at Mills College. Participated in a roundtable discussion on Queer Asian Pacific Islander Activism, Politics and Art at the Association for Asian American Studies Conference in San Francisco. Was guest lecturer on Feminist Theory for the Oakland Technical High School Feminist Club. Her book review on Dean Spade’s Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law was published in International Feminist Journal of Politics.

Judith Bishop

Co-coordinated the 2013 American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD.

Co-Sponsored Events

Understanding Reproductive Justice: Building Intersectionality with Loretta Ross. The full lecture is available on our Youtube channel at com/wgssatmills.

Research as Ceremony: Decolonizing Ethnic Studies. The 42nd Annual National Association for Ethnic Studies Conference, hosted at Mills College. The Power and Promise of Women in Egypt: Rights, Roles, Revolution & Nonviolence. Lecture and discussion with Egyptian journalist Gihan Abou Zeid. Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up. Screening and discussion with filmmaker Debra Chasnoff. About how popular pressures around gender and sexuality are confining American teens.

Womanish Ways, Freedom, Human Rights & Democracy: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the Bahamas: 1948-1962. Screening and discussion with

filmmaker Marion Bethel. Reviewed in this newsletter.

Beyond Binaries. A workshop examining why we think in binaries, with a focus

on sex and gender.

The Meg Quigley Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Department at Mills College Department Chair: Priya Kandaswamy Newsletter Editor: Lyra Frederick Phone: 510.430.2233 Email:

Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Faculty 2013–2014 WGSS Judith Bishop Priya Kandaswamy Elizabeth Potter Art & Art History Meryl Bailey Moira Roth Anthropology Maura Finkelstein Ann Metcalf Book Arts Kathy Walkup Economics Zohreh Niknia Siobhan Reilly Nancy Thronborrow English Diane Cady Tarah Demant Rebekah Edwards Ajuan Mance Kirsten Saxton Ruth Saxton Cynthia Scheinberg Ethnic Studies Deborah Berman-Santana Vivian Chin Melinda Micco Julia Oparah French & Francophone Brinda Mehta History Bert Gordon Music Nalini Ghuman Public Policy Carol Chetkovich Social Sciences Edith Kinney Sociology Margaret Hunter Hannah Emery Spanish Language & Lit Carlota Caufield Mario Cavallari

2014 Student Awards Guest Contributors Bianca Enedina Martínez ‘14

is a double major in Art History and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies. Her senior thesis explores the connections of diaspora and transnationalism with Espiritismo. She will be pursuing a Master’s in Applied Women’s Studies at Claremont Graduate University in the Fall. She is inspired by a quote from Gloria Anzaldua, “I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you.” From “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers”.

Taryn Marshall ‘14

is a Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies major with a minor in Urban Education. She is part of the 2013-14 Institute for Civic Leadership cohort and recently helped lead the Alternative Spring Break in Educational Equity. Taryn had been a member of the Black Women’s Collective since transferring in the Fall of 2012. Her interests are in gender and education, feminism, and issues affecting youth of color. Her senior thesis examines the reasons Black women decide to attend women’s colleges and if women’s colleges can contribute to the overall success of Black women. She is graduating this May and plans to stay in the Bay Area to continue her work with high school aged youth through education, mentorship, and empowerment.

Congratulations to Chloe Horsma ’16 and Sophie Kreeger ’16, both are winners of the Women’s and Queer Studies’ writing contests! In addition to cash prizes, Horsma’s winning submission titled Deviant Bodies, Deviant Beauties: A Dynamic Look at Today’s Tattooed Ladies and Kreeger’s winning submission Queer Means Across (The Universe): Alien Bodies and Science Fiction, are both archived at the Mills Library.

Heather Fuchs ‘14 won this year’s Zimmer Award for demonstrating outstanding scholarship and community service. Fuchs was a policy intern in the office of San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang (District 4), where she researched state and federal laws, and assisted in drafting speeches for the Supervisor’s presentation on child sex trafficking and testimony over the impact of state laws on San Francisco’s use of local land use controls to regulate massage establishments. Fuchs’ senior thesis is closely related to her work at the Supervisor’s office, and examines the shift from police investigations to inspections performed by the Department of Public Health of massage establishments in San Francisco. Fuchs argues that this shift, while operating outside of the criminal justice system, enables what is called a carceral feminist approach. This lense examines how anti-human trafficking groups, working alongside government agencies, perpetuate certain tropes of vulnerability while aligning with statesanctioned immigration policies which ultimately further the exploitation of the very victims they aim to liberate.

New Course REL 180: Spirituality, Identity, and the “Other” in the Religions of the West Offered Fall 2014

Instructor: Judith Bishop This introductory course surveys the rise and development of the three major world religions which ground their tradition in the Abrahamic narrative: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Major topics include sacred texts, sacred space, prayer, pilgrimage, mysticism, and community with a particular emphasis on “interfaith” relations: i.e., historial perspectives on the children of Abraham in conflict and dialogue. Primary texts include religious autobiography, poetry, mystical writing, personal narratives and selected sacred texts. This course focuses on an understanding of religion and religious identities as dynamic— rather than fixed—categories in negotiation with issues of gender, culture, nationality, and social justice. The course concludes with a look at the rise of fundamentalism in modern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and its impact on contemporary global issues. Note: Several fieldtrips to locations of religious significance in the Bay Area are planned for this course.


Suffrage in the Bahamas By Bianca Martinez

As a woman of color, I never fully identified with the history of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. It is difficult for me to identify with the political intentions and racially exclusive tactics of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. These suffragettes succumbed to endorsing and promoting racist language to pressure the government to grant women the right to vote before Black men. Additionally, even though suffragettes campaigned under the tagline “Votes for Women,” their intentions did not necessarily involve Black women. Many Black women were active during the women’s suffrage movement, including Sojourner Truth, Margaretta Forten and Mary Ann Shadd Cary; but, their efforts have been overshadowed by the efforts of white suffragettes who participated in the oppression of Black women in a variety of ways. Technically the 19th Amendment enfranchised all women; but, state laws and vigilante practices disenfranchised most Black women in the south. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s that Black women were effectively enfranchised. Institutions of racism, classism, and sexism— that continue to inform and stifle political mobility today—have influenced my lack of connection to the women’s suffrage movement and women’s history in the United States. Sadly, these same institutions created an environment in which I was not exposed to the women’s suffrage movement—until I took a women’s history course at my junior college at the age of 20. And it wasn’t until I came across the documentary Womanish Ways: Freedom, Human Rights and Democracy by Marion Bethel, that I first considered suffrage narratives outside of the United States. Part of the Black History Month celebrations and events at Mills College, are the documentary film screenings, hosted by filmmakers, that help engage the campus community in new and challenging topics. The documentary Womanish Ways, covered the Bahamian Women’s Suffrage Movement from 1948 to 1962; and the movement’s involvement

with the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) bid to secure a Black majority in parliament. Women’s role in the parliamentary elections of 1962 was largely utilitarian. “The PLP would not succeed if women did not have the right to vote,” stated political veteran Janet Bostwick, who in 1998, became the island nation’s first female prime minister. While the suffrage movement was successful in securing women’s right to vote in 1962, the Progressive One of the first voter registration cards is Liberal Party’s parliamentary loses were, ironically, blamed on Bahamian women by members of the PLP and other male voters who were invested in the PLP’s election. But filmmaker, Marion Bethel, feels that this perspective undermines the influence of these women. Interrupting the dominant narratives of Bahamian history, Bethel explains that her documentary project was both a personal and political endeavor, “I wanted to inscribe women’s history into the tradition and cannon of struggle for the advancement of freedom, social justice, human rights, self-determination and democracy in The Bahamas.” Five of the women who founded and led the Bahamian women’s suffrage movement were: Mary Ingraham, Mabel Walker, Eugenia Lockhart, Georgiana Symonette and Dr. Doris Johnson. These were women whom Bethel’s mother and grandmother knew as community members of her church and schools. “I was very young when the movement was at


its peak and did not know that it was happening at the time,” says Bethel, “Later, I realized that I was nourished by these women who were actively involved in the movement…I wanted to lift up and highlight their story.” Even though Bahamian suffragettes adopted various components utilized during the “Votes for Women” campaign in the U.S., the two countries suffrage movements cannot be directly compared because the historical and environmental contexts of each created different ssued for women in the Bahamas, 1962. possibilities. However, it is useful to consider how suffrage movements outside the U.S. engage or disengage with the history of women’s suffrage in this country. Forty-two years after the U.S. women’s suffrage movement, which included strategic efforts to reinforce racial inequalities, the Bahamian women’s suffrage movement sought to resist racial discrimination; and the political and economic inequities that pervaded Bahamian society. Bethel highlights that, “the local Bahamian white women were not in the forefront of the movement [because] there was a tendency [for them] to remain faithful to the white minority government.” However, some white Bahamian women supported the movement in covert ways, says Bethel. The white women who did overtly support the movement were non-Bahamian women, from England and Canada, who were married to the leaders of the Progressive Liberal Party. The film explains that these outspoken supporters

were invested in the Bahamian women’s suffrage movement because of their own experience with sexist political disenfranchisement while traveling to the Bahamas—a reality that was no longer present in Canada or England. Furthermore, “There was class diversity in the [Bahamian] suffrage movement. Black women from the working class and middle class supported the movement,” explains Bethel. “This cross-class collaboration,” Bethel underscores, “facilitated the cause.” After the film screening on campus, the filmmaker answered questions from the audience about the current state of women’s politics in the Bahamas—but, then she’d turn those questions back toward the audience and ask about the United Status. It felt like Bethel was encouraging audience members to question the state of their own government. One of her questions directly asked audience members what they were doing to pressure the U.S. government to ratify the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The audience, somewhat taken aback by the question, fell silent for some time. This film screening made me think a lot about my role and potential to confront and disrupt the direction of U.S. politics and to help the advancement of women of color internationally. I know now, what I was never exposed to as a young woman. And, although my identification as a woman of color barred me from internalizing the effects of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, my perspective as an American citizen has additionally kept me from considering how women outside the U.S. have fought for enfranchisement. What I learned from Marion Bethel and her film, is that when history does not involve my story, I can feel empowered to find ways to challenge and change that.

To learn more about Womanish Ways, visit the documentary website:


We are Mills

Continued from front page

Student Op-Ed: Raising the bar of social justice and inclusivity among the privileged by Taryn Marshall through institutional policies and practices, and is exhibited by the individuals that we are supposed to trust. I cannot speak for all Black folks on this campus, but a majority of the Black students that I have encountered here have shared stories about racism in some shape or form. Much of the racism is shown through racial micro aggressions—a covert and subtle racism that oozes negative notions about people of color. They are usually spoken by those who assume the superiority granted by America’s white supremacist society. Privilege within this power dynamic places certain groups of people at the top; while it, systematically or individually, avoids, ignores, or hurts those who are deemed unworthy or less than. For example, a statement such as, “You’re not like other Black people,” or “Did you grow up in the projects?” implies certain beliefs about Black people. Even an innocent sounding question like, “How can you afford to go here?” can carry assumptions about financial backgrounds. Historically and socially, Black people have fought to get into academic institutions; and once here, continue to face a cycle of marginalization through overt and covert forms of exclusion. The list of micro aggressions is endless and many different groups of people outside of the dominant culture experience them all the time. Colleges are certainly a microcosm of society, and as progressive and liberal as we would like Mills College to be, we are not innocent of exercising privilege and perpetuating racism, or any other – isms for that matter. Intersectional analyses highlight the ways we may be experiencing discrimination or power at any given time and space. But if we have done Mills education right, we are able to widen our

lens and heighten our level of awareness to what our presence in different spaces can mean. Checking privilege is not just about repeating it out loud. Checking privilege is actively working to unlearn problematic ideologies in order to resist the status quo. Many of us came here to promote and fight for social justice and have taken it upon ourselves to make visible the problems within our own campus. The Black Women’s Collective, and other Black students on campus, organized a silent demonstration on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014, in order to take up space and demand that our humanity be recognized. As students, we have been emotionally, socially, and financially invested in the same school that emotionally, socially, and financially hurts us. In class one day, Melanie Vega, a peer at the Institute of Civic Leadership this year, spoke this challenge, “We say we are ahead of other schools in terms of social justice and inclusivity, but it is easy to be ahead when the bar is set so low. As Mills students, we should hold ourselves to higher standards.” And I agree. The question that has come up for many is: What do we do next? I encourage us not to be afraid to talk about race, to bridge connections across differences, and to lift each other up. Our culture on campus must be challenged, nurtured, and improved. Our respect for each other needs to be earned, expected, and given. Our voices must be heard and they must matter—no matter what. We must be the change we wish to see—by any means necessary. May we do what we feel is right; no matter who is and is not watching. And let us be open to learn along the way.

The WGSS Department commends the Black Women’s Collective and other Black students, faculty, and staff on campus for their powerful efforts to help Mills live up to its mission as a school that promotes inclusivity, diversity, and social justice. As a department, we support these efforts and remain committed to doing our part to create a positive, affirming environment for all Mills students.


The Black Women’s Collective Mills College Black Students’ List of Demands 1. An active role in the reformation of the general education requirements/curriculum. Specifically, the replacement of the multicultural requirement with a requirement that addresses racism in the United States. This would be a required course for all students which encompasses the curricula covered in the “Introduction to Ethnic Studies” and the “Race and Ethnic Relations in the United States” classes. 2. A Task Force specifically charged with the tasks of investigating impediments to recruitment, retention, and matriculation of Black students, formulating solutions to those issues, implementation of those solutions, and ongoing evaluation of those solutions. This task force should include Black student representation and input on appointments to the committee. 3. An investigation and reformation of racist policies that police the presence of Black people on the Mills College campus, including those set forth by the Department of Public Safety and the Office of Student Activities. 4. Establishment of an emergency fund for Black students and other students who experience low rates of persistence due in part to difficulty financing their Mills College education. 5. A shift away from lumping students of color together in one group and a recognition of the unique issues that students of each racial group experience, including but not limited to publishing an accurate racial breakdown of the student population as opposed to the “student of color” percentage published on the College’s website. 6. A marked increase in tenure-track faculty of color, such that each academic department is home to at least one permanent faculty member of color. 7. An emergency crisis response team comprised of Black mental and emotional health professional taking appointments with Black students, faculty, and staff to provide counseling and therapy in light of Facebook Confessions page incident.* 8. A revision of the Social Justice mission statement that includes mechanisms to hold the institution accountable for addressing student/faculty/staff behavior that is incongruent with the mission statement. 9. Comprehensive, social justice based racial sensitivity training for faculty and staff who have sustained contact/interaction with students. *We demand immediate implementation of demands 2 and 7. We expect that the creation of the Task Force will take place by May 7, 2014, the last day of instruction for the Spring 2014 semester. The Office of the President has been issuing monthly updates on the progress made toward addressing the demands listed above. To access an archive of these responses, you may visit our webpage at:


Bahamian Suffragettes. Visit of September 21, 1960 to Sir Robert Stapledon Left to right: Eugenia Lockhart, Sarah Sands, Mabel Walker, Doris Johnson, Emily Purkiss, June Stevenson

Mills College 5000 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland, CA 94613


Spring 2014 WGSS News & Notes  

We are Mills—raising the bar of social justice and inclusivity among the privileged.

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