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Women take stand against degrading language, class project turns into campus-wide mission

Philosophy of Women students rally against objectifying language

By Katie Armstrong
On April 14, 2010

Today at the Oreo, Philosophy of Women students will take a stand against language that objectifies and degrades women. 

As part of an extensive class project, the Feminism in Action Project, the group "Out of Mouth, Out of Mind" will hand out fliers and display posters that discuss the damage and disrespect  surrounding demeaning language. 

With the motto, "We do not need to degrade women to describe women," the group hopes to bring about personal and public awareness about the adverse effects of using such language. 

The class project comes after class discussions on the theme of oppression of women and how such oppression is manifested through diverse elements of culture, most vividly through language.

"The overreaching goal of this project is mainly just to have students, both girls and guys, stop and consider whether they've been as respectful as they should be towards their fellow students," sophomore participant Erin Dahl said.  "Much too often people throw derogatory terms around.  Also, I think that at Villanova we like to try and keep it classy, which means that we have the right to do or not do whatever we like without it being broadcasted to the world in a disrespectful and crude manner.  How can you have any self-respect if you don't respect other people?"

Through distributing several fliers, including some that feature baby pictures of female Villanova students and chalking messages on the ground, the group plans to present a creative way to be more thoughtful and mindful of the language one uses.  

The event will also include a fundraising aspect, with donations accepted for a charity aimed to support women. 

"Hopefully this project will get students to at least think about the unnecessary use of derogatory language against women," sophomore participant Christopher Bolz wrote in an e-mail. "Even if it does not make an immediate impact it is important for people to be  aware of their language and actions.  Awareness is the first step toward change in my opinion. If people can go one day without using this language, perhaps they will see that they don't need to use it for the future."

Students felt that the project was helpful in understanding issues of gender inequality learned in the classroom and felt that active involvement helped see how these issues are applicable in today's world.

"Any project that asks students to apply what our ‘feminism texts' try to convey in words is always more valuable," junior participant Sophia Yong wrote in an e-mail. "Major feminist thinkers have eloquently scripted what oppression is and means given the specific time frame. The tragedy of the matter is that most of the described setbacks of inequality, feelings of an inferior race that is ‘female' and fixed societal roles still exist.  How many decades must pass for social growth to take place? The problems of the past are still the problems of today."

Philosophy of Women Professor Katie Grosh thinks that having students actively campaign and participate in class projects that educate the entire University community is an excellent way to put words into action. 

"The Philosophy of Women class includes a variety of feminist philosophies each semester," Grosh wrote in an e-mail. "Many of those feminist philosophies emphasize the importance of creating more democratic and less authoritarian pedagogical practices. It would be silly to stand in front of a room lecturing in an authoritarian way about a theory that criticizes the practice.  In more practical terms, I think it's more fun for everyone in the class to see how many different applications class members find for the philosophy we're studying.  The Feminism in Action Project is about finding a way to investigate that concern, to learn more about the details of how oppression works and what can be done to address it.  Instead of feeling paralyzed by the fact that there are problems in the world, I want students to feel empowered by their freedom to identify an issue, design a response and celebrate the results."

Grosh also said that she hoped the project will enable people to realize the liberating ideals associated with feminism.

 Gender discrimination is a problem that students must be aware of in order to work for better living, learning and working environments, according to Grosh.


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