Tucked away in a corner in the Commons, you can find the Women’s Center, which has been operating on UMBC’s campus for the past twenty-five years. Every day, students can see their dedication to the advancement of gender equality and advocacy for marginalized communities. The center hosts a variety of discussion-based programs such as Between Women, Women of Color Coalition, and Spectrum.
These programs tackle a variety of critical social justice issues that affect women who identify as LGBTQIA+, as a woman of color, and as outside of the gender binary. In addition to these social issues, each semester the center hosts a series of three round table discussions. The themes for these discussions vary semester to semester. For example, last semester focused on beauty and women’s ownership of their bodies. This semester, the sessions are all about underrepresentation of women.
This month, the center decided to focus on politics, a natural choice given the recent presidential election and the subsequent executive order which prevents federal funds that go to international organizations from being used to support abortion.
The panelists were seated on a maroon couch, with a tan and brown tapestry with the word “friend” stitched in multiple languages. On the panel were Lisa Vetter (Assistant Professor specializing in Political Philosophy and Political Theory), Colonel Ingrid Parker (an LLC student and Intelligence Officer), and Kayla Smith (Senior Interdisciplinary Studies Major). These women tackled the stigma and bias that are associated with women in politics.
These three women may be from various sectors in the field of politics, but one thing remains the same: they all have experienced prejudice in the workplace. Smith, a mock trial competitor, expressed her frustrations with various district attorneys. “In mock trial, I’ve had judges tell me I was too cute or too aggressive, when my male counterparts were a lot more aggressive than I was and were praised,” she said.
In addition to these comparisons, Smith has been deducted points on the basis of her dress, for example, while wearing pant suits in Southern states. Similarly, Vetter has been judged on the basis of her appearance, but continues to push forward into her male-dominated field, as she works on publishing her book on the history of feminist political theory. “We really do need more female voices and perspectives in the political theory realm and in our contemporary government,” Vetter said.
In her workplace, Colonel Parker’s judgement has been questioned on multiple occasions, and some may say it is an extension of society’s belittling view on woman leaders. “Whenever this happens, I tell them, ‘ I made the best decision I could with the information presented to me. These are the repercussions. Let’s move forward,’” Colonel Parker said.
Parker also added her opinions on Hillary Clinton’s performance throughout her election campaign. “I was a Hillary fan, but I don’t think she was direct enough or aggressive enough,” Colonel Parker said. “If you look back at the election, President Trump was always on the offensive; whereas Clinton was defensive and passive, playing into that typical female role.”
Students can look forward to two more round table talks during the semester, focusing on the under representation of women in the technology industry and activism. The Women’s Center never fails to find interesting and inspiring individuals to share their accounts and wisdom.