By NAPORSHA WILLIAMS
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — The University of Central Missouri’s Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies hosted a Women and Allies Rally Friday, March 10, to advocate for women’s rights and bring awareness to stereotypes that women face in society.
More than 30 people from a variety of different ages, genders and ethnicities attended the event in the Elliott Student Union Atrium. Many held posters with messages such as, “Woman rights are human rights,” “Love not hate makes America great,” “Stand for equality,” and “Women rights are fundamental rights.”
The rally was the final event to wrap up UCM’s weeklong celebration of Women’s History Month.
“If you have to say that you were joking after saying something, most likely you shouldn’t have said it,” said Lexi Harkins, LGBT activist.
Miriam Rheingold-Fuller, professor of English, introduced the panelists as individuals who all have faced some form of discrimination in their lifetime. The panelists were Tara Napoleon-Clifford, Delia Gillis, Krysta Henry, Rebecca Miner and Harkins.
They discussed their personal experiences of discrimination and some do’s and don’ts to be aware of in order to avoid discriminating against another person.
“I’ve had people tell me that this is the women’s restroom,” said Napoleon-Clifford, office director of the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity. “I don’t bother running down the list of degrees I have to let them know I can read the big sign on the door that said, ‘Women’s’ when I walked in. I just use the transgender bathrooms now.”
Gillis, professor of history and program director for Africana Studies, described the types of discrimination she faces.
“Not only have I had to deal with the discrimination of being a woman,” she said, “but I’ve also had to deal with being a brown-skinned girl.”
Following the panel were presentations from UCM students.
Doa Jai Elliott, senior, read two poems – one by Maya Angelou titled, “Phenomenal Women” and the other was a personal piece titled, “Typical Black.” She said her personal piece was inspired by a real-life situation when her white friend told her that “she wasn’t like all the other black girls.”
Sharmila Pokhrel, junior, spoke about the culture of women’s rights and restrictions in her home country of Nepal.
“Women in Nepal have very little rights,” Pokhrel said.
She said women not only have to deal with discrimination from their government, but some also have to deal with it from other women. She said if you are considered a woman of low-class, you cannot touch a woman of high-class.
The rally ended with an open-mic session. A number of audience members expressed their love and appreciation for the support and bravery of those who participated in the rally while others decided to tell their personal stories.
Afterward, Rheingold-Fuller’s daughter, who identified herself as a lesbian in the LGBT community, thanked her parents for their unconditional love and support with the choices she has made, bringing tears to the eyes of some of the participants.