I slid the word “empowerment” into a conversation I was having with a friend this summer about feminism. She rolled her eyes and groaned, “What does that even mean?” After getting tossed into a few too many headlines, buzzwords have a way of losing their kick. But we should still care about this one.
Empowerment is giving someone the confidence to value and advocate for themselves. And it can be as simple as providing access to those who set examples to aspire to. That’s why the alumni association should have made it a priority to include students, especially female ones, in the “She Roars” celebration of women.
“She Roars” is primarily an alumni event and included presentations from impressive female alumni such as U.S. Representative Terri Swell ’86 of Alabama, and Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor ’76 and Elena Kagan ’81.
It is important that female students of an opportunity to interact with those who paved the way for our college experiences. Hundreds of female alumni returned to campus this weekend for the three-day conference. The brunches, panels, and presentations all aim to celebrate the impact that women at the University have had on campus as well as the world, in just 50 years. This celebration would only have been more rewarding if trailblazing alumni could meet those they blazed the trail for.
With nine out of eleven eating club presidents being female, a female editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian, and female leadership throughout Business Today and many dance groups, the University has grown to be a campus where female leadership is the expectation. I am happy that these alumni will get the chance to acknowledge one another as women who have endured and accomplished. Involving current female campus leaders in that process would add a sense of perspective — combining the past with the future of women at the University — that is uplifting.
Especially now. The conference’s timing is uncanny. A showing of strength and solidarity directly following a demoralizing week. The confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh were taxing to watch. Drawing comparisons to the Anita Hill hearings that took place 26 years ago, it seemed to yank viewers back in time.
Christine Blasey Ford stands to pressure the #MeToo movement to result not only in the media’s increased visibility and respect of assault victims, but also in consequences for powerful men. Her desire to put excitement into action and commitment to not remaining complacent is empowering.
In light of this week, the conference could replenish the hope of female alumni who have watched some of the same senators make the same scowls twice in their lives now. Our generation has participated in women’s marches and puts Planned Parent stickers on their laptop, but we still have a lot to learn from our female alumni. Learning about the cyclical nature of discourse surrounding women’s issues from women who are familiar with the cycle seems crucial to ending it. With Kavanaugh’s confirmed, it is clear that history is repeating itself. “She Roars” would have been a great forum to push questions surrounding why and how women can become engaged in changing the script.
Current students could have absorbed that energy and allowed it to influence the sense of community among female students on campus. Accommodations could have been made if space was the only thing preventing students from accessing the events of “She Roars.”
A select number of students were able to get leftover tickets but placing students as an afterthought for an event this momentous was a mistake. Space is a concern on campus, and streaming the panels and presentations in Frist Campus Center would be a considerate alternative.
As the organizing committee reflects for next time, I hope they prioritize alumni-current student interaction. Hopefully next time there will be chances for alumni and current students to engage over lunches and dinners. I know friends who are planning on standing outside Jadwin or lingering in the lobby, just hoping to get a glimpse or soundbite of the discussion. Even just being in the presence of one’s role models can be empowering.