Last Thursday the Voices of Planned Parenthood Club, or VOX, at UAA hosted a panel discussion titled Feminism: What Does It Mean In Alaska. The main topics covered gender equality issues, the LGBT community, domestic violence, and sexual assault. The event started with an online questionnaire, where the audience not only answered questions, but also voted on questions to be discussed.
There was one moderator, Amie Stanley – the assistant coach to the UAA Debate Program and five panelists. Chelsea Morrison-Heath was one of the five. Morrison-Heath works for STAR or Stand Together Against Rape. She is a community educator, and Green Dot Trainer, and recently became a Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Another member of the panel, Billy Farrell, a Youth Engagement Specialist at Identity, Identity is a local non-profit with a mission to “advance Alaska’s LGBT community through advocacy, education and connectivity” according to their website. Valeria Clark, another member of the panel, oversees a variety of programs at YWCA. YWCA focuses on eliminating racism and empowering feminism. The fourth member of the panel, Lacy Moran works for Planned Parenthood. The last member of the panel, Stephanie Whaley is one of the Title IX investigators at UAA.
Three VOX members ran the event, Zhenia Peterson the president, Lena Illig the campus organizer, and Keni Linden the Field Organizer.
All together, the group had a few definitions of feminism and lots of insight to answer some of the initial questions.
Peterson said the questions included, “How to become better informed” about related and local services and “How can we as a community help empower both men and women in Alaska?”
Overall the panelists said feminism is about equality across life spans, gender, race, age, sexuality etc. Equality across all identities was the basic idea, but Clark mention that feminism is a little different and that it can mean different things to everyone.
Historically feminism has been more specific to women’s right; this group of panelists is showing that feminism can be much more inclusive.
Whaley asked, “Not what is feminism, but what do we want feminism to be?”
When it comes to answers, education and communication appear to be the best solutions. Educating and communicating are preventative actions. These two things can create opportunity for “options” as Whaley put it. As Heath said “choices” are “the key.”
Education can open closed minds on topics that are too often pushed under the table.
“Until our representatives take it (sexual assault) seriously, it’s probably not going to get better,” said Clark.
Educating voters and representatives on the importance, severity, and the atrocity of sexual assault could very much help the fight against it.
Farrell asked, “Why don’t we have a clear idea of what consent is?”
Education cannot only help prevent sexual assault, but can also help prevent STIs.
Moran mentioned that Alaska is “Number 1 for Chlamydia rates” and “we just aren’t having these conversations on STI’s” enough. Many people don’t realize that around 50% of the time there are not symptoms.
Education can even help resolve bullying and the victim’s response to bullying. Farrell tells some of the kids he works with that some of “the terrible things being said to them are often not out of hate, but of ignorance.”
Communicating with peers and being aware of some of our programmed defaults were two of the most suggested solutions from the panel on how to fight the fight everyday.