March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to commemorating the immense progress that women have made, as well as reminding the world of the equality that women still fight for on a daily basis.
At Ohio University, there are numerous student-led groups centered around women’s empowerment, each of which advocate for women’s equality — whether directly or indirectly.
Alli Westbrook, a junior studying communication and public advocacy, is the president of the Intersectional Femininst Alliance, a group that educates individuals through inclusive activism. Westbrook emphasized that the presence of empowerment groups on campus is an important educational tool for students.
“It can be really hard to keep up with reproductive justice and legislation and all of these social issues by yourself,” Westbrook said. “So we need these open environments to educate people and keep them informed on the issues that women are presently facing.”
Alli Mancz, a junior studying english and environmental studies, is currently a cohort representative for juniors in the Margaret Boyd Scholars program, an organization that inspires leadership amongst undergraduate women. Mancz mentioned that her involvement in the organization exposed her to the tribulations that women face, a factor that had not hindered her prior to attending college.
“The program opened my eyes to all of the obstacles that stand in the way for women nowadays especially in different career paths and professions, like STEM,” Mancz said. “It’s really hard for women to get their foot in the door, and even when they do, for them to be accepted and embraced as deserving of that position.”
These obstacles, Mancz articulated, stemmed from the circulation of patriarchal ideologies--something that was socially constructed throughout history.
“Women, being over half the population, have historically been oppressed and our opinions have been suppressed by these patriarchies,” Mancz said. “These concepts are so ingrained in the systems that we have today, so much so that we don't even realize it.”
Margie Warrell, an international keynote speaker and facilitator of women’s empowerment, noted that the importance of celebrating International Women’s Day is to recognize the inequality women experience in relation to men.
“Women hold up half the sky and for generations and throughout history the playing field has been tilted against women,” Warrell said. “They have not been empowered and given opportunities to rise to the same platform as men.”
As to why their progress has been hindered, Warrell stated that the issue is multifaceted, from internal conflicts, to social expectations.
“At the individual level, there is a lack of belief in ourselves as women. At the organizational level, and a cultural and societal level, there are various biases that hold women back,” Warrell said. “There are multiple levers that need to be pulled in order to make change.”
Mia White, a junior studying journalism, is the vice president of Empowered, an organization on campus that offers women a safe place for empowering discussions. White indicated that while progress has been made, there is still more for women to achieve.
“We’ve made large strides over the years but it’s still not fully equal for men and women,” White said. “I don't know when or if we will ever fully be equal, but we should always push for it and always have hope.”
In celebrating women, Westbrook voiced that it is also important to recognize each woman’s individual path to discover their empowerment.
“Women have navigated gender in different ways, and because of that we’re all empowered in different ways — whether it be religion, activism, art or clothing,” Westbrook said. “There’s no one gendered experience. It’s important for us to remember that any outlet for empowerment is valid and International Women's Day is a good representation of that.”
For Mancz, this day to celebrate women is an opportunity to reflect on women’s struggles and successes over time.
“I think it's really important to look at how history has shaped women and how we can progress and advance today,” Mancz said. “I think that starts by celebrating everything that women are to society.”
While having a specific day to honor women is significant, White asserted that the celebration should be ongoing and should continue long past March 8.
“Women should be celebrated all days,” White said. “International Women's Day is awesome, but I think the appreciation we have for women should extend to our daily lives.”