Over the last century, American society has come a long way in women’s rights and gender equity. However, some say we still have a long way to go.
WCC will be participating in Women’s History Month on March 17 and 19 with two speakers and two films. All events will be held in Hale Kuhina 115 and will be free of charge.
The 2015 national theme is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” Kathleen French, WCC professor of sociology and the event coordinator, chose the speakers and films to focus on gender identities and roles.
“I think with Women’s History Month and talking about gender equality, we often just focus on women,” said French. “A big part of the issue involves men and helping to obtain equality. It means acknowledging how those categories (men’s and women’s roles in society) are really harmful, not only to women but to men.”
The first film being shown is “The Codes of Gender: Identity and Performance in Popular Culture” on March 17 from 10 to 11:15 a.m. The film looks at how the media portrays masculinity and femininity.
French added, “Looking at ads, it’s like a constructed reality. What are we promoting here? What are we encouraging people to value, in terms of what it means to be a woman? That’s ultimately harmful.”
After the film, Kaleo Ramos, who was labeled at birth as female but who identifies with being male, will speak about transgendered experiences on March 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Ramos is a special education teacher and LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, queer, intersex, asexual/ally) activist from Kāneʻohe.
He has won many pageant titles and is involved with many organizations such as GLSEN Hawaiʻi, CREATE One ‘Ohana, and the LGBT Legacy Foundation.
Recently, he started working with the LGBTQIA youth in the juvenile justice system and is a member of the Hawaiʻi youth suicide prevention task force.
“Sometimes people don’t identify with their biological sex,” French explained. “I hope that someday in the future, it’s not a big deal. We aren’t expected to stay in these restricting categories.”
On March 19 from 10 to 11:15 a.m., Brooke Conway, manager for education and community outreach at the Sex Abuse Treatment Center, will be speaking. She will discuss information on sexual violence, resources, statistics, and prevention.
Following Conway’s speech, the film “Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood, and American Culture” will be shown from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
It looks at the issues of how society portrays masculinity and how it’s harmful.
French pointed out that the gender roles don’t allow men to be who they are, but instead who we expect them to be.
Coincidentally, with speculation about Olympic gold medal winner Bruce Jenner transitioning into a woman, the subject has gained more media attention.
“I think it’s hard for anybody to come out in that sense of being transgendered, but maybe his bigger challenge is living with the Kardashians,” French commented.
She also discussed the biological aspect of the sexes.
“It should exist more on a continuum because biological sex isn’t even in two dichotomous categories,” French said. “There are intersex individuals — more, in fact, that are born intersex than with Down syndrome in a given year.”
French hopes for a better future that allows people to be who they are.
“We constructed it (gender identities and roles); we can destruct it to build a better society for everyone,” she maintained.
by Elizabeth Voltz, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter