On March 23, WCC’s Women’s History Month program and Ka ‘Ohana co-hosted a special event with Honolulu Civil Beat titled “Civil Cafe: The Legacy of Patsy Mink and Why Title IX Matters.”
About 90 people gathered in Palikū Theatre to see the documentary Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority, which was directed by WCC journalism instructor Kimberlee Bassford and originally aired on PBS in 2009.
Mink, who was born and raised on Maui and served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years, was a trailblazer who fought for the rights of the disenfranchised, particularly women and the poor. When she first got to Washington, D.C. in 1965, she was the first woman of color ever to serve in Congress.
Although slight in stature, she quickly gained a reputation for her resoluteness and commitment to liberal principles. She is perhaps best known for being the co-author of Title IX, which was signed into law on June 23, 1972. This June will be the 45th anniversary of the groundbreaking legislation.
Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in any educational program or activity receiving federal funds. As the film highlighted, Mink was shut out of medical school because she was a woman. Her intent with Title IX was to ensure that all people, regardless of sex or gender, would have fair and equal opportunity in education.
Following the film, there was a panel discussion moderated by Honolulu Civil Beat reporter Denby Fawcett and featuring four other trailblazing women: Bassford, Cathy Betts (executive director of the Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women), Marilyn Moniz-Kaho‘ohanohano (associate athletic director for the University of Hawai‘i) and Alyssa Simbahon (William S. Richardson School of Law student and former University of Hawai‘i soccer player).
Each woman shared examples of how Title IX and Mink affected their lives and then answered questions from the audience. Moniz-Kaho‘ohanohano, who got her bachelor’s degree from UH Mānoa in 1976, was one of the first beneficiaries of Title IX. She played for four years on the UH Wahine volleyball team and was able to go to UH law school thanks to Title IX. As an attorney, Cathy Betts uses Title IX when dealing with gender inequality cases.
The event was part of a larger program celebrating Women’s History Month at the college.
“When I was an undergrad, the college that I went to had a Women’s History Program, and I loved it as a student,” said Kathleen French, WCC sociology associate professor and chair of the social sciences department, who has organized the program at WCC for the past 13 years. “It gave me a different type of education, and I got to hear about women’s role in society. I just soaked that stuff up and loved it. When I became a teacher here, I thought I could do the same thing for my students and expose them to what women have done. I wanted to create a different narrative and add people’s voices. I want people to see women in a different light. To see them as equals and contributing members of society.”
Along with the Patsy Mink documentary, four other films screened on campus last month that depicted women who were trailblazers. Woman 2.0: Period Innovation (2017), which was co-produced and co-directed by Bassford, highlighted the stories of two female entrepreneurs making innovative menstrual products. Biography Hawai‘i: Harriet Bouslog (2013) captured the life of Harriet Bouslog, one of Hawai‘i’s greatest human rights lawyers. Giap’s Last Day at the Ironing Board Factory (2015) told the story of a Vietnamese refugee who immigrated to the U.S. and worked in a factory to support her and her unborn child. Apache 8 (2011) was about an all-women wildland firefighter crew that fought fires throughout the U.S.
For more information on the program, call Kathleen French at 236-9223 or visit windward.hawaii.edu/whm.
by Leighland Tagawa, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter