Feminist Click Moments

Women's Center at UMBC

A post curated by Women’s Center staff member, Daniel

This week is Critical Social Justice week!! Yay!! The Women’s Center will be occupying Main Street on Wednesday from 11am to 1pm by bringing our lounge out of the center and into the public! We’ll be doing a number of really cool activities including creating a scrapbook full of pages made by community members about their Feminist Click Moments.

What’s a Feminist Click Moment?????

DSCN9429Your Click Moment is the event or thought or moment when you realized the word “feminist” applied to you. Click is a book of essays about various authors’ Click Moments compiled by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan. You can read an interview about the book here. Each of our staff members created their scrapbook pages for you all to see and get you thinking about how you want to express your Click Moment and add a piece…

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CSJ 101: Our Working Assumptions for Creating Brave Spaces

A post written by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers

A little snow won’t get in the way of Critical Social Justice 2015!

Yesterday was the kick-off to CSJ2015 with CSJ 101: Introduction to Brave Spaces. It was a rich conversation in which everyone was really invested and we went right through our allotted time in Commons 329. We thank our invited participants and moderator for helping us start the conversation! Prior to the start of CSJ week, we also provided ways for the UMBC community to begin engaging in the idea of creating brave spaces. You can find more on brave spaces and creating brave spaces throughout our blog like this awesome video created by the CSJ Student Alliance, a few blog posts written by Women’s Center staff members (check out Daniel and Ty’s posts), the Brave Space Guidelines of the Women’s Center, and of course, the chapter that started in all, From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens. These jumping off points, in addition to the diverse perspectives and experiences of our invited panelists and community members in the room took us on a journey as we uncovered the depth and breadth of brave spaces.

Arao and Clemens spend time in their chapter exploring what brave space can be. It’s grounded in the concept of safe space but recognizes that the idea of safety can be limiting when in engaging in difficult dialogues and social justice work. They find value and necessity in taking risk and engaging in controversy to facilitate authentic learning experiences about social justice. When this kind of authenticity is nourished a brave space has been created. It’s a great read and I’d highly recommend it to student leaders, staff, and faculty committed to integrating social justice into their work and communities. But what else is brave space? How is it created? How is it maintained? Is brave space the same for everyone or can it look different from person to person? These are some of the questions we explored in CSJ 101. Knowing that not everyone could attend yesterday’s event, I’m capturing some of the highlights here as a way to root the rest of the week in a better understanding of UMBC’s understanding and practice of brave space.  Continue reading

It’s More Than Just A ‘Like’: Social Media’s Role in Activism

A post by Jess Myers and invited guest, Dr. Chris Linder of University of Georgia

Facebook and I celebrated our 10th year anniversary this winter. I remember one of the first times I logged onto my account late in the fall semester of my senior year with my roommate hovering over me. What picture would I use for my profile? I picked a great one of me wearing my favorite sweater at my ½ birthday celebration at the Melting Pot. And that was it. There were no walls to write on, albums to upload, or even then people to “poke,” and there was certainly no invites to Candy Crush. When I think back to all that Facebook wasn’t, I can’t believe we made it past those first few log-ons.

I had no idea what Facebook would become or that “social media” would even become a medium in which to share my stories or the issues in which I was passionate. And, I certainly would have never imagined I’d be engaging in research about the ways in which social media is used as a tool for activists seeking to create change on their campus and throughout our country around the national epidemic of sexual assaults occurring on college campuses. If you would have told twenty-year-old-Jess in 2004 all that Facebook would become, she wouldn’t have laughed in your face (because she was thoughtful like that) but the smile on her face would have conveyed to you a state of disbelief.

But, oh, how often does Jess-In-2015 wish there would have been an accessible tool during her college days for her to better understand and learn about sexual assault on college campuses. Or an online space that would have offered a counter-narrative to the campus rhetoric that hid sexual assault in some deep closet. Or a “like” or “share” that would have opened her eyes to what was happening to her friend and to other students on campus wasn’t okay and it wasn’t their fault. Because, today, in 2015, we’ve all seen the power social media activism has played in helping bring sexual assault on college campuses to the forefront. It is changing lives, bringing visibility to once-invisible toxic campus cultures, and beginning to hold perpetrators and institutions accountable.

Our research team getting down to business  at our research day this past fall at Georgia Tech.

Our research team getting down to business at our research day this past fall at Georgia Tech.

Over the past year, I’ve had the extreme privilege to collaborate on a research project started by Dr. Chris Linder to explore the strategies student activists are using to push the issue of sexual assault and institutional betrayal to the forefront of our national media, within the White House, and throughout the ivory tower of higher education despite the doubters that refer to online activism as “slacktivism.” As we gear up for a second year of Critical Social Justice which asks participants to examine the margins and intersections of issues and disturb the hierarchy of value associated with different forms of activism, I wanted to invite Dr. Linder as a guest to share more about our research in the hope that UMBC activists and one-day-activists consider ways in which social media can play an integral role in critical social justice on our campus, in Baltimore, and beyond.  Continue reading

A Conversation about Critical Social Justice

BreakingGround

Jess Myers is Director of UMBC’s Women’s Center.

Jess Myers 2015UMBC’s BreakingGround was integral in helping Critical Social Justice 2014 launch last year. Through the initiative’s commitment to bust boundaries, shape coalitions, and be agents of change, Critical Social Justice was able to offer a new way for campus to talk about social justice and provide outlets for community members to engage in difficult dialogues and build community. We appreciate the continued BreakingGround support as we move forward into year two of CSJ (February 16-20, 2015) with its theme of “Creating Brave Spaces.” During one of our recent planning meetings, I asked the planning team, comprised of Women’s Center and Mosaic Center staff members, to take a pause and discuss what we’re most excited about in preparing for this year’s CSJ, and how the theme of Creating Brave Spaces resonates with us personally and as UMBC community members.

How will CSJ 2015…

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Authenticity in Activism: Reflections from CSJ Organizers

Critical Social Justice organizers Jess Myers, Zach Kosinski, and Jasmine Malhotra share a few of their thoughts on activism, their personal and professional experiences as activists, and social media’s role in activism.

JASMINE: I think about the feelings of social justice activism as being something that infuses within all parts of your life. Social justice activism involves how you interact with others, being able to actively listen and respect other options while sharing your knowledge and experience. It is about making any space into a brave space so individuals can be okay in having uncomfortable conversations in an effort to really understand each other’s opinion. Social activism can be expressed by people asking for change, protesting, or informing others. Social media can be one of the outlooks they use but there are many other ways they can practice their activism to cultivate change and make a true difference.

JESS: I agree with you, Jasmine, about the importance of both-and in activism.  Through my  research related to better understanding the strategies employed by activists involved in the movement to address sexual violence prevention and response on college campuses, I am learning that these activists are truly using the both-and approach. These local and national activists have repeated time and time again that social media is not their activism but that social media is a TOOL for their activism. They described using social media as a means to connect with other activists, as a tool for reducing power dynamics present in other spaces, and to increase awareness with populations who may not otherwise be reached. Consequently, I’ve become more critical with the discourse around “slacktivism.” Who gets to define what activism is and isn’t? Continue reading