The Vagina Monologues Should be an Ongoing Conversation

By Jennifer Long

vmOur society is not yet inclusive or representative of all people’s voices. Women, for example, have a number of experiences related to violence and oppression that still need to be heard and championed.

DePaul’s 18th Annual Vagina Monologues was a reminder of that fact. A reminder, because decades after Eve Ensler wrote and performed the original play at the Off-Broadway Westside Theatre, her words are still recited and are still able to disarm and empower an audience.

I had the pleasure of attending this play on the Lincoln Park campus in early February. It helped me grow in my understanding of DePaul women.

A collaborative effort between The Women’s Center, the Theatre School and the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, this performance activism entitled “Vagina Monologues” raises awareness of the breadth of women’s experiences through Eve Ensler’s writing and personal monologues written by DePaul students.

It’s performed every year at DePaul around Valentine’s Day weekend, and proceeds from ticket sales support three on-campus organizations: Rape Victim Advocates, A Long Walk Home and Take Back the Halls. In fact, performances all over the country under this name have raised over $100 million dollars in support of women’s and domestic organizations since its inception.

I should have known that this combination of expression, intention and vulnerability would be reviving.

Throughout the play, audience members were encouraged to clap, holler or snap whenever a monologue resonated. I imagine many, like me, lost count of how many times they participated. It was remarkable to be in the presence of brave women who shared their stories and brought the experiences of others to life by reciting monologues. I felt empowered and connected to a community of DePaul women, women everywhere and their allies.

The personal monologues from DePaul students were particularly startling. They opened my eyes to the broad range of our female students’ experiences—experiences I wasn’t aware of at my own alma mater as an undergraduate.

One particular monologue revolved around conversations that had floated around campus last year. These “#triggered” conversations were in response to racial tension and insensitivity toward those suffering on campus due to their race, sexual identity or experience with sexual violence. This monologue was a reminder that we could all do better at thinking about the impact that our words and actions can have not only in the DePaul community, but in all communities.

And then there was a monologue that clearly articulated consent—how it is defined and supported at DePaul, and how DePaul continues the conversation on consent on many college campuses today.

Interestingly, after some contextual research on the subject, I learned there have been conflicting perspectives regarding these performances. Mostly, that the language used and voices represented were too narrow by focusing heavily on a white, middle-class female experience. Arguably, the platform has grown to include the voices of women with diverse backgrounds and varying identities, including transwomen.

One transwoman DePaul student, who had recently passed away, was unable to share her story that weekend. But a draft of her monologue was posted near the exit. By acknowledging her voice in this way, it was clear how DePaul values expanding the platform to include more voices and experiences—in a way that the original performance may not have done decades prior. Surely though, it could still grow to be even more inclusive.

I highly recommend attending this play the next time it is available on campus or in your community. Whether it is “The Vagina Monologues” or any other performance activism for a marginalized or oppressed community, all who attend will leave with a broader perspective of society.

If more people’s voices and experiences are heard, society might become more inclusive and understanding.

While the people in the audience may have had different identities or definitions of feminism, may not have had vaginas, may not have experienced sexual violence and oppression, they can still become allies for the community and help continue the conversation that works to eliminate violence and oppression of women.

How will you help continue the conversation?

Jennifer Long is a DWN member at large and an assistant director of development for DePaul’s Richard H. Driehaus College of Business.

DWN Works Up a Sweat at the Ray

By Kris Gallagher

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I’m at that age where the desire to exercise more often conflicts with my desire to not inflame my bad knee. Still, I was intrigued by the free Exercise for Health and Wellness with DWN event at the Ray Meyer Fitness & Recreation Center on Feb. 20. So, I packed up my workout clothes and my bum knee and off I went.

I was happy to see that the two dozen women who joined me were of all ages and athletic abilities. We joked around and encouraged each other as we tried to keep up with the instructors. Thankfully, they told us that is was more important to keep moving than to mimic them exactly. Even better, they told us to scale the intensity of the workout to match the needs of our own bodies.

First up was 20 minutes of Zumba. If you are new to Zumba, it’s a dance-based workout with fairly simple, repetitive motions. In addition to being good exercise, you learn some nifty dance moves. We pumped our arms, wiggled our middles and hopped to the beat of the peppy Latin music. Well, many people hopped. I stepped, keeping the impact on my knee low and still managing to work up a good sweat. I’d forgotten how much fun Zumba is.

The next 20-minute session was a new style of exercise for me: Tabata Blast. The instructor showed us a series of poses that require balance and muscle strength, such as a plank or a deep squat. We’d hold the pose for 20 seconds, take 20 seconds off, and then repeat. Whoa, THAT was a workout! Two days later, my thighs are still screaming. It’s the kind of scream that means calories were burned and muscles were strengthened. I was relieved to hear that regular Tabata Blast classes are just 30 minutes long. I don’t think I could go for an hour!

Finally, an instructor led us through a series of yoga poses that let us stretch and relax and restore our sense of calm. The woman next to me said it was her first time trying yoga and she seemed to be able to do all the poses easily. Yoga is a great way to start exercising if you haven’t been. It helps you loosen up tight muscles and joints, builds your strength and improves your balance. It’s also a mini-meditation session, and most of us can use more of that!

Our workout was jointly sponsored by DWN and DePaul’s Healthy Vin-cent$ Wellness Program. If you are inspired to improve your health, check out the classes held at the Ray and at the newly refurbished gym in the basement of the College of Computing and Digital Media building in the Loop. You can sign up for six-week classes or single sessions as your schedule allows.

Oh, and my knee? It’s just fine. Let’s get fit!

Kris Gallagher is a marketing and communications team member for DWN, and an associate editor in the Office of Advancement at DePaul University.

DWN Night at the DePaul Theatre: “We are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia…”

By Nadia Alfadel Coloma

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Last night, DWN members got to enjoy a preview of “We are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwesiafrika, between the years 1884-1915” at DePaul’s Theatre School on the Lincoln Park Campus. Members received complementary tickets to the show as part of DWN’s membership benefits. (Special thanks to Leslie Shook, theatre manager, for providing this opportunity.)

It was a cold Thursday night so I almost didn’t go, but I am so glad that I did. The truth is, it’s hard to break from routine, especially at the end of a work day when all you want to do is go home and get out of your work clothes. But once in a while, it’s good to step out of your usual pattern to enjoy an experience, so that every week is not a mere replica of the one before it.

I had no idea what to expect from this play. I had never heard of it, and the title was certainly unique. I found the description to be a bit vague, too. Please be advised that this show is for mature audiences, the invitation cautioned. I was intrigued. Also, I had never attended a show at DePaul’s Theatre School. The Fullerton Stage is a wonderful space—intimate and inviting, the seating is arranged as a semi-circle around the stage.

I will not give away details about this play so that you can go and experience it for yourself. Because it is an experience, one that shakes the emotions and stretches the mind. It is a play that provokes reflection, elicits strong (uncomfortable) emotion, deep emotion, and most significantly, sparks important dialogue.

By the end, when the lights went out and the actors disappeared from the stage, I was stunned—and so was everyone in the audience. My heart was racing as  silence descended upon the stage. There was a post-show discussion that I stayed for, that almost everyone in the audience stayed for. We clearly all needed to process.

The play follows an ensemble of well-meaning actors who struggle to tell the story of a nearly forgotten African genocide that took place at the turn of the twentieth century. For one, this was new information to me. I had never heard of the Herero tribe and the terrible tragedy they suffered. The ensemble struggles to tell the story of the fate of the Herero because:

How can you tell the story of an oppressed people whose history has never been documented—from their perspective?

History is all facts, dates, figures. We rely on documentation to formulate and understand “what happened” in the past. But who is documenting the past? Whose perspective is narrating “what happened”? And that is the inherent issue the ensemble grapples with.

The people in power (in this case, the German conquerors) were the ones narrating the past. The history of the Herero genocide is thus based on their perspective, a privileged perspective.

When you have only one perspective, one narrative to a history, then that leaves the other side in perpetual oppression because their voices are ultimately never heard. The historical narrative is incomplete, leaving an entire people, in this case, the Herero, literally erased.

The play weaves in and out of present day America and colonial Namibia. It forces you to be a spectator to injustice. It makes you uncomfortable. And it does this because comfort, after all, breeds complacency.

It explores how society constructs systems that oppress one group and uplift another, all because of race and color.

Written by American playwrite Jackie Sibblies Drury, the play was first read at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago in April 2012.

This is a bold and powerful play that is especially important considering the context of our current political climate. I highly recommend it, though with the same caution that I received: this play is for mature audiences only. The cast, also, was excellent. I applaud them for delivering such a moving and difficult performance.

I have a newfound appreciation for the Theatre School and will certainly be back to enjoy other shows. (At the very least, I’ll be less likely to brush away the inter-office mail postcards that they send us every so often.) 🙂

“We are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwesiafrika, between the years 1884-1915” will be playing February 10 through February 19 at the Theatre School. Get your tickets here.

Nadia Alfadel Coloma is the director of marketing and communications for DWN, and a communications and workforce specialist in DePaul’s division of Enrollment Management and Marketing.

Identity & Inclusion: When Difference Makes the Difference

DWN President Joy Boggs
Joy Boggs, DWN President 2013-14

Happy Black History Month!

I am old enough to remember when celebrating Black History was limited to the third week in February. Despite the limitations, Black History was a special time at Mark T. Skinner School. Preparations for our weeklong celebration would begin in January with MLK Day (Illinois was the first state to adopt the day as a state holiday). We were never taught the “I Have a Dream” speech; instead, we studied The Movement as a textbook in transformation. We learned how to step beyond the limits of circumstances into new fields of action. What I remember and cherish most about those days was how teachers, administrators, and staff set aside hierarchy and title to hold open an intergenerational dialogue with us students. They created a context for us to embrace our difference as a power instead of a handicap.

Something similar is about to happen on our DePaul campus on Tuesday, February 25. You may heard or seen the invitation to the Diversity Forum on February. For the first time ever in the history of our university, all five affinity groups (DPUBLC, LEAD, ELEVATE, and the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Network), are coming together to open up a dialogue between faculty and staff about what it means to be a member of the DePaul family. The forum, “Identity & Inclusion: When Difference Makes the Difference,” will feature opening comments by DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., followed by a keynote address delivered by Patricia Arredondo, president of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

The opening reception will be followed by concurrent sessions that will focus on:

  • Identity development through social media
  • Religious diversity in the workplace
  • Constructing allyship across identity lines
  • Vincentian personalism for the classroom

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to participate in a conversation for transformation. The forum, which is free and open to DePaul faculty and staff, runs 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in the Lincoln Park Student Center. Space is limited, so please register by February 19.

We can’t wait to see you!

Joy

Joy Boggs is President of DePaul Women’s Network for 2013-14 and is Business Manager for the Office of the General Counsel at DePaul University.

Being Inspired and Having Fun at DWN’s Collaborative Art Event

On Dec. 13, the DePaul Women’s Network hosted “Image/ing Gender: A Collaborative Social Art Event.” DWN Communications Team Member Laura Durnell recaps and reflects upon what participating in the event meant to her.

Laura_Durnell-2013 11In the months before I became a part of the DePaul Women’s Network as a Communications Team Member, I had the opportunity to see and hear from St. Vincent de Paul Professor Bibiana Suárez at DWN’s January 2013 event, “Life on the Academic Ladder.” Professor Suárez fascinated and inspired me in my roles as a literary artist who graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an MFA in Writing, an adjunct in DePaul’s Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Department and Wilbur Wright College’s English department, and an exhausted and frazzled new mother. Her accomplishments while balancing her own art, the responsibilities of a tenured art professor and motherhood encouraged me.

When I learned of “Image/ing Gender” toward the end of fall quarter 2013, I immediately registered. Not only was the amazing Professor Suárez leading the event, but I was eager to collaborate and network with DePaul’s other intelligent and “fierce” women where we would learn more about art, race, gender and ourselves. However, the word in the event’s description that most attracted me was “fun.” After an autumn term traveling between DePaul and Wilbur Wright College while working on my own writing and raising a spirited three-year-old, “fun” was what I needed to refill my well.

When I arrived, the sound of Puerto Rican music behind the drawing room’s door greeted me. After I knocked, Professor Suárez enthusiastically welcomed me into the room while she finalized the event’s preparations. Just as during her “Life on the Academic Ladder” speech, Professor Suárez made feel comfortable. Soon other participants arrived, and we shared our stories and thoughts while enjoying fruit, cheese and hot apple cider.

Shortly after 5 p.m., DWN member, event organizer and participant Gwenyth Bailey Knorr introduced Professor Suárez. After Gwen presented Professor Suárez’s artistic and academic accomplishments, Professor Suárez humbly dismissed them by saying she just likes to keep herself busy. Next, Professor Suárez had us introduce ourselves (and managed to remember everyone’s name throughout the event!) before turning her introduction to art’s creation and purpose. She said art is more than entertainment and enjoyment and can address and criticize society, politics, religion, gender, and race through form and style. She then showed examples from her own work, “Memoria/Memory,” and the work of other nationally recognized artists where images and stereotypes from history are manipulated to convey a critical viewpoint regarding race, ethnicity and gender.

After her lecture, Professor Suárez distributed a handout explaining the event’s collaborative activity along with a glossary of drawing concepts (helpful since some of us had little to no visual artistic training). I collaborated with Gwen and my friend and fellow WRD lecturer Salli Berg Seeley. Each of us selected prompts from Professor Suárez’s index cards, and based on those prompts, we drew our art onto a sheet of craft paper taped to the wall using the supplied charcoal, ebony pencils, Nupastels and kneaded erasers. At certain points, Professor Suárez offered everyone helpful advice on how we could make our drawings more uniform and create a visual “essay.”

During our collaboration, Salli, Gwen and I not only talked about our piece but also shared our thoughts on gender, race, society, motherhood, our respective generations (I was the sole Gen Xer) and our own lives. When everyone finished their group’s piece, we gathered to discuss and critique each group’s work. The first group chosen to present was my group.

Professor Suárez guided everyone on how to look at drawings from an artistic perspective and showed us how to view pieces up close and from a distance in order to determine a work’s style and “essay.” As our presentation and the other groups’ feedback commenced, Professor Suárez led the participants toward the work of a notable Dutch-born American artist, Willem de Kooning. She said his work “The Women Series” reminded her of our piece. After I arrived home later that evening and put my daughter to bed, I looked up de Kooning’s series on Google and was shocked and humbled to find how Gwen’s, Salli’s and my collaboration seemed inspired by this American master. When Professor Suárez saw something notable in my group’s beginning art work, it further clarified to me why she is a St. Vincent de Paul Professor. I felt not only encouraged, supported and nurtured but also validated.

The collaborative art piece made by Laura Durnell's group at the event.
The collaborative art piece made by Laura Durnell’s group at the event.

Consequently, after a hectic academic term, “Image/ing Gender” refreshed and educated me. It also left me with a deeper sense of connection to and support from DePaul’s women faculty and staff. “Image/ing Gender” made me grateful not only to be a member of the DePaul Women’s Network but also to know that DWN exists for DePaul’s women. Most importantly though, I had fun.

See more photos from the event on DWN’s Facebook page.

Laura Durnell is a member of DWN’s Communications team and is an adjunct in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Department at DePaul University.

Celebrate Art, Collaborate and Make Connections at DWN’s Event Dec. 13

Post by Jill Stewart (DWN Communications Team Member)

DePaul Women’s Network will host a unique art-and-conversation workshop “Image/ing Gender” engaging faculty and staff in a discussion and collaboration about race, gender and culture on Friday, Dec. 13, from 5-7 p.m. Artist and Professor of Art Bibiana Suárez will lead participants in a game of cards she designed to stimulate conversation and creativity.

The process involves a series of commands, each written on a single card. The commands act as prompts for conversation about the intersection of art, gender, politics and cultures. Four groups of five participants will work on a large collaborative charcoal and pastel mural (60” x 48”) to create a visual essay of their discussion.

This event is limited to 20 participants, but there are slots still available—register now! Participants should plan to bring a smock, or wear something that won’t be marred by mixed-media materials. Prof. Suárez will provide instruction on the fundamentals of drawing; previous art training is not required.

Background

Bibiana SuarezProfessor Bibiana Suárez has been at DePaul for 24 years, joining the faculty after finishing her graduate degree at the School of the Art Institute, where she trained in painting and drawing though most of her work now is in mixed media. Her most recent exhibit was at the Hyde Park Art Center in 2012 and was entitled “Memoria.” She has long been interested in issues of identity and diversity, and this workshop exercise is an outgrowth of that passion.

Additional Information

Where: 1150 W. Fullerton, Room 310

When: Friday, December 13, 2013

Price: $10

Registration: https://dwn-collaborative-art.eventbrite.com/

Jill Stewart is a member of DWN’s Communications team and is an instructor in the College of Communication at DePaul University.

DePaul Center Promotes Women in STEM through Lecture Series

In advance of the Jeanne LaDuke Women in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Annual Lecture Series on Oct. 17, DWN Communications Team Member Dorothy Griggs visited the DePaul University STEM Center to find out about its history and role in the series. Read on to see what she learned.

STEMI recently had the pleasure of meeting with DePaul University STEM Center Director Lynn C. Narasimhan and Associate Director Victoria Simek. The STEM Center (formerly the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Center), has been in existence since July 2000 and is housed on DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus at 990 W. Fullerton Ave. When the College of Science and Health separated from the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences in 2011, the center officially adopted its new name and continued its work providing universitywide programming in STEM disciplines, which include science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The History of STEM and the LaDuke Series

One of the many exciting things the STEM Center is responsible for is managing the annual Jeanne LaDuke Women in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Annual Lecture Series. The LaDuke Series is named after Jeanne LaDuke, associate professor emeritus in the Department of Mathematics. This lecture series was created in 2005 by Dr. LaDuke’s colleagues, and Dr. LaDuke kicked off the series in May 2005 by presenting “Women Who Count: Pioneers in American Mathematics.”

When I inquired what it was about Dr. LaDuke that would compel her co-workers to create such a great offering on her behalf, Victoria responded that Dr. LaDuke was an exceptionally dedicated professor who was always willing to help her colleagues, and that she was very inspirational. While all of these attributes are admirable, I am inclined to believe that the operative word here is inspirational. Hopefully, all of us have been fortunate enough to have had teachers who inspired us. It is an intangible quality that not all possess, but similar to genius, you know when you are in its presence. And as a direct result of the LaDuke Lecture Series, Dr. LaDuke’s inspirational spirit will be felt for many years to come.

For this year’s guest speaker, the LaDuke Faculty Committee has invited Dr. Melissa Gilliam, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago. Dr. Gilliam’s research focuses on populations that are at risk of poor reproductive health. Due to the complexity of the issue, Dr. Gilliam understood the importance of incorporating other disciplines in her research, and to that end has established The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3), as well as the Game Changer Design Lab at the University of Chicago.

This Year’s LaDuke Lecture

Now in its ninth year, the Jeanne LaDuke Women in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Annual Lecture Series will be held on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m., at the McGowan South, Room 108, 1110 W. Belden Ave. A reception will immediately follow. RSVPs are encouraged by emailing Victoria at vsimek@depaul.edu, but do not fret if you forget, just come on out and hear what Dr. Gilliam has to say about this important issue.

Prior to the lecture, there will be a special session for students interested in having the opportunity to have “face time” with Dr. Gilliam, and the chance to pose questions that are pertinent to their current studies and interests. This meeting will run for an hour, starting at 4:30 p.m., and will be held in McGowan South, Room 204. Refreshments will be served.

What’s Next for the STEM Center

In selecting speakers for the LaDuke Lecture Series, Victoria stated that the goal is to select local women from various disciplines. When I inquired whether the focus at the STEM Center was predominately on the women student population, Lynn informed me that the STEM Center supports both men and women equally in the STEM disciplines. She went on to share that she is currently teaching a course for middle school mathematics teachers and, among other things, is presenting them with a new paradigm of teaching to help change the mindset of their students from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. This course work is based on the research findings of Dr. Carol S. Dweck, and the objective is to supply teachers with the tools to help middle school students understand that they can be proficient in math if they persevere, even if math does not come easily to them, and even if they have been unsuccessful at math in the past.

That morning in the STEM Center as Lynn and Victoria spoke passionately about the work they do and the positive ramification of the research that is being done, their passion was palpable. Afterward, Lynn forwarded me a couple of her resources to read to further my understanding of her work. It was an honor to have had the unique opportunity to meet and talk at length with these two women. Opportunities such as these are, I believe, one of the great benefits of being a member of the DePaul Women’s Network.

But as all good things must come to an end, when the 15 minutes that I had initially requested quickly turned into 40, I bid a gracious good-bye. And as I stepped out of their building onto Fullerton and into the bright sunlit day, I must admit that I felt happy with the way the interview went, but mostly I felt inspired.

Dorothy Griggs is a member of DWN’s Communications team and is the department assistant for the Center for Students with Disabilities at DePaul University.