Speaking into the void, purple veils, etc.

Thanks to all those who are advancing this conversation. I agree about the experience Anna, Ashley, and Annie note–how hard it is to speak when one’s voice is automatically invalidated by people who wield social and institutional power. It’s really important to speak anyway, persistently, using whatever amplifiers are at one’s disposal. I’m reading your comments having just blogged yesterday¬†about sexism in the poetry world. A really successful, distinguished, talented woman poet spoke to me at a conference last weekend about how women in their fifties and sixties disappear behind a “purple veil” (she’s a poet, so of course she has a metaphor at hand)–invisible to the power brokers. I don’t mean to say discrimination just never ends, because things can get better: I feel much more empowered now than I did at 20. And I think these problems are significantly worse at W&L than at many other institutions, so you can escape it one day if you choose different company. But my own life experience is that whenever you think you’ve finally gotten past being negatively defined by your gender, there’s a rude awakening ahead. The only way forward, when people don’t hear you, is 1) to persist in the work you care about and 2) use any means at hand to reframe the conversation to put your concerns at the center of it.

In the case of independent women at W&L: is there a way to frame your group as central to the university, or at least equivalent to fraternities and sororities? Is there an Independent Women Club, or Independent Students Organization, that could seek a place at the tables where big decisions are made? The blog is a great start but it seems important to find lots of ways to make yourself visible and audible.

-Lesley Wheeler

 

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