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International speakers discuss gender equality in policy and intersectional feminism

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Four international panelists spoke to a group of students and community members via webcam in Clippinger Laboratories on Tuesday on the topic of “Improving NGO and State Solutions for Gender Inequality.”

The presentation, which included a 10-minute question and answer session, was held by the Women’s Center and was titled, “Who’s Missing From the Policy Table?” The speakers discussed the concept of intersectionality and how policies affect women differently based on divisions like sexuality, socio-economic class, race, culture, age and ability.

“To me, feminism is the social, economic, political and cultural equality of all genders,” panelist Chitra Panjabi said. “Ensuring that our society is just across all intersections. Women make up 52 percent of the world, and we are not equal.”

Panjabi identifies herself as an “intersectional feminist activist with a professional background in nonprofit management and fundraising.” She currently serves as the East Coast engagement and communications manager for Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

Arpita Das, co-chief editor of the Graduate Journal of Social Science; Marisela Montenegro, a lecturer at the Universitat Autónoma in Barcelona; and Nagore García, a PhD candidate at the same university, began the talk by discussing intersectionality.

Intersectionality was defined as the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression were explained as not only interrelated but bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society, which include race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity.

“I have two graduate degrees. I speak two languages, but I am still a woman,” Das said. “In a climate change situation, who is the first to access shelter? Who is the first to get contraception, the first to get health care?”

Das also mentioned the Post-2015 Women’s Coalition, defined on its website as “a coalition of feminist, women’s rights, women’s development, grassroots and social justice organizations to monitor and engage with these emerging processes as a political opportunity to challenge, reframe and contribute to the global development agenda.”

In discussing the impacts of race and gender specifically, Punjabi cited a study on the women’s drug Gardasil, which was only tested on white females and performed worse on black women and other people of color.

“It’s leaving out people who do not fit within norms of gender, norms of sexuality. We’re pushing for a certain kind of family that doesn’t always exist,” Das said.

Ben Colvin, a junior studying biology, came to the event in an attempt to personally and professionally develop.

“I’ve always thought about this issue from a different perspective, policies having unintentional consequences,” Colvin said. “I’ve personally thought a lot about issues related to intersectionality, but not necessarily gender. I would define feminism as activism and an ideology of gender equality.”

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