The Motley Coffeehouse at Scripps College hosted a panel entitled “Scripps Feminism: A Motley Coffeehouse Teach-In” Nov. 30.
The teach-in aimed to address a perceived gap in discourse surrounding feminism at Scripps.
“Rarely do we talk about our different beliefs
of what does it mean to be a feminist in 2012 at Scripps College,” said Monica Dreitcer SC ’13, one of the Motley’s managers and an organizer of the event.
The panel was comprised of Scripps students, Emily Areta SC ’14 and Olivia Buntaine SC ’15, and faculty members Chris Guzaitis, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies; Andrew Jacobs, Professor of Religious Studies; and Seo Young Park, Professor of Anthropology. Kimberly Drake, Professor of Writing, served as the moderator.
“One of the most insidious things about the structure of patriarchy and sexism is how invisible it can be and how we can internalize it,” Jacobs said. “The process of demystification for me is incredibly important.”
Scripps President Lori Bettison-Varga introduced the panel, but had to leave before the talk began for a budget and planning committee.
Bettison-Varga said of feminism, “I define it rather simply. I define feminism as a movement for equality of opportunity.”
“I’m really excited that the dialogue is here today,” she said. “I would hope … that we can really embrace the term ‘feminism’ and not see it as radical, pushy or obnoxious. We’re feminists working toward equal opportunity.”
After Bettison-Varga’s introduction, Drake asked the panel questions prepared by event organizers Dreitcer, Julia Howard SC ‘14 and Julia Hughes SC ‘13. Members of the panel had had access to the questions before the event.
The panelists first discussed their various definitions of feminism.
“My personal definition would be something along the lines of, an everyday activism and way of living, which is striving toward social justice and awareness, with a particular focus on but not limited to, the experience of self-identified women,” Buntaine said. “So making an everyday practice of being anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic.”
Guzaitis said, “Feminism isn’t about having one particular definition, but is lived and experienced in multiple ways.”
The panelists also discussed the differences between their expectations of feminism at Scripps before they came to the school and the reality they found upon arriving.
Buntaine said of her expectations, “I was going to come to Scripps and we would retain this radical feminist bent but not sacrifice our ability to negotiate with others around us and bring our feminist ethics into conversations.”
“Feminism was a little harder to find that I’d hoped,” she added. “I sensed some self-consciousness surrounding it.”
Guzaitis said, “I expected it to be more of a space where feminism is talked about more explicitly and was a more explicit part of our identity as an institution, and found that not to be the case when I got here.”
She said that there are only two professors of Gender and Women’s Studies at the Claremont Colleges, and one professor who is half-appointed in Gender and Women’s Studies. Scripps is the only college with a Gender and Women’s Studies department.
“I think that is pretty shocking and sad,” Guzaitis said. “I did feel like it was a lot different from what I expected.”
“I really feel like this is a place that feminism can thrive and that we can have a very vibrant, feminist community,” she added. “So I’m hoping that in conversations like this and other events that happen we can continue to build towards that.”
Areta said that she wasn’t sure what to expect of Scripps before she came.
“When I got into Scripps, my friends in high school would make jokes,” she said. “They said lots of homophobic things, or the other assumption that we’re like a sorority, that we’re super girly and paint each other’s nails every day and all of that.”
However, Areta said that she’s gotten a lot out of her education at Scripps.
“I see the value of Scripps through the classes I have taken and the way that I think about myself,” Areta said. “It’s been a very counter-colonial education … colonial in the way that these ideas colonize your mind, and restructure your mind so you can’t see how things are really playing out in front of you.”
After an hour and a half of the panel answering questions, members of the audience were allowed to ask questions.
Howard said that she was pleased with the outcome.
“I was really impressed with the turnout of people that came and the feedback that we got about the event afterward,” she said. “People were excited that we were bringing this topic into discussion, and something we want to continue to dialogue as we go into the Spring semester.”
“It made me really proud to be a Scripps student, to see Olivia and Emily up there,” Dreitcer said. “They blew me away.”
One critique organizers received about the event was the choice to use the term “teach-in” in the name.
“We decided to call it a teach-in because we saw it as more than just a panel. We didn’t want it just to be this group of people up there,” Dreitcer said. “And panels are also necessarily considered experts, and we didn’t consider them experts as much as we considered them to come from different areas on campus and have different views of what feminism meant.”
Critics claimed that the use of “teach-in” in the name of the event was inconsistent Scripps’s history. In the past, teach-ins at the college have been more informal and discussion-based, they said.
“We’re kind of bringing this discussion out about what it means to be true to localized histories,” Dreitcer said. “It might not have been the discussion we expected to come up from the panel, but we’re really happy that there was a discussion that was started about something.”
The teach-in was the third part in a series of efforts by the Motley to foster feminism at Scripps.
Earlier in the semester, the coffeehouse started the Talking Back
campaign, which aims to raise awareness about sexual violence on
college campuses. The coffeehouse has also been working to teach
students its “herstory.” The Motley’s story will be the focus of a photo exhibit that
will be displayed in the coffeehouse before the end of the semester.
A video recording of the event by the Office of Communications and Marketing will be available on the college’s website.