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Gender Studies Celebrates Women's History Month
February 25, 2008

In March and April, the gender studies department at Calvin College will recognize Women’s History Month with a diverse schedule of activities: everything from a feminist reevaluation of the wedding ceremony to a discussion of intersexuality.

Calvin’s Women’s History Month events—which take place March 4 through April 3—are less a celebration of the milestones of women’s history than an exploration of gender issues, said Simona Goi, the director of the gender studies minor who is coordinating the events.

The Grand Rapids Humanities Council and Calvin are teaming up in March for the Great Women, Great Voices project.

Intended to allow women to tell and preserve their important stories during Women's History Month, the project will bring women to the television studio at Calvin's DeVos Communication Center where a family member or friend will interview them for approximately 30 minutes about their life experience, family history or whatever story they wish to tell.

Each participant will be given a keepsake DVD of the session.

Interviews will be scheduled for March 8, March 10-12 and March 15. There is no cost to participate and the program is open to the public; however, registration is required. Participants should call 774-1776 to register.

The program is made possible in part by grants from the Nokomis Foundation and the Michigan Humanities Council.

“I’ve sort of made it into ‘gender history month’ because all of us—men and women—deal with gender issues throughout our lives, and this is an opportunity to stop and reflect on these issues,” Goi said. “I also think it’s important to celebrate the accomplishments of women and to acknowledge the challenges that women face.”

The events are sponsored by the gender studies department in conjunction with Calvin academic and non-academic departments. “We’re trying to appeal to a wide audience,” said Goi. “We definitely want to engage students, but we’re also hoping to draw the whole Calvin community—faculty, staff and alumni—and the wider community to talk about gender and women’s accomplishments.

The month kicks off with the lecture “Reading the Scripture with our Foremothers” by Dr. Marion Taylor at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4 in the Commons Lecture Hall. The lecture is co-sponsored by the religion department and the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship. “The idea is to uncover interpreters of the Bible that people usually wouldn’t think of—women interpreters,” said Goi.

The March 4 event will also celebrate the publication of Recovering Nineteenth-Century Women Interpreters of the Bible, a book co-edited by Taylor, who teaches the Old Testament at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, and Calvin religion professor Christiana de Groot. “I think it’s exciting for students to see another side of a professor’s work,” said Goi. “They see the teaching, but it’s important to know that we also do research."

Michelle Loyd-Paige, the Calvin dean of multicultural affairs, will speak on “The Faith of Our Mothers: Black Women’s Jesus, White Women’s Christ” at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 18 in the Commons Lecture Hall. “She will talk about an aspect of worship and faith that is often not considered, the fact that there are different faith traditions tied to both ethnicity and gender, and that they can be oppressive or liberating,” said Goi.

Dr Alice Dreger will speak on “Intersex in Theory, Life, and Practice” at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25 in the Commons Lecture Hall. The lecture is co-sponsored by the biology department. “Intersex,” Goi explained is the term referring to persons born with sex anatomy that doesn’t fit the standard for men or women, and Dreger, an associate professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, is an acknowledged expert on the subject of people born with “norm-challenging bodies.”

“I think her work is so interesting, and it pushes Christians especially to think about how we respond to a group of people who have been invisible,” said Goi. “This work crosses the borders of these issues of what is normal and what is acceptable and what is a disability. We’re really fortunate to be able to hear from someone who has dedicated her life to this.”

A soon-to-be-married student inspired the panel “Our Big, Fat, Feminist Wedding: Traditions, Alternatives and What They Mean for Marriage,” which will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 26 in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall. “Both she and her fiancé will be on the panel to talk about what makes a traditional and non-traditional wedding,” said Goi. “I think this will be a big student draw—especially for women students.”

Another panel, this one a sampler of successful Calvin women alumni from a range of fields, will conclude the Women’s History Month celebration. “How Does She Do It? Women Balancing Careers, Marriages and Families,” will take place at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 3 in the Commons Lecture Hall. The panel, co-sponsored by Calvin’s Student Life department, will feature a liver transplant surgeon, a business owner, an attorney, a professor and a minister, and their different approaches to integrating families with demanding careers. “We want to say to our women students, ‘Here are some interesting options for combining a family and a career. You can do it too,” said Goi.

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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