Feminist panel 'The F-Word' discusses worldwide empowerment

UConn's She's the First held a panel to discuss the "F" word and the worldwide empowerment of women this past Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of She's the First)

The phrase “The F-Word” can have several different connotations, but in the case of She’s the First UConn’s latest event, that word is feminism. She’s the First hosted a panel that discussed feminism in the United States and the worldwide empowerment of girls this past Wednesday.

The panel, which was moderated by She’s The First Vice President, Divya Bana, featured four panelists from diverse backgrounds and fields of study. Panelists included Ph.D. student Selam Negatu, history Professor Micki McElya and undergraduate students Linh Ho and Levi Green.

The first question asked by the moderator was what feminism meant to them. Negatu described feminism as “a means to look at the world through a women’s eyes,” then continued to talk about her relationship with feminism as an international graduate student from Ethiopia. Ho, who is also an international student, provided an interesting outlook on how her view of feminism was shaped by her traditional upbringing, and how some of the gender roles taught to her at a young age conflicted with how she felt about feminism.

The next question, which related to the title of the event, asked panelists why they thought feminism made people so uncomfortable. Many of the panelists thought that feminism challenges the patriarchy and traditional gender roles. Each panelist also touched upon the many issues within the movement itself and how the lack of intersectionality in feminism may affect how people view the movement.

Later on in the panel, moderator Divya Bana asked panelists for their take on how to promote gender equality in education. Negatu stressed the importance of having the proper resources available and access to education for young girls across the world. She also talked about the importance of having accomplished female scholars as role models for young girls to give them the ambition to follow their dreams. Ho shared a similar sentiment by discussing the importance of access to education for young girls in lower socioeconomic classes around the world. Green shared a personal anecdote, discussing how the microaggressions he had witnessed during his life may have affected the academic careers of women.

The final question asked by Bana prompted the panelists to think about how to teach future generations about gender inequality. A particularly interesting answer came from Professor McElya, who stated that it was important to “encourage students to feel comfortable being profoundly uncomfortable.” She discussed the significance of talking about the inequality that takes place throughout history, and the importance of open communication in the classroom. Ho shared a similar sentiment by bringing up the value of educating students about gender equality in high school. Green added that they should talk about gender inequality with men as well as women.

Aishwarya Mogulothu, a sixth-semester molecular and cell biology major, appreciated the diversity of the panelists.

“I think having two people who were international really helped get a different perspective,” Mogulothu said.

“I think that having such a diverse panel, both in terms of race, nationality, gender and age was a really fantastic experience because we managed to get so many different perspectives,” stated sixth-semester history major Jennifer Sturgeon.

Panelist Levi Green spoke to the importance of education on this topic.

“It’s really necessary to educate persons of every gender identity, sexual orientation, class, race to understand how we move forward because it’s not just going to change if we just educate the oppressed- we need to educate the oppressors,” Green said.


Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.