Dartmouth women stand up and speak

by David Horowitz | 5/9/97 5:00am

Five senior women reflected on women's activism and women's issues in a panel discussion before an almost-filled 105 Dartmouth Hall last night.

The discussion titled "Will the Women of Dartmouth Please Stand Up?" occurred before an overwhelmingly female audience.

BreeAnne Clowdus '97 spoke about female political activism, to which she said she is drawn. Clowdus, a co-chair of the Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance, encouraged the women in the audience to speak up for themselves and other women because, she said, "women's voices are the only thing they've got."

She said she becomes worried when she sees women who feel pressured by Dartmouth's environment to stay silent, a trend which hurts all women. Clowdus said women who are vocal on campus often get reactionary receptions.

"If you open your mouth on campus you become a political activist; if you say something interesting you become a radical."

Clowdus, who called herself a "lesbian radical separatist," declared that "humor is one women's most valuable assets" because it diffuses opposition. Humor is an asset Clowdus herself holds and said she uses to assert her political agenda.

"God gave you that mouth to say something, ladies, so use it." Clowdus said. "Its not just for oral sex."

Llezlie Green '97, president of the African American Society, characterized her Dartmouth years as a time of struggle to define herself without reference to definitions other people ascribe to her.

Green described "boxes" of shallow character definition and pretentious expectation, in which she often found herself due to pressure from her parents, peers and even herself.

Being an African-American college student means that the community has certain expectations regarding achievement, she said.

Before Green even set foot in Hanover she knew she wanted to major in government and become a lawyer -- partly because she sensed that as an intelligent black woman, it was expected of her.

"We spend a lot of time listening to what other people think we should be," she said.

After four years of dodging these boxes, Green, who was slightly late to the panel because she had just delivered her honor's thesis presentation, is still a government major, but her career plans have changed.

Green said she will pursue a Ph.D. in international relations regardless of her parent's tacit disapproval.

Lawanda Johnson '97 is from a Navajo nation community in Ship Rock, N.M.. Her high school was 99 percent Navajo, and "Dartmouth was quite a shock, [but] that was what I was looking for."

Culture clash has shaped her Dartmouth experience, she said. Her Native American background constantly makes her question the value of a liberal arts education and its relevancy in a Native American community.

Johnson said the thing she admires most about her mother is that even in graduate school, her mother let her Native American values and beliefs guide her -- a goal Johnson seeks at Dartmouth.

As a student at Hanover high, Malaika Little '97 said she never wanted to become one of those Dartmouth "pinheads" to which she and her classmates referred.

The ice hockey program is what drew Little to Dartmouth, where she is captain of the women's hockey team.

"Now that I'm a senior, ... I am definitely psyched to be a pinhead," she said.

Little urged the younger members of the audience to take advantage of Dartmouth to the greatest degree possible.

She said no one should miss out on the study abroad programs and independent study grants available to anyone with the will to pursue them.

Little, a modified biology and environmental studies major, took advantage of those programs and spent a term conducting independent research about adolescents with AIDS.

Joanna Whitley '97, former president of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority and captain of the women's golf team, said she was never aware of gender issues until she came to Dartmouth.

She said she was brought up in a male-dominated household and never considered that her gender made much of a difference.

Whitley was especially jarred by the Greek system. She found sororities to be a safe space for women but that there were fundamental flaws in the Greek system which consistently undermined the efforts of sororities to create an absolutely safe space for women.

The women's issues at Dartmouth and beyond, brand new to Whitley, prompted her to found a radio show called "Estrogen Time," she said.

She said the show is "a manifestation of all my personal angst about how women are treated."

Moderator Laura Turner '97 said that Clowdus had been a guest on "Estrogen Time" the week before.

"Will the Women of Dartmouth Please Stand Up?" was sponsored by the Dean's Office.

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