Wednesday, March 22, 2017

OUC students take on activism with consent, sexual assault and sex education event

Ohio University Chillicothe students Morgan Bivens, Tessa Byers, Vanessa Chandler and Leah Hollis organized a campus event centered around the issues of consent, sexual harassment and the importance of comprehensive sex education March 22, 2017.

As a part of their activism class, which focuses on teaching students about feminism, long-term activism and strategies for getting things done, the students put together the event stemmed from issues they saw effecting their environments.

Bivens, a junior at OUC who is pursuing a bachelor of specialized studies, wanted to emphasize consent and sexual harassment for her portion of the event.

“It’s just a huge issue,” she said. “I focused on sexual harassment and consent from the beginning of the class because it’s something that needs to be addressed. We’re hoping that people will hear the message and will understand what warrants consent and sexual harassment.”

Byers, who is pre-nursing major, concentrated on sex education and providing a pro-choice advocate for the campus community as her contribution.

“I’m very passionate about bringing

comprehensive sex education to our schools,” she said. “I’m focusing on comprehensive sex education for everyone, to help curtail sexual assault and harassment in the future. Plus, it will good to help lower the STD and unwanted pregnancy rates by having it.”

The event began with the four students hosting a discussion between themselves and their fellow campus members about consent, comprehensive sex education and sexual harassment. For over an hour, the students conversed about various topics, citing research and statistics while breaking down barriers and stigmas for the conversations to take place.

Bivens noted that she hoped the event would do just that, open the door to conversation among students.

 “We’re hoping it opens up discussion and makes it a public issue. Right now, it seems to be in the background and just by having the event, it lets people know that this is something we care about,” she said prior to their presentation.

Guest speakers included Dr. Marguerite Hernandez, Assistant Professor of Sociology who presented on the sociological effects of sexual assault and harassment; Ron Edwards, a professor in the law enforcement technology program who discussed the legal ramifications of sexual assault, harassment and consent; and Randi Gregory of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who discussed women’s reproductive rights and legislative challenges in Ohio.

Each guest speaker had one hour to present on their topics and were able to take questions from the audience. Topics included lengthy discussions on what constitutes consent in sexual encounters, defining sexual assault and harassment, the role comprehensive sex education plays in preventing unwanted pregnancies and curtailing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases as well as the role law enforcement’s plays in preventing and or reporting sex crimes.

These discussions were made possible thanks to the Women’s and Gender Studies activism class, in which the four students are currently enrolled.

Professor Debra Nickles explained, “The point [of the activism class] is to identify a local issue in the community that needs attention. Morgan and her fellow students have chosen to sink their energies and creativity into creating a positive change in our campus community by discussing topics of sexual nature that typically don’t get discussed in depth in the classroom. They’ve put a ton of time, energy, intellect, and heart into this project in the hopes of raising awareness about such vital issues surrounding consent, reproductive rights, and improving sex education in Ross county.”

Throughout the rest of the semester, the remaining students in the Activism class will be putting together events similar in scope and nature based around their specific issues. The Activism class was a new course created to conjuring deep analytical thinking and push students to go beyond conversations in an enriching liberal arts fashion with diverse viewpoints and multiple instructors.

'Equal Means Equal' film shines light on women's issues

As it stands today, women are not guaranteed equal rights under the law.

“Equal Means Equal,” a documentary directed by Kamala Lopez, was screened at Ohio University Chillicothe March 21 to an audience of students, faculty, staff and local women’s rights activists who were exposed to the fact that women are not afforded equal rights protection under the constitution.

The 90-minute film highlights the push for an Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution, which began more than 45 years ago, and underlined numerous equal rights issues that women are facing in society today.

As it stands, only two more states are needed to pass the ERA and once Congress drops the deadline originally imposed, it can become law.  

The passage of the ERA would ensure, “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The film was brought to OUC by the efforts of the school’s cultural committee and student organization S.A.G.E. or students advocating for gender equality. Dr. Marguerite Hernandez, Assistant Professor of Sociology and cultural committee member, was instrumental in bringing the idea to life because of the important message it depicts.

“After watching the documentary and hearing Lopez speak about her work, I hope students are more knowledgeable about why Lopez and others are arguing for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment,” Hernandez said. “I also hope they gain a greater understanding that Lopez’s work is part of a larger social movement carried out by individuals from generations past. Many of the legal rights and protections that women enjoy today came as a result of social movement efforts to secure those rights despite great opposition from society. While these gains are significant, research demonstrates that inequality on the basis of sex and gender still exist in today’s society. Because of this, social movement actors, like Lopez, continue the work started by feminists in 1923 with the goal of guaranteeing all citizens the same legal rights and protections through the U.S. Constitution, no matter the sex of the citizen.”

Lopez, an actress who spent years traveling the country to document the issues facing women while working on the film, was a special guest for the screening and held a question and answer forum after the movie to discuss its importance and what actions could be taken in the future.

Questions during the question and answer forum included topics on feminism and the feminist movement, how to be more involved in activism, equality for all human beings and the future of the ERA.

It’s our responsibility…,” Lopez said in response to a student’s question. “It’s our responsibility to give them [the Supreme Court] the tools that they need so when the case arrives they can say, ‘no, you can’t do that,’ because women are human beings.”

When asked about feminism and the negative connotation surrounding it, Lopez commented,
“The definition of feminism is in no possible way controversial and in no possible way can be stigmatized.” She continued, “people aren’t looking up the word and its meaning. A feminist believes that all human beings are created equally and deserve equality, and that’s not controversial.”

Toward the end of the forum, Lopez summarized, “Equal rights are a basic human and civil right for all people.”

OUC professors plan to continue to conversation generated by the film.

“I am eager to discuss Lopez’s arguments with my students and to hear their thoughts on the subject matter,” said Hernandez, who teaches Sociology. “I also know that S.A.G.E. is committed to continuing the discussion sparked by this event with their fellow students, members of the community, and elected officials.” 

The “Equal Means Equal” documentary is available on iTunes for download and interested individuals can gain more information by visiting the website,