Herstory of Activism at Stanford

Past and present activism at Stanford was discussed at an event on April 14, which included presentations from University Archivists Jenny Johnson and Josh Schneider as well as a panel featuring Gina Hernandez, Cindy Ng, and Karen Biestman. Jenny Johnson spoke about the history of Women at Stanford, from the first sororities on campus, early women’s sports, and the longstanding limit on the number of women that could enroll at one time. Josh Schneider presented selections from the University Archives showing Social Justice at Stanford, including a 1968 event at which African-American students expressed their frustration at the non-white experience of Stanford following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on-campus protests of the Vietnam War, and the formation of cultural centers. Cindy Ng, the Director of A3C, discussed the infrastructure of community centers at Stanford and the student group Concerned Students for Asian-American Studies that demonstrated for an Asian-American Studies program in 1994. Karen Biestman is the Associate Dean and Director of the Native American Cultural Center; she answered questions about activism at Stanford vs. activism at Berkeley, facilitating communication between the administration and students, and the meaning of diversity in higher education. Gina Hernandez was a student activist involved in the 1989 takeover of the president’s office over minority representation at Stanford. IMG_2279Posted by Kathryn Rydberg, WCC


Thoughts on “Courageous Conversations”

“I love the distribution of who these questions are directed at”, Harry says into the microphone, his British accent ringing clear. I turn to my friend my mouth aghast. We are sitting in the audience at the first event of “Courageous Conversations”, a series in which Stanford students discuss challenging issues. This first event features Harry Elliott of The Stanford Review and Measha Ferguson-Smith of the Black Feminist Collective. The two have just answered questions from a facilitator regarding The Stanford Review article, “The Stanford Review Demands Change”.

I was not surprised when Harry voiced his discomfort. It had been clear all along, especially in contrast to Measha Ferguson-Smith, who had sat next to him, calm and assertive. Ask anyone who was at the event about Harry’s red face. About his constant folding and unfolding of legs. At one point, Measha had even resorted to stating, “I’m speaking to you” to get him to lift his eyes from the ground to meet hers.

After the facilitator had exhausted her prepared questions, she had opened the floor for audience members to put forth their own. Several individuals had raised their hands and the facilitator had assigned each a number. After Person One and Person Two had asked their questions, both of which happen to be addressed to Harry, he had made the statement. “I love the distribution of who these questions are directed at”. Harry had come to the event of his own free will. The event was open to all. The facilitator was allowing anyone who had raised their hand to ask a question.

But white male privilege knows no bounds. Sorry, Harry. I have no tears for the discomfort you feel at present. They were all used up on the “half-lives*”, the unarmed black men and women who are slain across the streets of America everyday. They were all used up when Donald Trump called for a wall to be built between us and the “rapists and criminals”.

I also have no tears when your freedom of speech is “threatened by” students of marginalized identities, whom that speech attacks. The notion that students of color can oppress a white male is absurd. Yes Harry, your freedom of speech is encroached upon by students of color. And the Master’s right to property is encroached upon by the slave who demands his freedom.

– Maya Odei, ’16 (modei@)

*”The Stanford Review Demands Change”, Demand #4


Femtastic Friday 3/15

femtastic header

Happy Friday! Here are week 3’s links:

This week saw what some have deemed “Equal Pay Day,” a day to raise awareness about gendered pay disparity.  Check out this article on the limitations of this rhetoric and the ways in which it fails women of color.

The upcoming film, Confirmation, returns to Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment, exploring issues of race, gender, and victim blaming.  Check out the cast’s discussion of how the story raises issues of what progress still has to be made in achieving justice for those who come forward to report sexual harassment.

The Stanford Confidential Support Team (CST)* a confidential resource for survivors of abuse or sexual violence, has expanded to now include four full time staff.  This is a welcome step in Stanford’s long process of becoming a supportive and responsive place for survivors.  Find their write up here.

Last week, 90.6% of respondents (1975 students) voted in favor of the ASSU Referendum to conduct a new campus climate survey on sexual violence.  Stanford promptly refused, with a representative stating that “there really is a single primary critic and students who were in her class.”  Guess it was a big class.  Read the story here.

As we reach the middle of WCC Herstory Month, check out our remaining events here.


[Drawing of an upside woman with long pastel rainbow hair.  She is covering her face with her hands and wearing a pink bracelet on one wrist.  The text bubble reads “Just by breathing, you’re being brave.”]


*The CST can be reached at (650)-736-6933 or visited in person at the Rogers House.

An Afternoon with Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s visit to Stanford had us laughing, snapping, and nodding.  Check out some highlights below:

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 3.11.41 PM.png

Roxane Gay began by reading a few excerpts from her book Bad Feminist, which discusses her experiences with feminism, and what it means to be a feminist in ways that are bravely authentic and unapologetically imperfect.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 3.11.28 PM.png

She then fielded some questions from the audience, discussing a myriad of topics including male feminists, inclusivity within historically exclusive white feminist organizations, and Donald Trump.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 3.14.11 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 3.14.00 PM.png

Thanks so much for coming out, Roxane!

Femtastic Friday 3/11

femtastic header

It’s the last Femtastic Friday of the quarter.  Here are this week’s links!

Need some inspiration for your aesthetic?  Look no further than these five queers who are revolutionizing fashion.

In preparation for Herstory month, check out this feminist quote rap performed by the cast of Hamilton.

As the Supreme Court continues its analysis of Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, it’s critical to keep in mind that abortion and bodily autonomy are issues that impact people of all genders.  Read this account by a transman who spoke in front of SCOTUS.

We’re absolutely in love with this list of 10 Queer Female and Non Binary Artists of Color.

Need some Spring Break activities?  Check out these 20 Feminist, Queer, and Body-Positive coloring books!


[Gif of Beyonce and Nicki Minaj sunbathing on pool floats that are placed on grass.  They are laughing joyfully.]

Good luck on finals and have a restful and restorative spring break!

“My Body, My Power”: A Learning Process

The WCC, in collaboration with Cardinal Council, Cardinal RHED, and Students Supporting Body Positivity, created the “My Body, My Power” social media campaign to promote healthy body image during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb 21-27). This campaign, designed in the “Humans of NY” style, features Stanford student athletes discussing how they value their bodies in the context of athletics. You can check out the campaign on the Cardinal Council Instagram account @stanfordcardinalcouncil and Cardinal Council Facebook.

The Vision

This campaign was part of my intern project. As a member of the Stanford Track and Field team, I have noticed that body image is a prominent issue in the student athlete community. From dealing with worries about being too muscular (or not muscular enough) to facing pressure to maintain a particular power-to-weight ratio, student athletes confront unique stressors that may render them susceptible to body image insecurities. I wanted to create a campaign that addressed this issue in a powerful, intimate way. When I thought of previous campaigns that had captured this intimacy, “Humans of NY” came to mind. I love how each image-quote pair, albeit quite simple, tells a poignant story.  I decided to model the “My Body, My Power” campaign in the same style.

The Process

I thought that organizing the campaign would be relatively straightforward. After all, I just needed a few quotes, some photos, and an Instagram account. As it turned out, creating an effective, thoughtful campaign was much more complex than I had initially imagined. It required finding a social media platform that would provide high visibility. I needed to get approval from the Athletic Department and check NCAA guidelines for athlete participation. I wanted to incorporate diverse perspectives into the campaign.  Most importantly, I had to frame the campaign in a way that was sensitive and thoughtful. This was the most challenging task.

Collaboration with various staff and student groups proved to be the best way to accomplish these goals. Once assembled, our team brainstormed numerous questions. Should we include both males and females? Should we tell stories of struggle and resilience, or focus more on athletes’ appreciation of their bodies? After meeting with Kelli Moran-Miller, a Stanford Sports Medicine psychologist, and Kristen Gravani, a Stanford Sports Medicine dietitian, we decided to create a campaign that focused on the merits of body function. We wanted to feature athletes who valued what their bodies could do, rather than what their bodies looked like. The end product was a celebration of the body among males and females alike. Kelli, Kristen, and our team reviewed each quote to ensure that it fit within our framework.

Lessons Learned

Overall, this was an immensely rewarding process. I became more sensitive to the nuances of language surrounding body image. I learned about the organization and coordination required to create an effective campaign. Kelli and Kristen illuminated methods and thought processes that can be powerful in promoting healthy body image. However, the most rewarding part of all was hearing feedback from student athletes. Many told me that they had felt inspired by the campaign, that it had prompted them to reevaluate the way they view their bodies. This had been the goal all along. It was incredible to see our digital campaign produce tangible results.
md_Ashley Watson-08152015_NV_074.jpg

“My body has given me the confidence that I can do more than I ever thought I was ever capable of, and to me, that’s worth celebrating. If this complicated powerful machine that allows me to push my limits, reach my goals, and play the sport I love isn’t beautiful, than I don’t know what is.”

– Ashley Watson

Sophomore, Women’s Field Hockey

Photo Credit: Norbert von der Groeben/Isiphotos.com


Daryth Gayles, WCC Campus Outreach Intern

Femtastic Friday 3/4

femtastic header

TGIF.  Here are week 9’s Femtastic links.

We applaud Melissa Harris-Perry’s epic exit from MSNBC for their treatment of people of color.

The Supreme Court is currently reviewing restrictive abortion legislation in Texas that has already caused half of the state’s clinics to close.  Check out some of the female justices’ arguments in the case.

[TW Some discussion of harassment and assault] We’re inspired by the story of Sara Faulkner, the first women to graduate from the Coast Guard’s rescue swimmer training program.

Looking for some self care this weekend?  Check out the Ruth Bader Ginsberg coloring book!

Need more?  Check out our Self Care Body Butter Workshop tomorrow at noon at the WCC.


[Drawn graphic of dog looking to the side wearing a denim spiked vest and three earrings.  Text in pink ribbon at the top and bottom reads “Pups against the patriarchy”]

Do something for yourselves this weekend!

Social Justice and Your Career

Many of us are engaged in social justice issues on campus and want to continue to engage with these issues in the future. Last week, we hosted “Social Justice and Your Career” to explore what it means to use your career as a platform for social justice work.

We hosted three incredible speakers…

Natalie Bridgeman Fields, Founder and Executive Director of Accountability Counsel

Annie Lee, Equal Justice Works Fellow at the National Center for Youth Law

Kathy Martinez, Associate Director at Stanford Diversity and First-Gen Office

social justice flier.jpg

Our panelists represented a variety of social justice interests – education, poverty, racial justice, representation, environmental justice, etc. – and it was clear that they translated their passion into meaningful work. While discussing their careers, they also shared their insight into how to build a sustainable social justice career.

Social justice work has many rewards

Our panelists defined social justice as respecting people’s dignity and shifting power dynamics. This means challenging the status quo and supporting greater representation for people of all backgrounds. They recommend being true to ourselves and our own passions throughout our career. We should keep social justice issues at the forefront of our minds.

It’s truly awesome to work on something you feel passionate about and to feel like your work is meaningful and important. When you engage closely with the communities you serve, you can see the direct effects of your work. Working on causes that directly impact people’s lives is one of the greatest rewards of social justice careers.

Social justice work can be challenging

Our panelists emphasized that doing effective social justice work requires understanding and engaging with the communities we serve. Working closely with challenging issues can also be frustrating, saddening, or cause guilt when we don’t live up to our goals.

There can be other challenges to social justice careers as well. Society may not appear to value our work as much as it’s worth. Our guests mentioned that the pay in social justice roles is often low. In order to thrive and be as effective as possible, it’s important to balance selflessness with knowing our worth. Sometimes we have to make compromises or transitions throughout our career to balance our needs and goals.

Self care is key!

After discussing the rewards and challenges of social justice work, we started talking about how to take care of ourselves while going through the various stages of our careers. With a lot of challenging and stressful things going on in the world, we have to take care of ourselves in order to be ready to make a broader impact. Self care is often challenging, but it’s incredibly important.

Self care takes a lot of different forms, and you can find what works for you! For some people, self care means exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends. We have to find a balance between work, social justice engagement, and other aspects of life. A community and support system are also crucial! There are a lot of people with similar interests and experiences, so tap into this network.

There are many ways to incorporate social justice into our life!

Social justice issues permeate every part of society. It is important to be intentional with our work and the way it influences those around us.

It’s also important to recognize that a lot of learning will also happen throughout your career. Sometimes we have to do trial by error and learn from our mistakes. We might not find the perfect balance right away. Everything we do can be a step towards reaching a goal, as long as we are learning. There’s no clear path forward— it is important to have a long-term plan and a set of values, while still being flexible.

Join us in bringing social justice into our life paths! Engage others in the conversations. Look around at the tables you’re sitting in. Who’s there? Who’s not? How can we bring underrepresented people to the table?

Posted by Annie and Belce

Women in STEM Symposium Recap

The conversation surrounding women in STEM fields often revolves around the cultural, structural issues that discourage women from pursuing science, tech, engineering or math. But what about the mental and emotional health of women in STEM? This year’s Women in STEM Symposium aimed to address this topic: what are strategies for self-care and resilience when working in a field dominated by men?

On Friday February, 19th, the WCC hosted the 2nd Annual Women in STEM Symposium, an afternoon for women in STEM to authentically discuss barriers faced in their academic or professional careers. The goal of the event was to discuss these obstacles and present tools to help women navigate through the STEM fields with healthy mindsets.

We hosted three phenomenal speakers:
Meag-gan Walters, Postdoctoral Fellow at CAPS
Lea Coligado, ‘16 Computer Science, Founder of the Women of Silicon Valley blog
Mana Nakagawa, ’15 Ph.D, ’12 MA Sociology, Leading Women in Diversity at Facebook

We kicked off the symposium with a self-care workshop led by Meag-gan Walters, a postdoctoral fellow at CAPS who specializes in counseling psychology. During the workshop, we discussed the importance of sleep hygiene and proactively carving out time for self-care.
Then we had a talk with Lea Coligado, a current senior at Stanford and the founder of the Women of Silicon Valley blog (https://medium.com/@WomenOfSiliconValley) on increasing diversity in STEM.
We finished with Mana Nakagawa’s talk on her thesis on decreasing number of women at higher level positions (e.g. tenured positions, executive positions, etc.), her role at Facebook and strategies to increase diversity, and combat institutionalized biases – regarding race, disability, and gender.

Some takeaways we had from the Symposium:

Yes, you do have the time for self-care!
At some point or another, we’ve all been stressed out. And it’s easy, in these situations, to prioritize work over anything else. However, focusing only on work can be a slippery slope and cause even more stress in the future. Proactively carving out time (even if just for a few minutes during your hour between classes!) is hugely beneficial in the long run.

Sleep is also so important.

Finding role models can be empowering!
Entering STEM fields as a woman can be daunting, especially when there are few visible role models. Lea Coligado’s blog, Women of Silicon Valley, directly targets this issue. It’s important to find these role models, as a reminder that succeeding as a woman in tech (or other STEM field) is very possible!

Find a topic you’re passionate about.
Mana Nakagawa shared some personal anecdotes about her own academic and professional career. She spent a lot of her time as an undergrad and grad student working on her thesis on women in leadership in universities around the world. Out of school, she was able to find a job that aligned perfectly with her interests. Lesson learned: finding something you’re passionate about will open up exciting opportunities.

Resilience often comes from recognizing your own strengths
At a certain point in the conversation, we all went around and shared our proudest accomplishment. Hearing others share their talents and recognizing our own was hugely empowering.

You are definitely not alone!
The Symposium felt like a safe space for women in STEM to share their own experiences authentically. Participants were able to support each other and share advice on succeeding in their careers. Having these spaces are critical in supporting and empowering women in STEM.