by Paigee Wilson
On Thursday November 14 The Women’s Center hosted its second Pinnacle Luncheon of the year in the Mary Sue Cushman room titled “I am Woman”. Six Sewanee women gathered to speak about what it means to be a woman from their own personal culture. The six women involved were April Sui (C’14), Excy Guardado (C’14), Benita Uruhisho (C’15), Mary Grace Hathaway (C’14), Joana Rebollo (C’14), and Kathe Richter (C’15) from Germany. Speaking first was Sui giving her perspective of being a woman in China.
Sui began her presentation with an interesting fact: there is no word in Chinese for ‘woman’. Women in China are encouraged to look young and innocent, and are strongly discouraged from emitting any signs of sexuality. She spoke from her personal embarrassment of being a cheerleader in high school because it was too sexy. When it comes to relationships, they are taken seriously and are only entered into if marriage is a realistic occurrence in the future.
Guardado, talking about the culture from Honduras, presented her point of view and experience with a poem she wrote and accompanying pictures on the projector. The poem touched on the expectations put on her and the struggles she has had with her identity after immigrating at age four. She enlightened everyone in the room with the fact that 1,100 people are deported each day. Even though the move was a struggle, she made it very clear that there was beauty in the struggle.
From a Rwandan perspective, Uruhisho told the room about the evolution of women in Rwanda and her own struggle traveling between America and Rwanda for education and family. Beginning with the Rwandan genocide in the early 90s, she mentioned how women were treated during that event, being beaten and raped on multiple occasions. Women’s role in the country was focused in the household, illiteracy was higher, and their leadership in the government was minimal. Fast forwarding to after the genocide, women’s roles, duties, and power has grown significantly; they are higher thinkers, have a large voice and representation in the government, and still carry household duties.
Uruhisho also gave insight into the healthier mindset of women in Rwanda when it comes to body image. Beauty is focused on inner beauty, and men prefer women to have curves and to be healthy. Relating her own personal experience, Uruhisho admitted that changing her perception of beauty was the hardest to accept and conform to in both Rwanda and America. She travels back and forth between home and school and feels like she has to conform to each cultures personal view.
Hathaway, giving the view from the South, told anecdotes and lessons she learned from the strong Southern women in her life, including her mother. The lessons she mentioned learning from her mother were about friendships, food, warmth, Southern hospitality, and interactions, being proud and empowered, having a combination of velvet and steel, the importance of motherhood, and the privilege and being here. The strongest qualities of being a Southern woman are that she is unique and strong.
Rebollo was born in Houston to parents who emigrated from Mexico. After quickly talking about how difficult it was for her parents to obtain citizenship in America. While she grew up in America, her parents instilled and brought traditional values from Mexico into their household. This included her role as a girl compared to the role her brother had at home growing up. Rebollo was asked to cook and clean, as traditionally the woman run the house and manages the money. She mentioned how, after time in America, her parents strict Mexican values changed, but how the important aspects were still a large part of her learning life.
Lastly, Richter talked about a woman’s role in Germany. Because Germany is in the middle of Europe, she mentioned that explaining a stereotypical German woman was not an easy feat because of foreign influences made easy by international travel. Women in Germany are more independent from other women around the globe; it is normal for a man and woman to split the bill on date until they are married. Appearance is very important for German women, and it is common for women to dress up often to be presentable. There are also specific laws requiring companies to hire 50% women.
Despite some technical difficulties, the event was an ultimate success. The event was almost completely full, with delicious catered food from Julia’s, and each given perspective from women around the globe was enlightening and a delight to learn. The Women’s Center sponsors and holds multiple events each semester.