Photo by Lucy Wimmer
Jillian Miller and Anna Mann
Former Texas state senator Wendy Davis visited Sewanee on Tuesday, January 31 to speak for the Women’s Center series commemorating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. She covered points of contention for modern women’s rights, including the wage gap, the Women’s March, affordable childcare, and paid maternity leave.
First and foremost, Davis spoke about the stigma surrounding the feminist label, discussing that she had not, until recently, claimed this title. She “was afraid to be categorized in what would be a limiting way” if she assumed the title of feminist during her campaign.
The lecture then migrated to how women partake in their own marginalization, with Davis saying “we’ve been complicit in giving up our own power.”Davis rationalized her thought process, stating that beginning at a young age, women are taught to put their “head down, forage ahead, and not to complain, to whine.”
Co-director of the Wick, Gracie Gibson (C’17), agreed strongly with Davis saying, “the only way to end stigma surrounding abortion, and a whole host of other issues, is if we talk about it and own our stories.”
When speaking about the Wick’s desire to have Davis speak, Gibson affirmed that “the biggest discussion that went into whether we should ask Wendy Davis to talk, was can she address the kind of intersecting issues that current feminism needs to be focusing on. We decided that we wanted to bring her here, not just for her filibuster, or because she’s been a politician, but we thought she could speak to issues about poverty and education.”
Davis did not disappoint. Primarily, she discussed the growing wage gap, especially concerning women of color. She stated that although white women are paid 79 cents for every one dollar that white men receive, African American women receive 63 cents, and Hispanic women as low as 54 cents.
Gibson described the evening the Women’s Center spent with the former senator, saying, “we got to have dinner with her, and pretty soon we delved into a discussion of intersectional feminism. I think some of our residents challenged her on issues and she challenged us. I think that’s how growth happens in the movement.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, Kelly Heilman (C’ 20) commented on her desire to attend the speech. Heilman started a Young America’s Foundation chapter on campus and is a proud member of the Republican party. However, she still expressed interest in the event and in attending “to get facts and see another point of view.” She described how college is a great environment for growth, especially when you have a willingness to listen to both sides of an issue.
The high turnout and positive response to the event highlighted the campus’ growing interest in feminist issues, and the Women’s Center’s constant tenacity towards addressing such topics.
Gibson seemed highly satisfied with the outcome, and ended the interview by stating, “[the Wick] knew it was not enough for her to come talk about abortion rights, when these rights exist in a web of other intersecting issues. We thought she could speak to these due to her own experience with these issues. It was an incredible experience for us, and hopefully her too.”