This is always a busy time of year for the American Studies department. February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month , and we always celebrate both, while keeping in mind that giving historically oppressed groups one month out of twelve is just a start, not an end in itself. One of the highlights of our celebrations is going to be a panel on the relationship between black and white women in feminism. Titled, What can Black Feminists Teach White Feminists? the panel on February 28 th will be a discussion between black and white students who have embraced feminism, and who are committed to building a multicultural feminist movement. Joining the students are two American Studies faculty, Dr. Joyce Hope Scott and Dr. Gail Dines .
This panel addresses one of the major themes running through American Studies classes in that we focus on the question of how do people from different races, classes and gender identities build movements for change. In the past, progressive movements have focused on one major issue—the unions on labor rights, the women’s movement on gender equality, the civil rights movement on racial equality—yet many of us live at the intersection of many different forms of oppression. One of the first people to write about this was the African American legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw , who used the term intersectionality to address the ways that different types of discriminations do not so much work independently of each other, but actually interrelate.
At Wheelock we believe in mentoring and coaching our students to become active citizens in the world as well as leaders in their professional lives. Toward this end, the American Studies department is sponsoring a student-run conference on multicultural feminism on the college campus on April 14 th . Run by two American Studies students, Mary McNeil and Ally Harrison, the conference will bring together students from surrounding Boston colleges for a day of talks, workshops and interactive sessions. Panels will cover such topics as images of women in media, the role of men in feminism, and how to build a 21st century movement for change.
The panel on men in feminism speaks to the idea that feminism is a movement for all people, not just women, since it provides a road map for individual and collective empowerment. Dr. Eric Silverman , the chair of Human Development, has created a course called Anthropology of American Men, which introduces students into a scholarly analysis of masculinity and the ways that men have been shaped by historical and economic forces. This is just one more example of how Wheelock provides a cutting edge education for our students.
During Black History month, there will be a panel on African American Men in the US sponsored by the Black Student union. Here Wheelock students will share their ideas and thoughts about race, class, and gender, in ways that open up discussions on the complexity of identity. Also scheduled, is a discussion on slavery led by Dr. Joyce Hope Scott, an associate professor of American Studies, who brings a sophisticated multi-disciplinary approach to the subject. Taken together, these events will engage the Wheelock community in a richly textured conversation that promises to be compelling, intellectually challenging and thought provoking. It is our way of making sure that education is not something that happens just in the classroom, but is woven throughout the college experience.