From reproductive rights, to pubescent rites of passage, this year’s “Women’s History Month” event covered a wide range of topics on women’s rights and history.
It was organized by the Palomar Women’s Studies Committee to draw attention to female roles in modern society. The three-day, annual event brings attention to women’s health issues and topics. Held every March, this year’s event included women’s healthcare legislation, the prevalence of HIV and AIDs and pioneering women of the past.
Day one featured a speaker panel of women from diverse backgrounds talking about what it’s like to live with HIV and AIDS. According to Women’s History Professor Wendy Kinsinger, the biggest point to take away from the event was that each woman contracted the virus from someone they least expected.
“All of those women were infected by someone they loved,” Kinsinger said. “You wouldn’t look at those women and say ‘Oh yeah, they’ve got AIDS.”
Day two kicked off with food and music and featured Palomar Clubs ranging from MEChA to the Anime Club, which offered a mosaic of presentations highlighting some of history’s most iconoclastic women like Joan of Arc.
A presentation from the Black Student Union focused on a woman named Henrietta Lacks. During the 1950s, Lacks was diagnosed with cancer and was being treated at John Hopkins Hospital. Before Lacks’ death, cells were unknowingly extracted from her tumor that could survive past the first few cell divisions, resulting in an immortal cell line that would later be used by Jonas Salk to cure polio and provide treatment methods for AIDS, without ever compensating Lacks or her family.
The final day of the event focused on cultural rites of passage for women in various cultures from around the world. Familiar female initiations like the “Quinceanera” and “Bat Mitzvah” of Mexican and Jewish cultures were highlighted.
Also noted were lesser known female rites, like the Apache custom known as “Changing Woman.” According to presenters, women of the Apache Nation must undergo the “Sacred Ordeal,”a process involving rigorous physical training in order to endure four days of long distance running.
Wendy Kinsinger said she hopes the event fostered a genuine interest in women’s history and culture.
“I would hope that people came away wanting to expose themselves more to the variety of women’s experiences across cultures,” Kinsinger said.