There are many things that are a part of the typical college experience, but the objectification and sexual abuse of women should not be one of them.
Enter “Period,” the student-created and student-run political pamphlet whose focus will be to showcase the creativity of feminist voices on campus. The publication, spearheaded by Rachel Stanton, will consist of writing and artwork and is to be released at the end of the semester.
This is not the first time that Stanton has organized an operation to draw attention to the marginalization of women.
The idea for “Period” was first incepted when Stanton was attending St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C., but even a place as progressive as the nation’s capital did not receive the project with open arms.
“It was my sophomore year of high school and I got in trouble for it,” Stanton said. “After the first pamphlet I got called into the principal’s office and was told I wasn’t allowed to do it anymore.”
Two years later Stanton arrived at Manhattan College, another Lasallian institution, to a campus that she found lacking a diverse and expressive voice about many issues, especially feminism.
“There a lot of people that look the same and have the same ideals and not necessarily everyone speaks out about how they feel,” Stanton explained, “but I wanted to be able to speak out about how I feel.”
Then Rachel Stanton met Roskana Badruddoja.
Badruddoja, Ph.D. and an assistant professor of sociology, specializes in ethnicity, sociology of gender and representations of women.
After listening to Badruddoja lecture and working with her on Take Back the Night, an event with the mission to end all forms of sexual violence, Stanton felt a high level of rapport and comfort with the professor.
“I told her about my experience with the pamphlet in high school,” Stanton said, “And I told her I wanted to bring it back.”
Since arriving at the college two years ago, Badruddoja has been a great force in raising community awareness and activism in a number of racial and social justice matters.
She and the sociology department have written and distributed a document to faculty members containing information with how to support students who have been victims of sexual assault and violence.
They have also created a document titled “An Assessment of Manhattan College’s Title IX and Non-Discrimination Notice and Range of Sanctions.” The report stated that our range of sanctions for any sexual violation is comparable to other schools.
The report also found that the range of sanctions listed for sexual violence is very similar to many other types of violations, such as a fire safety violation.
“While it is unlikely that a student will be expelled for a fire safety violation, comparing sexual assault to fire safety violation is troublesome indeed. Clearly, Manhattan College is not an anomaly,” the assessment read.
It seemed only fitting, then, that Badruddoja be the faculty advisor in this project.
“It’s not something that came from me or the faculty, it’s something that came from a student and that is what makes it beautiful,” she said.
Isabelle Leyva, one of many contributors to the pamphlet, was excited about the chance to voice her own experiences with feminism and violence against women.
Submitting a poem that she wrote years ago called “Asking for It,” Leyva illustrates how our society is constructed to oppress women and how hard it is for men to really understand.
“I hope that it gives a strong image of what it’s like to be a girl,” Leyva said.
When she was thirteen, Leyva was the victim of a yearlong abusive relationship with a nineteen-year-old boy. She felt that because she was a girl and she was younger the blame was largely placed on her.
“I ended up being the one having the consequences and the judgment was on me so I didn’t feel I could speak out,” she added.
Leyva hopes that “Period” will help to create an environment where women feel safe and accepted to talk about these situations.
Stanton explains that one reason why victims may not feel comfortable sharing their experiences is because they believe they will just become another statistic.
The Title IX report the college recently released stated that one sexual assault occurred on campus during the last academic year. “If we say one in five women are going to be sexually assaulted from the ages of 18 to 25 and about 3,000 people go to MC anyone can do the math it’s not going to be just one,” Stanton said.
Women are not the only people submitting to the pamphlet. Sophomore Patrick Estanbouli is one man who is actively advocating for women’s rights and equality.
“What I thought about when I first heard about the newsletter was that it is something this campus needed,” Estanbouli said.
Estanbouli submitted a drawing that he hopes will capture the vulnerability of women. He expresses that men need to understand that women go through more than they might realize.
“You don’t have to be a woman to understand that emotion,” he added.
Estanbouli hopes to serve as an example that feminism is not just a female issue. He believes that men need to break the constructs that society has built for them and that is something that feminists also work toward.
“Feminism already has menism in it,” Estanbouli said.
So what does this all mean for Manhattan College?
Badruddoja recognizes this pamphlet as a sign that the consciousness level of the student population is rising.
Stanton sees it as a way to educate people about what happens to women in this community and to vocalize feminist voices, both men and women, on campus.
For Leyva, and other victims of oppression and violence, she says, “I hope it means progress.”