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Women Rock the Runway this week

March 22nd, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Tazya Williams

It was once said that behind every great man is a woman. But where were the stories of these great women and their hard work and accomplishments?

Invisible ink? These women—writers, political leaders, inventers, suffragists—have been omitted from many histories. That’s why March is Woman’s History Month, whose theme this year is “Writing Women Back into History.”

The Woman and Gender Studies Program at Utah State is doing its part to tell women’s stories by taking this theme and doing a spin-off for its annual Women’s History Month event—”Women Rock the Runway”—this Thursday.

Students and faculty—both women and men—will dress up in costume as their favorite women in history or popular culture to “rock the runway” during the event from 3-5 p.m. Thursday in USU’s Merrill-Cazier Library, room 101.

“It’s about women, but it’s not only for women,” said WGS Club co-president Jess Larsen. “Men are more than welcome to honor their most-admired women, too.”

Larsen and club co-president Storee Powell are directing the event planning, along with Mindy Hawes and WGS Director Brenda Cooper.

“We are inviting people to come dressed as their favorite women from history or literature or any entertainment industry, just to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history,” Powell said.

A panel of judges—WGS Steering Committee members Maure Smith and Jacoba Mendelkow Poppleton, and classics Professor Mark Damen—also will be dressed as their heroines. Aided by audience applause, the judges will award prizes donated by Cache Valley businesses and restaurants.

The event will be emcee’d by JCOM Professor Ted Pease, who will be dressed as one of his heroines, chef Julia Child.

Sociology Professor Christy Glass will open the contest with remarks about Women’s History Month, and Hamilton’s will provide a buffet at the end of the event.

“We’re all familiar with the statement by historian Laura Thatcher Ulrich that, ‘Well-behaved women seldom make history,’” Cooper said. “We are honoring and celebrating the many women in all walks of life who have made history and changed society for women and men.”

Pre-registered contestants include Cleopatra, dancer Martha Graham, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Beyoncé, all five Spice Girls, Queen Elizabeth I, fictional sleuth Nancy Drew and for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Powell said the Women’s History Month theme is intended to remind people of the “amazing” women whose contributions are often ignored by history books and literature.

“We have holidays for all these male presidents, which is great, but at the same time where are all the women?” she said. “It’s great to celebrate their accomplishments as well.

“After taking a lot of Women and Gender Studies classes, I thought back to high school and remember hearing a lot about President Wilson and all of his policies, but I don’t ever remember hearing how he sent Alice Paul, a women’s rights activist, to prison for exercising her rights and for picketing in front of the White House,” Powell said.

“She basically was sent to jail on a false charge—something ridiculous like blocking traffic. He basically made something up to be able to remove her from picketing. I was kind of irritated by this,” she said. “She was exercising her rights so that I would be able to vote. It angers me that that is not something that is taught in history.”

The “Runway” event follows on last year’s WGS “Barbie Bash,” which drew more than 160 Barbie dolls redesigned in “unapologetic” themes.

“The turnout for the Barbie Bash was great, and I’m hoping this will be similar,” Larsen said. “It has a lot of the same uniqueness as the Bash—it will be really fun and everyone is encouraged to come strut their stuff.”

Contestants can preregister at the Woman and Gender’s blog www.wgsbarbiebash.blogspot.com or can just show up in costume on the day of the event. Audience members are also invited to come help judge the most imaginative and elaborate contestants.

The event is co-sponsored by the Women & Gender Research Institute and the Women’s Resource Center; the USU Honors Program; GLBTA Services; Merrill-Cazier Library, and the USU departments of History, Journalism & Communication, and Sociology, Social Work & Anthropology.

“This year will be Dr. Brenda Cooper’s last as director of Woman and Gender Studies, and we want this event to help her go out with a bang,” Larsen said.

For more information, visit the blog or email Cooper at brenda.cooper@usu.edu.


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  1. One Response to “Women Rock the Runway this week”

  2. By Storee Powell on Mar 23, 2010

    Tazya! Great job, and thanks for doing the story! You are awesome! Storee

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