(Conference on World Affairs 2017 promotional photo)

Conference on World Affairs: Women’s perspectives on social movements

A panel of three women came to CU Boulder’s UMC Monday to share their perspectives in a talk titled “When We Rise — Starting a Social Movement” at the 69th Conference on World Affairs. Contrary to the title, the conversation focused less on the topic of social movement origins and was instead an observational and interrogative discussion in response to a handful of questions on activism.

Amy Fox, writer of screenplays, plays and nonfiction, related to today’s burgeoning social movements through an anecdotal lens. She told the story that inspired one of her screenplays, in which her ancestors organized tactics to fight against racist housing discrimination in their neighborhood before the black Civil Rights era of the 1950s–60s. She finds the motivations and challenges of activists to be the most interesting aspect of social movements.

The talk went uninterrupted as the hour-and-20-minute session went on. The panelists delved into a meta-discussion of conversation and dialogue surrounding social issues, primarily in news coverage.

Sofía Villarreal-Castañeda, a Columbian scholar and fiction writer, lamented how fruitless arguments dominate public discourse instead of respectful Socratic dialogue aimed at refining theories and provoking critical thinking.

Fox agreed. Recalling her experience of the Women’s March on Washington in January, she acknowledged that people’s experiences of the event were vastly different. She remembers debating with some of her friends on the merits of the demonstration; some discredited it as an inaccessible “white women’s march” or exclusively “pro-choice,” and declined to participate for those reasons. Fox asked, “Why not just go?” for the sake of seeing what happens. She did go, and had a decidedly claustrophobic yet empowering experience.

As the executive director of Breast Cancer Action, Karuna Jaggar focused primarily on the issue of breast cancer as a health justice issue. She emphasized the conflict of interest issues many other breast cancer organizations downplay when it comes to funding their efforts.

Coming from a more organizational point of view, Jaggar shared this quote from Dr. Sandra Steingraber: “We are all musicians in a great human orchestra, and it is now time to play the Save the World Symphony. You are not required to play a solo, but you are required to know what instrument you hold and play it as well as you can. You are required to find your place in the score.”

Villarreal-Castañeda supported this idea that everyone has a part to play by saying that her passion is “to move people to think and to love themselves.” She believes that change starts within the individual and by embracing your own and accepting others’ vulnerabilities.

The conversation came full circle toward the end when all the panelists agreed that social change starts with a conversation.

Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Sarah Farley at sarah.farley@colorado.edu.

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