Feminist author, blogger and activist Courtney E. Martin will speak about women’s body images in the media on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Alice Haynes Room.
Martin’s talk is titled “Taking Back Our Bodies, Our Media, Our Lives,” and is the final event of the Gender and Pop Culture speaker series hosted by members of Women Involved in Living and Learning and the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies department, said junior Ally Reid, WILL’s membership chairwoman. The speaker series is a way of getting the WGSS message out there, said junior Kerry Boland, WILL’s community outreach chairwoman.
Martin is the founder of feministing.com, a blog dedicated to daily news as observed from the female perspective, Reid said. Martin is also the author of “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women,” in which Martin “argues passionately that women must commit themselves to developing new attitudes about their bodies,” according to Martin’s personal website.
Martin is well known in the feminist community, said Dr. Melissa Ooten, associate director of the WILL program. Ooten said Martin had done a wonderful job of engaging with students the last time she had spoken on campus, and had been sensitive to what the audience members had wanted to talk about.
“She is very relevant to students’ personal situations and is relatable because she is in her 30s,” Ooten said. “She frames issues in a way that is accessible, so that instead of encouraging you to just think about problems, she offers specific solutions about how you can take action.”
Senior and president of WILL, Katie Lambeth, said Martin was interested in having conversations with students in order to help her focus her research.
The event will be interactive, as Martin will show video clips and blog posts, as well as pose questions to the audience, Ooten said.
“This is not going to be a lecture where she is going to talk at you for an hour,” Ooten said. “She wants the audience to have an active voice and participate.”
Ooten said she hoped students would gain a better understanding of women who were prominent in the media, as well as see how issues relating to feminism were shown in different forms of media.
“The news on CNN is much different than on a feminist blog,” Ooten said.
Reid and Boland hope the talk will break down the notion of idealizing women’s bodies, they said.
Ooten expects a wide range of students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the Richmond community, to be in attendance, she said. Lambeth said WILL members had advertised the event to as many groups on and off campus as possible, because everyone was involved in pop culture.
WILL is an organization for women and anyone who is gender non-conforming, Reid said. The organization’s main focus is gender, and the group considers how it is related to ideas such as race, class and social justice. WILL’s events are open to all, but to be a member of WILL, a person must major or minor in WGSS, attend the speaker series and take part in the social events or volunteer once a month.
Members come from all academic schools because WGSS and WILL are relevant to everything, Boland said. Applications are released at the beginning of the fall semester, and the applicants, usually freshmen and sophomores, must explain how a gender issue has affected them. Reid said her perception of gender had drastically changed since joining WILL.
WILL was originally founded at Richmond and has been replicated on other campuses, such as Duke University and Tulane University, Boland said.
Martin previously spoke on campus at the ninth biennial Associated Colleges of the South and WGSS conference, “Emancipatory Knowledge: Women’s and Gender Studies NOW!” in April 2011. Of the 20 guest speakers, Martin was the most engaging, Lambeth said.
Lambeth said that at the end of each of school year, the WILL/WGSS executive board had input on who would speak the following year. Based on the budget, Dr. Ooten and Dr. Holly Blake, director of the WILL program, make the final decision. “We always advocate for Courtney Martin,” Lambeth said.
Contact reporter Renée Ruggeri at firstname.lastname@example.org