Those who watched the Oscars last month remember Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech as the winner of Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in “Boyhood”.
In her speech, Arquette boldly stated, “We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Many reacted with cheers to Arquette’s speech, including actress Meryl Streep and music sensation Jennifer Lopez, whose gif-worthy reactions were focused on most. Social media blew up with praise for the actress as a champion of women’s rights. However, Arquette’s speech was problematic for a couple reasons. Clearly she referred to all other social justice issues being solved. Racial tension? Fixed it. Gay rights? We got ‘em. This implies that people in other marginalized groups of society are now less important than the cause of women, and based on Arquette’s implications, white, upper-class women.
In short, Arquette’s speech completely ignored the concept of intersectionality, a term used to describe how oppressive institutions such as racism, sexism and homophobia are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another since many people don’t just fall into one category. Intersectional feminism relies on this theory to support the idea that a woman will have different life experiences based on her various identities. For example, black feminists cannot be thrown into separate categories, (black or woman) but instead their experiences must be examined as a result of both identities.
Coincidentally, intersectionality is also the theme of this year’s 10th Annual Women’s Conference, which Mariah Wisner, the chair of the Women’s Conference Committee, is looking forward to after months of hard work and planning.
“The overall theme for the conference this year is this idea of intersectionality,” she said. “However, the break-out sessions focus on many different topics such as art, social media, body image, queer women, options for after completing you undergraduate degree and many more.”
Much like the 2014 Women’s Conference, which revolved around the theme of “Looking Back, Reaching Forward,” Saturday’s day-long event will have a keynote speaker, several breakout sessions and a lunch for all attendees.
The keynote speaker at this year’s conference is Zerlina Maxwell, a political analyst, speaker and writer. According to her website, Maxwell has written for several major media outlets, such as The Washington Post, about politics and cultural issues relating to gender inequality and feminism.
“This is my first time experience the Women’s Conference at CSU, but I do know that this is the first time, at least in recent years, that we’ve had a keynote that we would categorize as a nationally recognized figure,” said Angelica Murray, program coordinator at the Women and Gender Advocacy Center. “We’re hoping that the public figure can bring more attention to the event.”
In addition to what is sure to be an interesting and insightful speech from Maxwell, there will be sessions of discussion that allow attendees to engage in critical dialogue and reflect on various topics, ranging from sexual violence to professionalism and much more.
“What I like about the women’s conference is that, other than the keynote, the sessions are presented by students, staff, and faculty at CSU,” Murray said. “I think it’s great that we can acknowledge our own interest, knowledge and expertise in certain areas and share what with others at CSU.”
This one day event will be educational and entertaining while bringing attention to important issues.
“I am hoping that the conference will cause conversations and will really challenge the participants to think about hard topics and come out with a better understanding of how much progress has happened within social justice movements, and how much we still need to do,” Wisner said.
The Women’s Conference: “Unity at the Intersections: 10 Years of Honoring the Differences in Women’s Lives” is from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Saturday. For more information and to register to attend, visit the WGAC website.
Collegian A&E Writer Erica Grasmick can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @E_Graz_.