The Lucy Cross Center for Women. Photo by Laura J. Cole

Next Wave Feminism

The Movement Forges Ahead at Rollins

By Kristen Manieri

Steinem Leaves Students Starstruck

“Behave as if everything you do matters” was the advice Steinem gave to hundreds during her October 28 address at Rollins. Speaking with an easy confidence from decades of experience with women’s issues, Steinem addressed contemporary hot-button topics such as reproductive freedom and gay marriage, leaving the crowd with the sense that there is much to be celebrated but also much to be done.

“The notion that we have arrived can be cured by looking at our national or state legislature,” said Steinem, whose two-day visit to the College was proposed by the Women’s Studies Program and hosted by the Winter Park Institute.

Before stepping on stage inside Warden Arena, Steinem attended a stone dedication ceremony in her honor on Rollins’ Walk of Fame. Inspired by the book Finding the Green Stone by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, the green rock embedded in Steinem’s commemorative stone symbolizes her belief that happiness and strength come from within.

The following day, Steinem paid tribute to NOW’s 45th anniversary by participating in an hour-long panel discussion with Schroeder, a former presidential candidate. Both Steinem and Schroeder spoke about the objectification of women in media and the lack of input from women in politics and business, in addition to offering advice to the next generation of activists.

Speechless sums up meeting Gloria,” Pennington said. “It was amazing to see the community come together to see one person who has impacted generations of women.”

Nicole Inclan ’14, co-president of the student organization Voices for Women, met Steinem at the stone ceremony and had lunch with her hero the next day and discussed two-way mentoring and next-generation feminism. “Ms. Steinem and the VFAs were all so eager and so willing to talk with us,” she said. “Having this one-on-one interaction with them was an opportunity I wouldn’t have gotten at any other institution.”

Igniting the Flame at Rollins

Six female students gathered on the second floor of Chase Hall to chat about stereotypes on campus. It’s not a conversation you’d typically overhear in the campus center over lunch, but that’s the whole point of the Lucy Cross Center for Women and Their Allies: to create a place where students can meet to share their thoughts and feelings about what it means to be a woman at Rollins and in the world.

“The reality is that 64 percent of this year’s incoming class are women and 57 percent of the student population are women,” said Mahjabeen Rafiuddin, director of multicultural affairs. “We need to provide a space where people who care about women and women’s issues can engage in a dialogue and obtain important resources.”

Named after Lucy Cross, the woman who became known as the Mother of Rollins because of her suggestion that Florida needed a college, the Lucy Cross Center for Women and Their Allies opened October 14, 2010, under the umbrellas of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and the Women’s Studies Program, and moved into a larger space roughly a year later.

Mary Robinson ’10HH is a graduate assistant who works at the Lucy Cross Center. Robinson sees the goal of the Center as promoting conversation about the issues that matter to the College’s female population. “We also want to encourage the Rollins community to tell us what they need from the Center.”

As a result, one of the programs that engages the campus community is a series of drop-in discussions that invite women and men to visit the Center to discuss issues such as women in pornography, birth control, and the impact pop culture has on women’s self-image. “We do include men,” Robinson said. “We believe that they should be an integral part of everything we are doing.”

Pennington thinks the College administration plays a key role in advocating for female students. In her mind, the Center serves as an example of that commitment. “Having a designated space is critical,” said Pennington, a philosophy major. “It shows the school is saying, ‘We recognize you as a group and we want to participate in the things you believe in.’ It verifies and validates.”

The Lucy Cross Center also serves as the unofficial headquarters for Voices for Women (VFW), a student organization founded in 1992 with the mission of empowering the women of Rollins through education and the promotion of gender equity.

Moriah Russo ’13 serves on its executive board and says Voices for Women is a place where women learn to be activists. “The best message we took away from Gloria Steinem is that what feminism brings to her is the knowledge that she’s not crazy,” said the art history major. “Our collectivism brings validation.”

That collectivism was apparent on November 18, 2011 when VFW collaborated with OMA for “Gloria Steinem and The Guerrilla Girls On Tour! Inspired Us…Now What?”—an event designed to continue the feminist conversation beyond the previous month’s events.

The five-hour program brought more than 100 members of the campus community together for panel discussions and breakout sessions. Discussion topics such as “Women & Race” and “Men’s Role in Feminism” were planned, but Robinson was thrilled to see a discussion emerge about campus health insurance for students. “The topic wasn’t on the day’s agenda,” Robinson said. “But one of our main goals at OMA is amplifying voices, meaning, where can our students voice their concerns, passions, and ideas? This was a perfect example of that mission at work.”

For Russo, the forum was reinvigorating for Voices for Women. “This event started a dialogue between VFW and other Rollins student organizations focused on social issues, like Spectrum and the newly formed Social Justice League,” said Russo, who has noticed a renewed solidarity in the past few months. “But it also inspired us to make connections with organizations off campus such as Planned Parenthood and Choice USA, as well as the University of Central Florida chapter of NOW. I feel like our community is really growing as a result.”

Robinson has plans to make the forum an annual event at Rollins and has already begun designing programming that builds on topics discussed in November. This will make the forum the second major annual event on campus anchored in women’s issues—the first is V Week—and has for nearly a decade.

Hosted by the OMA, V Week gives a nod to Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, also in March, while giving Voices for Women the opportunity to present feminist-related programming to the greater Rollins community. The Vagina Monologues, an improvisational comedy show about feminism, and the Take Back the Night march form the backbone of the week, but organizers plan more events including film screenings and panel discussions.

“This is our biggest event of the year,” Inclan said. “It’s a chance for us to raise awareness of the issues but also celebrate being women.”

Inclan believes that VFW and other campus initiatives and programs have enriched her college experience beyond her wildest expectations. “I had the intention of coming to college, burying my nose in a book, getting straight A’s, and getting out,” Inclan said.

“But now I spend just as much energy in activism, multicultural affairs, and student involvement as I do in my classes. There is a really intense interpersonal connection on this campus—so many faculty members are willing to take you under their wing, and so many peers are willing to be a support system—that it’s almost impossible not to contemplate what you want out of life and what type of person you want to be.”

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