Photo by Gwen Evans
By Gwen Evans and Giovanni Ortiz
Contributing Writer and Copy Editor
Naomi Wolf, a feminist author and visiting lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that “the future feminists are going to be male and female, and it’s going to be called the solidarity movement for gender justice” on Friday at the second part of the HeForShe: Gender Equality Conference.
“It’s a gigantic relief to know that the men are having their conversation about gender equality, and we’re going to be participating together,” she said. “It’s not going to be a power stifle. It’s a collaboration.”
While taking a look at the history of feminism, Wolf talked about how it is viewed today. Wolf said that if its “intellectual lineage” alone had been the women’s suffrage movement and the thought of equality, “we wouldn’t have any problems” in 2016.
HeForShe is a U.N. Women’s solidarity movement for gender equality founded in September 2014. As the name of the organization suggests, it is also about engaging men to stand up for women.
Stony Brook University’s involvement was initiated by Charles L. Robbins, the SUNY U.N. Women’s HeForShe Coordinator. Robbins said the program is a global movement to achieve gender equality, and that although gender has long been seen as a women’s issue, it’s time to make it a men’s issue also.
Nearly 150 representatives from 26 SUNY campuses gathered for a two day conference at Stony Brook University on March 3 and 4 to learn about how to create change and promote gender equality on their own campuses.
President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. opened the second day of the conference by discussing how gender equality issues are very much present on Stony Brook’s campus.
Stanley has been involved in the HeForShe campaign since the beginning and is one of 10 university impact champions. Therefore the decision for the conference to be held at Stony Brook was natural, he said.
Michael Kimmel, a leading academic on gender studies, founded the Stony Brook Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities in 2013.
He noted in his speech on Friday that “privilege is invisible to those who have it,” meaning that men do not realize the gender equality issues women constantly face because they are the most privileged gender. Kimmel’s main message was to make gender equality relevant to men.
Faculty and student panels echoed Kimmel’s words throughout the day, featuring professors and university staff members who often talked about, or dealt with, gender issues and students.
The conference speakers touched on many other issues like Title IX and diversity pertaining to gender, race and religion. Many of the speakers and faculty spoke on diversity within the student body and staff, especially with the number of women and different races and ethnicities that are represented.
Deliwe Kekana, the affirmative action and Title IX coordinator at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said that students need to learn how to “accept what is not like you,” because it will help solve the problem of equality.
Robbins reported at the beginning of the conference that Stony Brook University made three commitments with UN Women for the HeForShe campaign.
The first is to close the gap between men and women from matriculation to graduation. Currently, men represent 56.6 percent of each graduating class, and the goal is to make that 50 percent men and 50 percent women by 2020.
The Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities will be used to build a global understanding of the role of men in achieving gender equality. The center’s research and resources will be a base for including men in the movement serving Stony Brook and other participating SUNY schools.
The final commitment is to integrate gender equality into the academic and social experience on Stony Brook’s campus. A gender equality lesson has been implemented in the required seminar class for freshmen, and all the incoming freshmen in the Fall 2015 semester received a talk about gender equality.
Elizabeth Nyamayaro, the head of UN Women’s HeForShe campaign, summed up the heart of the movement: “What we [men and women] share is more powerful than what divides us. Let’s dare to invent the future”.
President Stanley said that he hopes the conference will instigate change and inspire all SUNY campuses to come up with ideas to engage men in gender issues in order to achieve equality.