Women’s Forum provides place to share views

Club invites all to participate

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Sara Kress

The women’s forum meets in English teacher Mrs. Sue Welch’s room every Day 7.

Sara Kress, Culture Co-Editor

Black ribbons emblazoned the lapels of students and teachers earlier this month. A symbol of support, a symbol of solidarity, a symbol of strength, these ribbons called attention to International Women’s Day on March 8. The idea behind this representation was born from a new club, Women’s Forum.

English teacher and club moderator Mrs. Sue Welch said that the purpose of Women’s Forum is to share viewpoints with others. She said, “I would say that (Women’s Forum) is just a place to feel commonality with other women. It is absolutely not political or an anti-anything group; it is a safe space to consider ideas that might affect all women.”

Student leadership

Instead of one president, three students lead the club: junior Anna Pohl and sophomores Kennedy Maye and Carolina Rios.

Welch said, “Women’s Forum started from three different trajectories. Three students who really didn’t know each other approached me three different times over the course of the first semester wanting to begin a club that was not only for women, but about women.”

Because each girl came to Welch individually, some reshaping of ideas was necessary. “All three of us had three different ideas and concepts of what we should do,” Maye said.

Maye’s original vision for Women’s Forum stemmed from another club with which she is involved. Maye said, “I’m a part of the Black Student Union, and I wanted to take some of those ideas and apply the quality and diversity into women.”

Rios also had a solid idea for what she desired the club to look like. “I just kind of wanted a space where we would be able to be critical thinkers, where no one would be judging anybody and no one would be punished if they expressed their opinion, just a comfortable space for girls to talk about their own issues. Boys are completely welcome, but I feel like sometimes we will want to have talks that are just girls,” she said.

However, both Maye and Rios said that combining the three original ideas was an easy task due to their enthusiasm. “All three of us get along so well,” Maye said. “All of our meetings have been so productive, and I feel like there’s not enough time for everything that we want to fulfill just because we’re so excited about everything that we want to do.”

As evidence to their compatibility, Rios said that she agreed with Maye. “We got a lot done in a short period of time. And the three of us are always talking about ideas for the meetings,” Rios said.

Importance of voicing opinions

Ultimately, Women’s Forum is just that, an open forum for students to voice their opinions about issues revolving around gender.

Welch said, “I think in large groups – whether that is a school building, or a state, or a country – it is hard to feel significant amid the many voices that ring loudly and clearly and this is just yet another space for people to feel comfortable to be and to speak.”

Maye said, “I think that people feel judged if they don’t have a place to talk. If you’re just talking to your friends and if everyone has different opinions and you’re the only one that has that opinion, you feel ganged up on or you feel that it’s not a place where you can be yourself, so that’s why I think it’s important for a lot of people that come and voice their opinions. If you hold back your opinion, you never know if someone could agree with you.”

Rios said, “I think it’s important to come together with people that think alike. Cathedral is such a diverse environment in general; there’s just so many different ideals.”

Rios is a transfer student who moved to Indianapolis from Brazil. She said that part of the reason she wanted to create a place for people to speak freely was due to her experiences as a new student. She said, “Personally, when I first got here, Cathedral felt like I couldn’t express my own opinion and my views because I didn’t know how people would react. And I feel like because of that fear of the reaction, (Women’s Forum) is a good space because it’s obviously not going to be reaction-free, but it’s going to be a judgement-free space.”

Goal

Welch’s goal for Women’s Forum is simple: “To be seen and to be heard.”

Maye said, “I think that one of my goals is to build our club. Not only building the people that come, but the activities that we do. I know we have thoughts about bringing in a speaker or doing more hands-on activities. I think that’s important because the girls and guys that have come here have loved it and I want to build their self-esteem so that when they go off to college or they’re not at Cathedral, they have that power and know that they can speak up.”

Similarly, Rios said her goal was to help students become more prepared for a more intense academic atmosphere. She said, “I just think that we’re all going out to college soon, and so much happens at college relating to women. And a lot of the time women don’t even have a voice in college, so I feel like it is really important to be conscious about what’s going on in the world and to understand each other’s struggles and not dismiss them just because you’re not a woman or you might be a person of color. So I just feel like more than seeing something happen at Cathedral, I hope that people’s inner self will be able to change for the better so that they won’t judge people as much and also support women’s rights.”

The club meets in Room 2304, Mrs. Welch’s classroom, during flex every Day 7.

Rios said, “Our idea of a routine meeting would be that we would watch a video or read a text and then have a discussion about it.”

The girls intend to bring in a speaker to talk about issues that affect women. They plan to work on projects around the school to raise awareness for gender equality.

Their celebration of International Women’s Day was one such project.

Thus far the club’s discussions have focused primarily on body image and women in the workforce, but the conversation has ranged everywhere from makeup to sexual abuse.

Welch said, “So far, we’ve talked about some of the issues, and sometimes the joys, of womanhood, and we’re plotting activities and events that are meaningful to the group.”

Welch urges people to attend Women’s Forum. “There is room for everyone,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what gender a person is, or what age a person is, or if they’ve been to the first meetings. I think that all voices are welcome as long as they are respectful and sympathetic listeners.”