Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blog Update #8-Justine

As I’m writing this, I am finishing up final adjustments to my speech for our Local-to-Global Fellowship Dinner this coming Thursday, February 19th. In about two hours, our final workshop will begin, with strict timing and serious reflection about the work we’ve completed. It’s hard to fathom that in about three weeks we will be flying to New York. The trip and Commission have been in the back of my mind since October, but the closer I get, the less real it feels. Still, I am certain it will be over all too quickly, and soon I’ll be writing reflection blog posts about the event itself!

Something I wanted to discuss briefly in this post was the balancing act I’ve been working on with the help of this Fellowship. I came into this Fellowship overflowing with nervous energy about reproductive healthcare, often tripping over my words and stumbling over points due to my adrenaline. As the Fellowship eased into the research portion, I struggled to figure out exactly how to become a better hard researcher, poring over facts and figures and translating them into a serious research paper. Last week, we presented for the first time our Fellowship speech and accompanying PowerPoint, which highlighted our research and local partner organizations. I carefully constructed my speech to give the most important statistics to my audience, which resulted in a lot of numbers! After running through my speech, our two lovely professional speaking coaches complimented the work I had done, but were also brutally honest: “I didn’t feel any passion. Why does this matter to you?” In my eagerness to be a “real” researcher, I had left my passion for reproductive justice out of my speech! I have since attempted to remedy this. Without the valuable workshops and honest feedback of our coaches, I wouldn’t have been able to strive toward needed balance in my writing and delivery.

On the whole, I am very excited to finish this workshop today, rehearse my speech again, present Thursday, and travel to New York in March!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Trans* Children and Gender Identity

A recent study conducted at the University of Washington by Dr. Kristina Olson found that trans* kids show consistent gender identity across various measures. Olson and her colleagues studied 32 trans* children between the ages of 5 and 12 in one of the first projects concerning gender identity in trans* children using implicit measures that operate outside conscious awareness.

There has been a lot of controversy over whether pre-pubertal children should be able to determine whether they are trans* - many experts have claimed that the best approach in dealing with “gender-variant” children is to encourage them to be comfortable with their assigned gender. In recent years, however, more professionals have begun advocating for allowing children to live as their identified gender.

Using both self-report data and implicit measures (e.g., the Implicit Association Test (IAT)) and comparing results with those of matched pairs cisgender children, Olson and co. found that trans* children’s responses were indistinguishable from those of the cisgender children. For example, trans* girls preferred to be friends with other girls and preferred toys and foods that the cisgender girls in the study also preferred.

These findings are hugely important for trans* advocates because they show that trans* children do indeed exist, and that their identities are deeply held and unwavering from a young age.

Hope everyone is having a great week - I look forward to seeing you all soon!  

Representation - Alison Blog #7

As we work on our presentations and celebrate our completed papers, I continue to think about the amazing opportunities of this fellowship and the responsibility that comes with these. In writing about a more vulnerable population of women, I am concerned about accurately representing the struggles working women face around the globe. I want to stay aware of the ways in which I may misconstrue facts and be careful to not exploit the words of others to make my own point. As a college student, I don't want to abuse any position of power to elevate my voice above others; rather I want to make sure others' independent voices are amplified above my own.

This tension between respect for the experiences of women that I write about and inserting my own opinions into my work is lying heavy on my head and heart throughout the creation of both paper and presentation. I hope to discuss this further with the WomenNC community and perhaps gain some important insights! I am excited for our upcoming tv debut (congrats to Liv and Justine for theirs!) and will strive to honor the experiences of others as I grow as an advocate for the human rights of women and girls. Until next time!

Dina Shehata_Blog # 7

I can’t believe that I’ve already turned in my paper. I feel like the time went by so fast, but it was a great experience. I learned so much and am continuing to learn as I work on my presentation. My anticipation is growing as the CSW in New York next month gets closer. On the other hand, I am also getting very nervous for our upcoming presentation this month in Hunt Library. I have never presented in front of such a large group of people. I’m sure it will be such a great experience because it will give me the practice I need with my future endeavors.

I’ve been thinking about all of the valuable advice given to us by Stephanie Scotti, Scott Morgan, and Alex Rosen and I am working towards giving the best presentation that I can. I want to make an impact and relay my message in a way that will resonate with the attendees. After I submit my presentation tomorrow I will make sure to rehearse several times before our first dress rehearsal because my confidence will increase as I continue to practice. The idea of having feedback from everyone is daunting but also very helpful because it will guide me to my goal.

I hope you all are having a great Sunday with family and friends watching the Super Bowl and I look forward to seeing everyone soon! 

Dana - so close

The feeling of having my completed essay is really great - now I just have to have a killer presentation. I have been struggling with creating my presentation because there is so much information that I feel like I need to include, but the sessions we had at the last workshop emphasized the importance of not overloading our audience on information. We need to make our message easily digestible ... I am thinking that using pictures may be effective, to help humanize the issue of sex education. I found a great resource that has maps of the states based on their sex ed, and maybe this would be a good thing to include in my presentation.

I have also been talking to Leigh more about the issue of sexual assault on college campuses and how to incorporate that into my presentation, probably through the q&a. There has been so much in the news about this lately - the national Panhellenic council recently issued an order that barred UVA sorority members from attending any frat parties this weekend for fear of sexual assault. While well-intentioned, trying to combat sexual assault by locking women away is completely ineffective and, frankly, medieval. This is another great example of why sex ed should talk about consent and choice.

I am most apprehensive about getting my presentation down to 7 minutes - I will have to do a lot of practicing. I know what I want to accomplish with my presentation (convincing people of the importance of sex ed), now it's just a matter of picking the most relevant information.

Almost There

            You have no idea how relieved I am in to turn in the final draft of my research paper! But after hitting send, it hit me how close I am to the end of this fellowship. Even though, there is A LOT more to do, it is now becoming more and more real to me the opportunity I have and the experience I’m about to embark on, putting together my presentation and speaking at a United Nations conference. I’m also excited to bring my presentation back to North Carolina and the community at Duke, hopefully successfully advocating for incarcerated women, WomenNC, and this amazing fellowship I’ve gotten to participate in. Finding out that I was a 2015 UN CSW Fellow in October feels at the same time like yesterday and forever ago because the weeks have flown by, but in that time, I have grown so much and learned so much. I know these next weeks leading up till the UN CSW will also go by just as quickly.

            I’m already trying to come up with ways to continue this experience even after the fellowship is formally over. How can I take what I’ve learned and what I’ve accomplished and continue to grow in my social consciousness but also contribute in some tangible way to the issues facing the most marginalized women and girls all over the world? I know I have said this in an earlier post, but this fellowship has really given me the launch pad I need to be a true advocate for women and girls.

- Mina 

Blog #7- Big Time Stars on UNC-TV

What a great experience this week!  Justine and I were fortunate as we were interviewed on Carolina Now on January 29th.  Although it was only public access television, there is still a buzz and a high level of excited energy when you are going to be interviewed on television.

 After toil less hours of deciding what outfit to wear, reviewing and trying to memorize all of the statistics from my research and driving to the wrong UNC TV building, Justine and I finally arrived on time for our interviews.  We were graciously received by the host as we entered the foyer of the studios.  She was all smiles and made us feel at home immediately.  (Her compliments on my outfit made me feel that all of my efforts were worth the struggle.)  As we walked to the green room, the host began asking us questions about ourselves and our interests in our topics.  While walking she asked “So which one of you is the Marine?” With the blue flower in my hair I humbly answered “Oh, that would be me.”  “You?!” the host exclaimed. “With the flower and the nails and the makeup… I never would have guessed.” With her sentiments, my nerves relaxed and I knew that we were going to have a successful interview.

Once inside the green room, the host continued to go over her interview questions with us to clarify any information and make us continue to feel at ease.  While she spoke and we primped, the sound man fitted us with microphones.  Of course Justine and I had to make him work for his money as we wore dresses without waistbands for the microphone transmitter to clip to.  After much taping and tucking we were soon fitted with our mics and walked to the set.

The layout of the set was similar to that of most studios, with two to three stages fitted into one large warehouse.  I spotted out set right away.  With the three grey chairs aligned facing the one lone host chair and the blue walls, I recognized it from the clip of last year’s fellow interview on the same program.  My excitement grew as we walked closer to the grey chairs.  The cameras were so large, yet the two cameramen moved them around smoothly like a hot knife through butter.  We sat down and faced the host.  Our casual conversation continued on into the mic check.  (All the while I was fearing that my scarf would brush over the mic and washout the sound).  “30 Seconds.”  “5 Seconds.” …. And off with the taping of the interview.

The host began discussing the WomenNC Fellowship with Kate, one of the chairs from WomenNC and then transitioned to Justine and myself.  I was surprised at the ease of the questions.  All that worrying about statistics and figures regarding numbers of unintended pregnancies and access to contraception for active duty servicewomen… and not a single question about it.  I was surprised at the host’s interest in my prior service and how it has impacted my motivations and inspired much of my research.  (“These are easy questions” I thought.  “Ask away.”)

 One of the best “take-aways” from this experience that I can hold in my heart is “Here I am.  I am a Marine.  I am a grad student.  I am a single mother, and here I am: sitting on stage in a television interview discussing my research.”  If every person who ever doubted me while I was serving could see me now and open their minds to the critical points of my research, we might actually see change for servicewomen.  We are smart.  We are beyond capable. We are strong and valuable.

The interview concluded with a series of pictures of us on set and pictures from about the studio.  We were lucky to snap a few shots of the various sound rooms and behind the scenes actions of what occurs at UNC TV.  Overall, an excellent experience that I will take with me forever and inspire me to continue my efforts to support servicewomen everywhere.