Currently viewing the tag: "Gender"

With each of the utterly optional summer reading lists I’ve posted so far, another has emerged.  Last week, Roxanne (who wrote for the blog from 2012-14, while she was in the MALD program, and is now a PhD candidate) asked me if I would like an additional list, this time focused on writers who are less often represented by traditional curricula.  I was delighted to receive her offer and I’m even more delighted to share her suggestions with you.  I’ll let Roxanne take it from here.

When we founded the Gender Analysis in International Studies Field of Study at Fletcher, a key tenet was that gender is not merely about identities or social relationships.  Rather, it is also about institutions, notions of credibility and authority, and — at its heart — about power.  Because gender does not exist in a vacuum, we considered how it intersects with race, social class, ethnicity, and other vectors, to affect conceptions and experiences of agency, vulnerability, power, or justice.

As we looked at syllabi, we asked ourselves: Who is considered an authority on international studies and why?  Which texts count as “the canon” — and which voices and opinions are left out of that imagination?  These are questions I have taken to asking about my leisure reading as well.  How are my notions of what is worth reading colored by gendered, ethnicized, and racialized expectations surrounding credibility and authority?  With that in mind, and with a commitment to interrupting the white-American-male streak on my own bookshelves, I am delighted to share a few of my favorite reads from the past year.

A common theme in the books I have read this year has been that of how people negotiate their relationship to solitude and their yearning for community.  I discovered Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone on the end-of-year round-up of favorite books in the Brainpickings newsletter.  Laing’s words at the conclusion of a tour through solitude, art, and urban alienation felt particularly timely: “Loneliness is personal, and it is also political.  Loneliness is a collective; it is a city.  As to how to inhabit it, there are no rules and nor is there any need to feel shame, only to remember that the pursuit of individual happiness does not trump or excuse our obligations to each another.”

Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing tackles the ways in which legacies of power, oppression, and loss layer atop each other from generation to generation.  It is the kind of book that lodges itself in your mind, and it reminded me of a mix between Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism and Hanya Yanagihara’s punching descriptions of life-long hardship.

Part of my professional work in the past year has centered on understanding the journeys of refugees, through a study I have co-managed with Professor Kim Wilson in Greece, Jordan, Turkey, and Denmark.  During the research methods summer seminar I participated in last year, one instructor had pointed out that academic writing is anemic when it only draws on scholarly texts.  A number of literary works on the experience of displacement have since been piled on my desk alongside our own footnotes.

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s short story collection The Refugees stirred me on many snowy February nights and Roberto Bolaño’s words in its epigraph still travel with me: “I wrote this book for the ghosts, who, because they’re outside of time, are the only ones with time.”  Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends, a long-form essay on immigration to the United States, also rang close to home.  Luiselli weaves her own insights as a new immigrant — a “resident alien,” in the words of Luiselli, the law, and my own experience — with her observations of the experience of Central American children seeking to avoid deportation from the United States.  Luiselli’s articulation of “the great theater of belonging” that immigration and nationhood invite and require has accompanied me as we work on the final report of our own refugee study.

One of the losses of displacement (even chosen displacement) is the ease of one’s own language.  I was born and raised in Greece, but, by virtue of where I live and my current research on Colombia, my life now unfolds primarily in English and in Spanish.  Until recently, I used to interact with Greek predominantly in the context of bureaucracy.  When my friend Niki introduced me to Titos PatrikiosThe Temptation of Nostalgia, the title felt like a phrase in which I have lived.  The book itself did not disappoint, and it prompted a return to Greek literature and a reacquaintance with the Greek language of joy, dreaming, and lightness.

I am new to short stories and have discovered two of my favorite collections in the past year.  Kathleen Collins’ Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? came into my life through an excerpt in literary magazine Granta’s “Legacies of Love” issue.  Collins writes injustice and structural violence with such subtlety that a sense of activating grief lingered long after I finished the book.  My other favorite short story collection was Randa Jarrar’s Him, Me, Muhammad Ali.  Jarrar writes about foreignness, youth, queerness, desire, and loss with a lightness that leaves her readers dizzy and that has me wanting to read much more of her work.

Finally, what is on my summer to-read list?  Besides a lot of research-oriented reading on the Colombian peace process in preparation for my upcoming fieldwork, I am looking forward to Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (furthering the refugee theme), Hisham Matar’s The Return (a memoir of, among other issues, fatherlessness), and Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me, a novel tracing a Nigerian couple’s parallel accounts of a marriage.  Happy reading!

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Returning to the subject of pre-Fletcher reading, today I’m simply going to share a link to the Gender@Fletcher blog.  Gender@Fletcher is student run and reflects the strong interest in gender issues among Fletcher students.  Check it out!

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An unusual post for the Admissions Blog today.  I was in contact last week with Professor Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, and she told me that two alumni had written a post for the Corruption in Fragile States blog series that she runs.  I’m happy to share the post, to highlight the work that Fletcher alumni are doing.

About the alumni writers:

Héctor Portillo, F16, is involved in a variety of peacebuilding programs in Guerrero and Michoacán, two of the most violent states in Mexico. He has a BA in Political Science from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and a master’s degree from The Fletcher School, where he focused his studies on the intersections of gender and conflict resolution. Previously, he worked in different positions for the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Public Education. He is currently Project Coordinator for Catholic Relief Services Mexico.

 

Sebastián Molano, F12, is an international development worker from Colombia. He holds a master’s degree in NGO Management and Human Security from The Fletcher School. Sebastián has worked for over 11 years on development issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. His experience ranges from providing humanitarian response in Haiti, development work in Central America to participating in 20 political and electoral observation missions across the continent. As a gender specialist, Sebastián has developed an expertise in gender and masculinities and how to engage purposefully men and boys to enable gender equality. He is the founder of Defying Gender Roles an advocacy initiative that seeks to openly challenge harmful gender roles, gender norms, and traditional notions of masculinity. You can learn more about his work on his TEDx talk. Currently, Sebastián is a Gender Advisor for Oxfam America.

And here is their blog post from the Corruption in Fragile States blog.

Approaching corruption through the lens of masculinities

Héctor Portillo and Sebastián Molano propose three ways in which the expectations, pressures, and privileges of “being a man” may shed light on male attitudes towards corruption.

Although corruption is not by any means our field of study, we both grew up in countries where corruption is normalized to the point where not engaging in it is not only considered rare but naïve. Coincidentally, both of our countries of origin, Mexico and Colombia, also have a deeply embedded culture of sexism and machismo. Our personal experiences with sexism, masculinities, and corruption motivated us to explore how the expectations, pressures, and privileges of “being a man” can encourage or deter an individual’s engagement in corruption.

Masculinities and Toxic Masculinity

The ideals men and boys are expected to live up to are called “masculinities.” Masculinities are socially constructed and reinforced, they vary by time, place, and community, and have hierarchies – “some forms are prized as being more valuable for men and boys to aspire than others.” These expectations “often put men under pressure to conform to prevailing masculine ideals, which may or may not be what individual men would otherwise aspire to.”

Some of the expectations of what it means to be a man may translate into violent and/or self-destructive behaviors. The Good Men Project calls those expectations ‘toxic masculinities,’ and defines them as those where manhood is formed by a cocktail of “violence, sex, status and aggression.” They are often associated with risky behaviors (e.g., higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse) and proneness to engage in violence (e.g. sexual violence, violent crime). Others, like Michael Kimmel, have argued that these expressions of manhood become socialized — that is, they are not just internalized by the individual, but also replicated by society. (Kimmel, Michael, “Masculinities and Gun Violence: The Personal Meets the Political,” Paper prepared for a session at the UN on “Men, Women and Gun Violence,” July 14, 2005.)

[To our best knowledge, there is no research (yet) on the links between toxic masculinities and corruption. If you know of any, please send us examples through the comments section below!]

Three Mechanisms of Interaction

We believe that male attitudes towards corruption can be analyzed through three mechanisms. We have presented them as separate for conceptual clarity, but we believe they interact with and possibly reinforce each other:

  1. Corruption as a male privilege;
  2. Corruption as a male performance of power and domination; and
  3. Corruption as a pathway for men to fulfill society’s expectation of them to ‘provide’

Corruption as male privilege

Let’s start with the proposition that gender inequality exists in most societies, and that this translates into men wielding more/most power –especially, “entrusted power” (i.e. political/policy power) – than women. Thus, men hold most of the resources and networks that maintain and give access to power.  Most women, then, do not engage in corruption because they are unable to tap into the structures and networks that men have access to. In this sense corruption, “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” presents itself as a male privilege.

Corruption as a male performance of power and domination

The social definitions of what being a man looks (and feels) like are frequently correlated to power. If what we understand to be “manly” is toxic (i.e. toxic masculinities) and what we understand as “power” is also thought of as “manly”, then the toxicity may permeate to power as well. Corruption, then, would be more likely where men are expected (and rewarded) for using their power over others; it would be a consequence and a symptom of toxic understandings of what it means to be a man, for men would understand corruption as another way to prove their manliness through power.

Corruption as a pathway for men to fulfill society’s expectation of them to ‘provide’

Our final proposed mechanism stems from the assumption that men are expected to provide for their families, and that their notion of value is assessed on the fulfillment of this role. However, as is the case in most of the world, only a small proportion of the population can meet all their needs. Although this pressure is true for both men and women, the expected role of provider (and sometimes sole provider) is often masculine.

Studies have shown that, in extreme situations of poverty and/or conflict, when men are unable to fill the role of provider (a role they consider quintessential to their identity as men) they are likelier to engage in self-destructive behaviors or to join criminal or armed groups. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to imagine that some men in positions of relative power (lower-level public officials, for example) might engage in corruption to fulfill their role as providers. In some contexts, engaging in corruption practices can be a coping mechanism for individuals who are part of a power structure.

Of course, there is nothing new in the notion that one of the reasons for some individuals to engage in corruption is economic distress or need. However, understanding how the economic pressures are gendered (i.e. different for men and women) may help understand how the mechanisms through which these pressures lead to corruption are themselves gendered.

However, it is also common to see men in high-level positions of power engaging in corruption practices. In their case, the power attached to the positions they hold, the social networks they belong to or their last names, cover them with a veil of protection against the law. Thus, different hierarchies of power among men when engaging in corruptive practices differ in the scope and magnitude but the effects are the same: mistrust, impunity, and undermine of democracy.

Interactions across mechanisms

As we have written above, the three mechanisms we have proposed interact with each other:

  1. Access to positions of relative power or influence from which men can engage in corruption is an extension of their male privileges.
  2. The way men use (and abuse) said power for their private gain will be informed by a (masculinized and possibly toxic) understanding of how they ought to wield power.
  3. Corruption is a possible pathway for individuals holding positions of relative power to earn additional income and/or solidify their positions and networks of power, allowing them to provide more resources for their families.

Can Gender Equality Decrease Corruption?

This brief exploration introduces a more nuanced question. Can gender equality decrease corruption? Although this requires much further research, our analysis suggests that as social understandings of power and (toxic) masculinities become dissociated from each other, corruption’s appeal as a (male) performance of power will diminish. Likewise, as men’s identity is less associated with the role of provider, pressures to engage in corruption may diminish.

Gender Equality is not Enough

Gender equality may reduce men’s use of corruption as a mechanism to display power and domination over women, but it won’t necessarily reduce men’s (and women’s) use of corruption as a mechanism to display power and domination over people. As gender equality advances, corruption will stop being a male privilege and become available for both men and women with power.

Programs that address corruption or gender equality ought to consider the way these two subjects interplay with each other. Existing and future programming on masculinities could be adjusted to incorporate notions of power and the construction of masculinity as a strategy to better engage with anti-corruption work. To the best of our knowledge, this has not yet been done in a purposeful, measurable manner. We hope this brief post will inspire researchers and practitioners to ask how work on masculinities and on corruption better complement each other.

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I always consider myself fortunate when alumni make me aware of their activities.  Today, I’m happy to point you toward a blog post by Kiely Barnard-Webster, a 2015 MALD graduate, who has written on the question of “Are Women Less Corrupt?”  As Kiely notes in her bio, she is “Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC and peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity in Myanmar.  Kiely focused her studies on gender and development at The Fletcher School.”

Kiely graduated before we launched our year-old Gender Analysis Field of Study, but the subject has been pursued here for many years.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing more and more alumni heading in that career direction as time goes on, and I’ll look forward to sharing more of their work.

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Unless an additional report surprises me by popping into my inbox, today we’ll close out the updates from the Class of 2015.  The final word comes from Dallin Van Leuven, whose post-Fletcher job didn’t appear immediately after graduation, but was the right opportunity when it did arrive.

Greetings from Beirut!

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Dallin (far left) with fellow Fletcher students/alumni and other friends while in Washington, DC for an interview. (He reports, “I didn’t get the job.”)

The year following my graduation may have taken me halfway across the world, but it has carried my career a lot further.  Granted, the job search was longer and more difficult than I anticipated, but Fletcher was a big help throughout: from helping me leverage the networking I had done while in Boston to find open positions and get interviews; to receiving (at times last-minute) support from the Office of Career Services on my CV, cover letters, interviews, and salary negotiations; to giving me consultancy opportunities while I looked for the right job (or any relevant position, for that matter).

One perfect example of this support would be the continued mentorship of Professor Dyan Mazurana.  We, along with fellow Fletcher alumna Rachel Gordon, finalized our collaboration on a book chapter, “Analysing the Recruitment and Use of Foreign Men and Women in ISIL through a Gender Perspective,” which was published in February in the book Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond.  Moreover, Professor Mazurana nominated me for a Visiting Fellowship with the Feinstein International Center.  There, we were able to continue working together on an important issue: conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence in African conflicts.  I will forever be grateful for the support Fletcher’s staff and faculty have given me both during and after my time there.

Most of my last year was spent in my home state of Idaho.  It was a great opportunity to be with family and old friends in a beautiful place while I searched for that elusive first post-Fletcher job.  Before starting my MALD, I worked in education in Egypt.  Not long after I arrived, the Arab Spring came to Egypt, and it cemented in me a desire to work in countries experiencing conflict and transition, focused on alleviating the negative effects of conflict.  Fletcher, for me, was the perfect place to make that adjustment in my career’s trajectory.

With luck and perseverance, I finally found it.  After New Year’s, I moved to Lebanon to begin work with Search for Common Ground, the world’s oldest and largest peacebuilding organization.  Here, I work on projects designed to build a stronger civil society and better social relations across dividing lines.  I research conflict drivers and lessons learned from similar projects, sometimes advising on programs in other countries or on the design of future initiatives.  I love it!

As a testament to the reach of Fletcher’s network, I was able to talk with a Fletcher colleague who interned here last summer to figure out if the office really was a place I would want to work.  I’ve been able to “pay it forward” by helping facilitate a new Fletcher student’s interview; she started her internship here last month.  I run into Fletcher alumni all of the time — through work, at social gatherings, and as they pass through Beirut.  In fact, while standing in the visa line during my first arrival to the city, I ran into someone I graduated with who is also living and working here.  The most remarkable of these meetings was definitely with a very successful alumna who is working for peace here in the region.  She beamed at hearing I was a fellow graduate and happily exclaimed, “Fletcher ruined my life!”  Thanks to her experience as a student, she left a successful career in the private sphere to pursue a successful, but more challenging, career in peacebuilding.

While “ruined” probably isn’t the term I would normally use, I can certainly agree with the sentiment.  Thank you, Fletcher, for “ruining” my life and putting me on the path I am on now!

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One could argue that I should run the Five-Year Updates in the year leading up to each class’s five-year reunion.  Yes, I could do that, but for whatever arbitrary reasons, I decided instead to have the alumni write after the completion of a full five years.  Still, what with my asking and them being busy, time does slip by.  So this week, I’m closing the blog book on the Class of 2010, now a full six years post graduation.  The first of the week’s alumni posts comes from Luis Marquez, who wrote to me that, “I hope this five-year update helps show prospective and incoming Fletcherites that the Fletcher Community is truly unique and continues to be a big part of your life years after graduation.”

Luis Marquez PictureSix years ago, having recently graduated from Fletcher, I was fortunate to be connected to the head of the Social Sector Department at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Kei Kawabata, F77, and to Eric Roland, F06, who informed me about a potential opportunity working with the IDB’s Gender and Diversity Division.  While I had not been looking for work in the Gender Equality space in particular, it only took a moment of introspection to realize this was exactly the type of work I was looking for post-Fletcher.  At its core, gender equality is about ensuring more effective development and smart economics.  Having focused my studies and thesis on ensuring that development interventions achieved social impact, this was a perfect job for me, and Fletcher had prepared me for it.

The path to Fletcher

Before deciding to study at Fletcher, I was working in New York at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and was unsure about which graduate school to attend.  It took a chance encounter with a Fletcher alum, the late Ben Sklaver, F03, whose passion for the school was so palpable that it was hard to see how there was any other choice (see more about Ben’s story here and about the Clearwater Initiative he founded here).  This passion, I would soon find out, is unique to Fletcher graduates and hard to replicate.  Before our short chance encounter was over, Ben made one simple suggestion: to make sure I took classes that gave me hard skills I could not get from “reading The Economist.”

Post Fletcher: Yes, M&E really is that useful.

I have spent the last six years post-Fletcher promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Latin America and the Caribbean through multiple positions at the Inter-American Development Bank.  Currently, I am leading the gender mainstreaming, research, and women’s economic empowerment strategy for the Multilateral Investment Fund, the innovation lab of the IDB Group.  The strategy is focused on finding innovative solutions that can be scaled up through the public and private sectors.  This work ranges from developing market-driven solutions to provide women-led emerging businesses with access to finance to developing a gender equality diagnostic tool that will allow companies to benchmark themselves against their peers, based on the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).  Professor Scharbatke-Church’s monitoring and evaluation course has come in particularly handy when developing gender indicators to ensure our projects contribute towards closing gender gaps.  Professor Wilson’s microfinance course helped me to challenge notions, such as that microcredit was a panacea to help the poor, and to think about developing human-centered products that take into account the needs of the final beneficiaries.

As a Mexican, I am proud to see that my region, as well as the IDB, has made significant advances in closing gender gaps over the last two decades.  However, a lot of work remains.  I am pleased to see how the Fletcher alumni community has developed a niche around the gender equality and development space.  While I am one of few men in the world of gender and development, every day more men are taking note that this is not a women’s issue but rather a development challenge that should matter to all of us, regardless of sex.  Fletcher men like Brian Heilman, F10, and Sebastián Molano, F11, are both relatively recent Fletcher graduates who are working on changing traditional masculinities and gender roles.  We all join a long line of Fletcher graduates (exceptional women like Elizabeth Vasquez, F96, CEO of WeConnect International,  and Anna Lucia Mecagni, F05, of Women for Women International) who are working to ensure men and women are afforded the same opportunities to improve their lives.

Most importantly, I am very proud to be part of the Fletcher community.

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The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in Fletcher’s offerings related to gender issues, and in student interest in learning about them.  It has been an interesting process, with the growth fueled both from below (students organizing lectures, conferences, and activities related to the topic) and above (with a newly hired professor and classes added to the curriculum, leading to a new Field of Study).  Recently, we received this information from Dean Stavridis about another new initiative:

I am happy to announce the launch of a dedicated website for Gender Analysis and Women’s Leadership.  The website provides information on coursework, opportunities for extra-curricular learning, recent events, student groups, and also includes profiles of students, alumni, and faculty who have embraced gender analysis in their work or research.  Under the Features tab, the site also showcases student, faculty, and alumni research, public events, and initiatives related to gender.

A great deal of thought went into the website.  In addition to Professor Mazurana, one of the forces behind the development of these resources is the Blog’s good friend, Roxanne.   There are a lot of applicants for September enrollment who have indicated an interest in gender  issues.  I hope you’ll find the website helpful as you think about whether Fletcher is a good match for you.

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Today I’m excited to share the last of this semester’s posts by our Student Stories writers.  Excited, especially, because I’m welcoming back Roxanne, who was one of our first student bloggers back in 2012, when she was starting at Fletcher in the MALD program.  Since then, she completed her MALD in 2014, with a focus on human security, gender in international studies, and transitional justice.  After graduating, she accepted a position as the Program Manager of the Humanitarian Evidence Program at the Feinstein International Center, right here at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.  In September, Roxanne also became a Fletcher PhD student, researching the politics of victimhood in armed conflict.  I’m super happy that she has agreed to rejoin the blogger crew, and also that we now have a writer who will reflect on the PhD program.  Today, a timely post about a conference coming up on Saturday.

Roxanne 2015When Jessica asked me to return to the Admissions Blog, I accepted with delight.  The secret is that I have not left the Fletcher community since my graduation with my MALD in 2014 — and I will gladly tell that story in an upcoming blog post.  Today, however, I have stopped in to share some exciting news regarding Fletcher’s first Conference on Gender and International Affairs.

Long-time blog readers may remember that there has been growing momentum surrounding the incorporation of gender analysis into Fletcher’s international curriculum.  One of the causes dearest to my heart while I was a MALD student was the Gender Initiative, which I co-chaired and wrote about in this past post.  The goal of the student-run Gender Initiative is to create and support academic and professional opportunities related to gender analysis in international studies for interested students and faculty at Fletcher.  In the past four years alone, and following the strong legacy of past gender-related activities in the Fletcher community, the Initiative has seen the creation of new courses with an explicit focus of gender analysis, the gathering of data regarding the gender (and other aspects of identity) of the guest speakers invited to Fletcher, the organization of professional seminars and panels on gender-related careers, and a proposal to create a Gender in International Studies Field of Study, which was just approved last month by the Fletcher faculty!

This year’s excellent Gender Initiative leadership, accompanied by the phenomenal leadership of Fletcher’s Global Women organization, has worked hard to organize Fletcher’s first ever conference on Gender and International Affairs: Avenues for Change. Panel topics span sectors and interests, and they include gendered perspectives on inclusion through technology; a discussion of reproductive health, justice, and rights; and gendered aspects of urban displacement in crises.  The keynote of the conference will be Dr. Cynthia Enloe, one of the foremost feminist scholars on gender, conflict, and militarism.  Fletcher Professors Kimberly Theidon, Dyan Mazurana, Kimberly Wilson, and Rusty Tunnard all have places in the program, and we expect many more faculty will participate in the sessions.

This is an exciting moment for researchers, practitioners, and advocates of gender analysis at Fletcher.  Even more exciting is the fact that you can join us: attendance is not limited to members of the Fletcher community, so if you are in the area or have colleagues who may be interested, please feel free to share the information and register to attend!  If you do come, please say hello — and stay tuned for a conference recap, as well as an update on my path since graduating from the MALD program, in my next Admissions Blog post.

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A 2012 grad, Sebastián Molano, with whom I’ve occasionally been in contact over the past two-plus years, recently wrote to tell me about a new project he has started.  I’m going to let him introduce it.

Defying Gender RolesIn order to contribute to the current struggle for gender equality, last January I created Defying Gender Roles.  This is an initiative that seeks to challenge harmful gender roles by creating a space to share thoughts and views about the nuances of being men and women today, and through it we aim to foster and promote diversity.

Last month, we launched our Facebook group and we have over 800 followers.  With this group we seek:

  • To bring attention to the harmful gender roles that are part of our daily life and to how they affect our ability to be who we want to be.
  • To “de-normalize” practices that perpetuate gender inequality and reinforce harmful traditional gender roles.

In this project, I have the support, ideas, and energy of five Fletcher alums: Joya Taft-Dick F11, Megan Rounseville F12, Sean Lyngaas F12, Amos Irwin F12, and Ana García F13.

I was invited recently to give a TEDx Talk at Colby College, where I spoke about what it means to be a man today and the struggle for achieving gender equality.  (A link to the talk should be available soon.)

With International Women’s Day coming on Sunday, March 8, I’m happy to be able to point to work that Fletcher grads are doing on behalf of gender equality.

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Information about Cool Stuff that Students Do hasn’t come only through the Social List.  Student blogger Roxanne, now within two months of her graduation, has been very involved in promoting awareness of gender issues at Fletcher.  Today she writes about her work.

As my time at Fletcher is soon drawing to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on one of the aspects of my experience here that has been most dear to me: my involvement and leadership in the Gender Initiative at Fletcher.  In an earlier post, Jessica had asked me to briefly describe my academic and professional interest in the intersection of gender and armed conflict.  When I arrived at Fletcher, I was very excited to learn from the many scholars and practitioners in the Boston area who work on issues related to gender and violence.  I was further thrilled to discover that many of my classmates shared this interest and that momentum was developing around exploring how a gender perspective affects our understanding of international politics, development, violence, and other topics.

To capture this enthusiasm, and with much support from recent graduates, faculty, and staff, I have collaborated with fellow students to launch the Gender Initiative at Fletcher, whose mission is to enable the study and professional exploration of gender-related issues.  The Gender Initiative started with three clusters of activity:

  • The “Academic Cluster” compiled a list of gender-related courses in the Boston area to enable Fletcher students to cross-register, as well as to highlight faculty members working on the issue, and to showcase different syllabi with gender as a focus.  It also helped crystallize student interest in additional gender-related coursework at Fletcher, culminating in the creation of a new course on Gender and Human Security in States and Societies in Transition for this semester.  Students who wanted to self-design a Field of Study with a focus on gender could also receive assistance in doing so.
  • The “Speakers and Events Cluster” focused on enhancing the diversity of the guest speakers we heard from at The Fletcher School.  Students have compiled lists of men and women in the Boston area who speak on gender issues, as well as women who speak on a variety of topics beyond gender that are related to a Fletcher education.  This list is now becoming available for club leaders and event organizers who may be interested in either infusing a gender perspective into their program or ensuring panel diversity at their events.
  • Finally, the “Mission and Vision Cluster” has worked to define the objectives of the Gender Initiative, as well as to answer common questions about the value of a gender perspective in an international education.

Over the past two years, we have had the privilege of organizing and attending an array of gender-related events at The Fletcher School, in partnership with student clubs, such as Global Women, as well as the Fletcher administration.  Select highlights have included a workshop on gender and negotiations with Hannah Riley Bowles, a gender mainstreaming training with Fletcher alumna Marcia Greenberg, a gender and public speaking keynote and training with renowned media and communications expert Christine Jahnke, a luncheon talk and small-group discussion with NATO’s Gender Advisor Charlotte Isaksson, as well as talks with representatives of UN Women, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and more.  This semester, we are really excited to have celebrated the inaugural Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award, as well as to welcome renowned feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe, among a few other exciting events.

It has been moving and inspiring to watch the Gender Initiative grow during my time here.  I have particularly appreciated the genuine enthusiasm of Fletcher’s first-year students for these topics, and their energy in joining existing efforts to make gender-related learning and professional training accessible to all who are interested in it.  While I’m sad to slowly have to leave it behind, I’m excited to see the Gender Initiative continue its important work after our graduation!

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