Coretta Scott King: A multidimensional activist

Monday marked the 37th year the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been celebrated as a national holiday. Dr. King’s commitment to overarching equality initiated a monumental fight towards racial justice that will never be forgotten. As an activist that fought to end all forms of oppression, MLK’s work has extended far beyond the Civil Rights Movement and continues to serve as a reminder that change is possible. When reflecting on the important work of MLK, it is important to remember all the important activists that were involved in this historic movement. One of the most notable activists whose work is often overlooked is Coretta Scott King: the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. However, Coretta Scott King was far more than the wife of MLK, she was a pillar of the Civil Rights Movement who expanded Dr. King’s legacy after his death and continuously campaigned for global social justice. On this holiday, it is essential that we remember both the important work of Martin Luther King Jr. along with the profound leadership role Coretta Scott King played in working toward equality in the Civil Rights Movement and beyond.

As detailed in an article in The Atlantic, Coretta Scott King’s activism began far before the Civil Rights Movement. She was more involved in politics than Dr. King when they first met, her activism started with her involvement in the NAACP and other race-based organizations at Antioch College in Ohio. Fifteen months after their marriage they moved to Montgomery, Alabama. Scott King played an essential role in the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and continued her important work even when the King’s house was bombed eight weeks into the 381 day boycott.

However, Coretta Scott King was not the only woman who played an influential role in the boycott. As Scott King said, “women have been the backbone of the whole civil rights movement.” The Women’s Political Council initiated the boycott after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white man on a bus, groups of black women conducted food sales to raise money for the carpools that allowed the protests to carry on and another group of women signed plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit that prompted the Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate city buses. These women made their aspirations to create radical change a reality. While Coretta Scott King is known by many as the supportive wife to Dr. King, in reality, her activism not only influenced King’s work but aimed to end all oppression.

After King received the Nobel Peace Prize, Coretta Scott King emphasized the important role they must play in pursuing world peace, starting with publicly opposing U.S. involvement in Vietnam — an action that King was hesitant to take at first as he feared criticism. Evidently, when King was asked if he had educated his wife about anti-war issues, King said, “she educated me.” Even after King’s death, Scott King’s activism did not slow down. She addressed 50,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial about racism, poverty and the Vietnam War. Additionally, she expanded her work towards advocating for welfare programs, abolishing apartheid in South Africa and fighting for gay rights and same sex marriage. Until her death, Coretta Scott King fought against a wide variety of injustices by addressing the multiple inequities built into society. 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Dr. King). Coretta Scott King’s activism authentically embodied this influential quote. While Dr. King’s crucial work towards racial justice created radical change, Coretta Scott King initiated, motivated and expanded King’s message to combat injustices on a global scale. Dr. King’s work would not have been possible without Coretta Scott King; she and many other women were at the core of the success of the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. The erasure of Coretta Scott King’s contribution to combating social inequalities is evident to the racism and sexism that continue to permeate our society. While there are many intersecting factors that continue to marginalize specific identity groups from society, it is crucial that we all remember the work of both Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King that brought attention to these critical issues.

As described in an article detailing the impact of MLK’s work, we must remember that achieving true equality means extending this value farther than our own communities in order to work towards global justice. As shown in the diversity of issues Coretta Scott King worked to combat, there are a multitude of ways to make impactful change. MLK day is about more than the individual legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.; it is about the collective struggle of achieving equality for all. The work of many activists continues to go unnoticed due to the invisible barriers that silence the voices of marginalized identities. Dr. King was a voice for many, he was the cutting image of an oppressed individual that was finally being heard by the public at large. His perseverance, strength, wisdom and intelligence should be celebrated with pride, but the essential figures that made the movement possible should never be forgotten. While Coretta Scott King is one of the most notable, she is hardly the only one. As we celebrate the legacy of MLK this January, let’s remember the people whose activism advanced the Civil Rights Movement and expanded MLK’s powerful messages in order to work towards achieving overarching social justice.

Grace Sullivan is a first-year at Notre Dame studying global affairs with a minor in gender studies. In her column I.M.P.A.C.T (Intersectionality Makes Political Activist Change Transpire), she is passionate about looking at global social justice issues through an intersectional feminist lens. Outside of The Observer, she enjoys hiking, painting and being a plant mom. She can be reached at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.


The importance of comprehensive sex education

The topic of sex tends to be taboo due to the deep embedment of abstinence over education in society. Although sex education classes can be awkward and uncomfortable, these tough conversations are worth having in order to begin normalizing and destigmatizing discussions about sex. Not only does comprehensive sex education reduce teen pregnancy rates, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and assault, but it provides young adults with essential information that promotes the sexual health and well-being of themselves and others. According to KQED, “comprehensive sex education” teaches that not having sex is the best way to prevent STIs and unintended pregnancies, but also offers medically accurate information about STI prevention, reproductive health, healthy relationships, consent, gender identity, LGBTQIA+ issues and more! This method of education not only reduces STI’s and teen pregnancy rates among young adults, but it also delays when teens become sexually active. However, this form of education is not as present as it should be in school curriculums.

The more common form of sex education is called “sexual risk avoidance education” which promotes abstinence and provides little to no information about contraceptives or any other means that puts sexual safety first. While abstinence is one way to reduce STIs and unwanted pregnancies, it is not something everyone is interested in practicing. By providing young adults with education about how to both have safe sex and practice abstinence, individuals have the opportunity to make the best choice for themselves and their sexuality. Talking about sex is not the same as promoting sex, rather, it provides young adults with the tools they need to make a decision around their sexual health instead of it being made for them. A common rebuttal to the advocacy for more sex education involves the belief young adults should learn about sex from their parents instead of school. While parents should be encouraged to have an open conversation about sex with their kids, they should not be the primary source of their education as they are simply not educators on this topic. Specialists in comprehensive sex education can offer an unbiased perspective about sex while providing crucial information that parents simply don’t have access to such as statistics, situation based workshops, etc. Additionally, a lack of comprehensive sex education in high school impacts individuals as they obtain more freedom in college, meaning sex education is extremely important in making sure young adults are provided with the information they need as they become more independent. To promote the health and well–being of all individuals, formal education around sex provides young adults with professional information that equips them with essential knowledge about sexual health.

While information about physical sexual health is essential, integrating ethics into sex education is just as equally important. An article from Harvard’s Graduate school of education discusses consent and stresses the importance of relationships and healthy intimacy. Education around consent should be more than how to ask for it, for young adults need to learn about why it is important and think about it in a variety of contexts to understand human morality. Standard sex education sends the message that you should ask for consent so you don’t get in trouble instead of focusing on the benefits it has in establishing healthy, well rounded relationships with others. Additionally, an emphasis on mutuality in making decisions around consent shows the importance of communication in intimate relationships. Establishing a base understanding of consent will allow young adults to develop healthy intimate relationships with others, thus minimizing instances of sexual assault. 

Comprehensive sex education teaches more than physical health, it emphasizes the essential elements of safety, protection and communication. Providing young adults with information that promotes the health and well-being of all individuals is crucial in combating issues of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and sexual assault. Although abstinence is the best way to prevent things like pregnancy and STI’s, it is not the only solution. A combination of abstinence-based education with comprehensive sex education will not only minimize these issues but treat young adults as dignified decision makers that are aware of their bodily integrity.

Grace Sullivan is a first-year at Notre Dame studying global affairs with a minor in gender studies. In her column I.M.P.A.C.T (Intersectionality Makes Political Activist Change Transpire), she is passionate about looking at global social justice issues through an intersectional feminist lens. Outside of The Observer, she enjoys hiking, painting and being a plant mom. She can be reached at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


Political polarization, identity politics and social media

In modern-day politics, political parties are more polarized than ever. This division between Democrats and Republicans has prevented bipartisan legislation from being implemented to address critical issues in the United States. However, American politics were not always so divided. This begs the question, what caused political polarization in our democracy? The answer is simple: identity politics and social media. 

For historical context, in a 20221 article Elizabeth Kolbert claims that the Democratic and Republican parties were similar around the time of the 1950s. In fact, the “American Political Science Association issued a plea that Democrats and Republicans make more of an effort to distinguish themselves.” Eventually, political scientist Lilliana Mason describes “the great sorting” that took place at the start of the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, and Roe v. Wade. These landmark movements instigated a social sorting that eventually led to the ideological division between Democrats and Republicans. 

When thinking about the beginning of political polarization, it is essential to look at the topics of the movements that dramatically shifted American politics. Issues of racial and gender inequality, reproductive rights and political exploitation formed two distinct sides around identity politics. According to the Oxford Dictionary, odentity politics involve the “tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc. to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.” As explained in this article about the ongoing debate over identity politics, those in favor of identity politics argue that America needs to continue discussing and fighting on issues such as gender equality, racial justice and LGBTQIA+ rights. On the contrary, those opposed argue that identity politics “serve as a distraction from issues they view as more important and politically palatable,” such as the economy. Essentially, this is a debate between preserving a status quo that has historically protected white, cisgender, straight men and creating space for minority groups to be included in mainstream America. While economic issues are extremely important and need to be addressed on a legislative level, there needs to be equal attention to the oppression and marginalization that American citizens belonging to minority groups are facing by upholding this harmful status quo. Additionally, this ultimatum between economic and identity issues suggests that this is an “either-or” scenario when, in fact, both of these issues can be addressed at the same time. However, political party polarization between Republicans and Democrats places limitations on making progress on both due to the increasing divide between political ideals. 

A study by the Pew Research Center shows that half of Democrats and half of Republicans believe their political opponent is immoral. Another to Kolbert’s article, a study by YouGov found that 60% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans believe their opposing party is a “serious threat to the United States.” Both of these studies show the current and dramatic political polarization in America. In fact, the U.S. is so politically polarized that the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance added the U.S. to its list of “backsliding democracies” (Kolbert). Currently, there are two issues that are limiting the potential for extreme political polarization to come to an end, both of which stem from the same source: social media. 

Not only has social media enhanced political polarization, but it has become a breeding ground for misinformation and extremism. Because moderates in the Republican and Democratic parties are not as active in participating in online political discussions, extremists serve as the dominant voice and representation for their respective political parties. Chris Bail, the director of Duke’s Polarization Lab, describes this as false polarization: individuals believe people in the opposing political party are more extreme than they actually are. This brings up the first issue in combating political polarization: those who have done the most to polarize America seem the least inclined to recognize their own “impairments.” In terms of social media, extremists on both sides have exacerbated polarization and spread misinformation, creating a false perception of the political ideologies of each party. The second issue is that while each party regards the other as a “serious threat,” this does not mean they are equally threatening. Events that occurred under Trump’s presidency and peak influence, such as the Jan. 6 insurrection over his questioning of the legitimacy of the 2020 election results, undermined fundamental trust in the democratic electoral process. This event dramatically shifted American politics and enhanced polarization among the political parties even further. While there is not an obvious solution to close the widening gap between political parties’ ideologies, recognizing the false narratives portrayed by the media is one way to limit harmful stereotypes that only advance political polarization.

Grace Sullivan is a first-year at Notre Dame studying global affairs with a minor in gender studies. In her column I.M.P.A.C.T. (Intersectionality Makes Political Activist Change Transpire), she is passionate about looking at global social justice issues through an intersectional feminist lens. Outside of The Observer, she enjoys hiking, painting and being a plant mom. She can be reached at


The midterm elections: voting rights and gerrymandering

With the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, drastic climate disasters and increasing political polarization among U.S. citizens, the midterm elections are essential in determining our government’s ability to take on these issues. As Amber Phillips said in her article about the importance of the midterm elections, this election has the power to reshape our country. 

For context, the midterm elections determine what representatives will have a seat in Congress. Senators serve six-year terms making ⅓ of the 100 seats open for candidates. The way our government functions is entirely dependent on which political party fills the majority of the seats in Congress. Usually, Americans vote for Congressional representatives based on the popularity of the president. Biden’s 53% disapproval rating risks the potential for a loss of majority Democratic rule. However, with the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, the popularity of Democratic candidates for Congress has increased. When looking at the differences between a Republican and Democrat-controlled Congress, it is important to consider the top concerns of the American people and how efficiently a political party’s majority rule would play in creating solutions to a wide variety of issues. 

According to Phillips, some of the key issues — in order of importance — are the economy, abortion, inflation, education in schools, immigration, climate change and crime. While the overturn of Roe v. Wade is helping Democrats stay on the winning side of public opinion, Republicans are attempting to shift the focus from this issue to other areas where Democrats are lacking efficient policies such as gas, groceries, crime and border crossings. Essentially, the majority rule of the Senate will significantly impact which issues get attention from the government and which ones get ignored. 

The most critical element of the midterms will be paying attention to how gerrymandering will impact the outcomes of the election. Every 10 years, states redraw district lines to ensure that districts are equally populated. However, Senators, particularly in the South, have been using this practice to draw boundaries to influence who gets elected, otherwise known as gerrymandering. Essentially, gerrymandering empowers politicians to choose their voters. According to an article written by the Brennan Center for Justice, this undemocratic practice takes place in two forms: cracking and packing. Cracking splits people with similar characteristics apart to divide voting strength and make it more difficult to get their preferred candidate elected. On the other hand, packing crams certain groups of like-minded voters into as few districts as possible to minimize the number of districts and the overall influence of a certain political party. Gerrymandering makes elections less competitive and enhances the common feeling embedded in Americans that their vote doesn’t matter. Additionally, gerrymandering targets communities of color to advantage the party that controls district restrictions. The tactic of packing is used to push minorities into one district in order to prevent democratic minorities from voting in other districts. In an article, Kim Soffen describes the harm in packing majority-minority districts beyond the threshold for it dilutes the overall representation of the interests of people of color. Since minorities are more likely to favor Democratic candidates, packing minorities has the same impact as packing Democrats: Both instances cause the district map to favor Republicans. In addition, strategic restrictions on access to poll booths in majority-minority districts take away the fundamental right to vote and silence minorities’ political opinions. This unjust practice is both racist and undemocratic; it limits the diversity of voting in districts, restricts voting access for minorities and undermines the democratic system by separating equality from voting rights. 

This November, it is essential that every person who has the ability, option and opportunity to vote does so. Voting is a right, but in our present-day democracy, it is a privilege as many voices are being silenced through legislative restrictions. While existential dread is a common feeling among Americans during times of crisis, we need to examine the infrastructure of our society to strengthen it. Unjust policy that favors personal political interests and success over equality is undermining our democracy. By using the power of a true, authentic democratic system, we can begin to make institutional changes that will create room for the critical concerns of American citizens to be heard, acknowledged and addressed. While strategies like gerrymandering restrict voting access for minorities, everyone must continue to draw attention to this issue by speaking out about our government’s failure in upholding equal voting rights for all U.S. citizens. Use your vote to make political change and your voice to make social change; both matter and are powerful ways to make an impact. 

While the deadline to register to vote has already passed, you can check your registration status, vote by mail (absentee ballot) or find a polling place near you here.

Grace Sullivan is a first-year at Notre Dame studying global affairs with a minor in gender studies. In her column I.M.P.A.C.T (Intersectionality Makes Political Activist Change Transpire), she is passionate about looking at global social justice issues through an intersectional feminist lens. Outside of The Observer, she enjoys hiking, painting and being a plant mom. She can be reached at


Iran: Analyzing gendered oppression through an intersectional lens 

On Sept. 16, protests in Iran broke out after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Amini was arrested and brutally beaten on the head by the so-called “morality police” — authorities that enforce religious based laws — for wearing her hijab too loosely: an illegal offense in Iran. Amini later died after being in police custody for three days. While the government is attempting to frame her cause of death on preexisting health conditions, her family contradicts this claim. Soon after her death, protests broke out across the country. Human rights advocates and Iranian activists have been engaging in demonstrations to protest the murder of Mahsa Amini and the compulsory enforcement of hijabs. The demonstrations include publicly cutting hair, burning hijabs and chanting phrases such as “death to the dictator” as a way to call out and resist the oppressive governmental system. In response, the “morality police” have been attempting to shut down protests through the use of brute force resulting in injured and in some instances dead citizens. In addition to this, the government is attempting to shut down the internet in order to control the spread of information both nationally and internationally. As this movement continues to grow, everyone must pay attention to the threat this poses toward human rights.

In 1979, the Iranian Revolution shifted Iran’s system of government from a dynasty to a theocratic republic: a form of government in which the supreme authoritative figure is recognized as being divinely guided to create religious based laws. Essentially, the Supreme Leader is not elected by the people but has the power and authority of being in charge of all governmental affairs. One of these laws included the strict mandatory dress of women. An article describing the significance of the hijab describes how this law was based on an interpretation drawn from the Quran, the religious text of Islam, although it is not directly stated within the scripture. The National Iranian Council Research Director Assal Rad explained how the protests are not against the religion at large but instead focus on the enforcement of the hijab and the lack of freedom Iranian women possess.

The mandated wearing of the hijab does not uphold a religious culture. It instead oppresses women by taking away their natural born right to bodily integrity and the freedom to choose. The enforcement of the hijab upon women in Iran is strictly meant to control women. Not only does it take away their right to choose, but it infringes on their rights as a person. When looking at all aspects of identity with women in Iran, we are able to notice how different power structures overlap and intersect to determine who is worthy of certain rights and freedoms.

This phenomenon can be explained through the concept of intersectionality, a term first coined by scholar Kimberle Crenshaw to examine how different aspects of identity dictate how an individual experiences the world. The Iranian system of government oppresses women and minorities by restricting access to basic human rights such as education, the right to leave Iran without permission from your husband and the freedom of choice around religion and dress. The Iranian Republic determines what rights citizens deserve based on their gender, thus inducing the oppression, control and violence against women.

The death of Mahsa Amini has sparked a new revolution: women are putting their lives on the line to challenge the system of government that perpetuates inequality. The enforcement of the hijab and brutal violence against women is a threat to human rights everywhere, for oppressive systems are embedded in institutions. An intersectional analysis is essential when understanding oppression, for it brings to light the multifaceted aspects of people’s identities that withhold individuals from being treated as an equal human being. With increasing governmental control over internet access in Iran, the spread of information both nationally and internationally is being limited to silence the voices of people in Iran.

It is essential that everyone continues to talk and raise awareness about the injustices taking place in Iran in order to hold the Iranian government accountable for their actions. While the oppression of women in Iran may not directly affect you, it is essential to fight for the human rights of all individuals despite their gender, race, sexuality, class or religion. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” While the government continues to try and silence the women in Iran, it is crucial for everyone to use their voice to speak out against the oppression of women in Iran. Confronting this injustice will allow the movement to continue on and gain momentum. We must acknowledge the dignity of every person in order for basic human rights to be upheld, prioritized and respected.

Grace Sullivan is a first-year at Notre Dame studying global affairs with a minor in gender studies. In her column I.M.P.A.C.T (Intersectionality Makes Political Activist Change Transpire), she is passionate about looking at global social justice issues through an intersectional feminist lens. Outside of The Observer, she enjoys hiking, painting and being a plant mom. She can be reached at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


Climate change as a feminist issue

Climate change has impacted every person on this planet. From an increase in wildfires and floods to a lack of access to other natural resources, this human-made catastrophe has affected everyone. However, some are more disproportionately impacted than others because of the marginalization and oppression of certain communities due to social hierarchies and standards. Specifically, women have been the most affected by climate change, for women make up a majority of the world’s poor population and are therefore more dependent on natural resources. For reference, 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty are women and 40% of the world’s poorest households are headed by women. Additionally, a lack of education and access to leadership positions make it difficult for women to offer ideas in the decision-making process around climate change. Therefore, feminism offers a way to look at how climate change disproportionately impacts women — specifically women of color —and how we can empower women to become agents of change. 

In a patriarchal society — a social system in which men hold the power — gender roles play a huge part in how our world functions. Gender roles — a role determined by cultural norms that apply to a specific gender — create inequalities as individuals are expected to act a certain way to be accepted by society. On a global scale, women often provide the role of caretaker for families and communities. In some developing countries, women cannot find the time to maintain an education, if they have access to it, due to the expectations of gender roles, especially during climate catastrophes. Also, women who are racial minorities are the most impacted by climate injustice, for marginalized communities face social stigmas and inequalities that limit access to equal rights. The addition of climate change only delays the fight for equality and puts marginalized groups in a more vulnerable situation. This is why intersectionality is critical to understanding systems of oppression — a term coined by feminist and scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw that analyzes how different aspects of identity intertwine and intersect to determine an individual’s experience in the world. By using this tool, we can draw attention to the root of the problem: the variety of social inequalities in society that directly impact people’s access to fundamental human rights. 

While climate change is an issue created by humans, gender equality is dramatically suffering from this worldwide environmental issue. Especially in developing countries, which also tend to be minimal contributors to the issue of climate change, environmental crises impact these communities the most. In places where access to natural resources is already minimal, climate disasters have a cataclysmic impact.

A specific, current example of how the climate crisis disproportionately impacts women is shown through the catastrophic flooding taking place in Pakistan. On Aug. 27, the banks of the Kabul River burst due to the monsoons in Pakistan, causing nearby cities to be overwhelmingly affected by flooding. In Nowshera, displaced families and individuals reside on the sides of roads in tents and shelters in colleges, universities and student hostels. In her article, Diaa Hadid details how many women were abandoned by their husbands during this climate crisis and are attempting to take care of and provide for their families. In this conservative area in Pakistan, it is rare to see women in public because it is frowned upon by the culture. This social norm has made it increasingly difficult for women to have their needs met after being displaced from their homes. Many mothers are struggling to receive food for themselves and their children because it is a common occurrence for men to take food from women. Additionally, minimal access to the bathroom has put mothers and families in uncomfortable situations where they are unable to use the restroom for extended amounts of time. Women are also suffering from a major lack of period products. In a conservative area where many women already lack fundamental human rights, climate catastrophes like this put women in even more vulnerable situations where their basic needs are unable to be met. Especially in an area with very low greenhouse gas emissions, many women are unaware of the issue of climate change. Now more than ever, we need a feminist solution that empowers women’s education and equal access in order to promote gender equality while simultaneously combating climate change. 

By looking at climate change through an intersectional lens, we can dissect why this issue disproportionately impacts marginalized communities in order to create specific solutions. A majority of women lack agency in decision-making around the issues that impact them the most, one of the most prevalent being climate change. Women experience unique vulnerabilities from climate change and therefore can offer specific solutions to the issues that impact them the most. It is essential that more women’s voices are integrated into the decision-making process around solutions to combat climate change. Especially since women leaders put more of an emphasis on making change rather than being in charge, this commitment to justice and equality can make a huge difference in combating both climate change and gender injustice. Additionally, a strong emphasis on the community will allow for momentum to build in creating specific solutions for a multiplicity of issues. Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, a writer and climate activist, describes a specific approach to combating climate change. “Core approaches to climate leadership: things like compassion, connection, creativity, collaboration, care, a commitment to justice, all of that is open to people of any gender.” Promoting the inclusion of women in leadership positions will allow for more collaboration and more targeted solutions that combat climate change while addressing the drastic impact the environment has had on marginalized communities. As Ireland’s first female president said, “Climate change is a man-made problem — with a feminist solution!”

It is essential that we begin to integrate intersectionality into decision-making in order to accurately analyze how and why certain communities are being impacted more than others on a global scale. The inclusion of marginalized voices into the decision-making process around climate change is essential in creating meaningful, impactful and multidimensional solutions that evoke change in specific areas.

Grace Sullivan is a freshman at Notre Dame studying Global Affairs with a minor in Gender Studies. In her column I.M.P.A.C.T. (Intersectionality Makes Political Activist Change Transpire), she analyzes global social justice issues with an intersectional feminist lens. Outside of The Observer, she enjoys hiking, painting, and being a plant mom. She can be reached at