Categories
Viewpoint

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 gsulli22@nd.edu.

Categories
News

Women’s clubs share their experiences

This semester marks 50 years since women first stepped foot on Notre Dame’s campus as students.

To honor this milestone, The Observer reached out to leaders from five student clubs that are either geared toward women or focus on advocating for women’s rights.

Baraka Bouts Notre Dame Women’s Boxing club

When Rachel Salamone was a first-year, she knew she wanted to try a new sport.

Walking the stadium concourse at the Student Activities Fair three years ago, Baraka Bouts, the Notre Dame Women’s Boxing club, caught her attention.

“I had heard a bit about the boxing club, but when I saw people throwing mitts at the Activities Fair, I thought it was the coolest thing I had seen all night and I was sold,” she recalled.

Now in its twentieth year, the boxing club is the largest women’s club on campus, Salamone, now the club president, said. With over 300 members, it is also the largest all-female boxing club in the world.

Salamone said the club “works to instill confidence, skill and community” in its members through daily training. At least 100 club members train each year for the club’s best-known event, the annual Baraka Bouts boxing tournament – three nights of club members going head-to-head for one minute and 15 seconds in the Duncan Student Center’s Dahnke Ballroom.

“The dual nature of Notre Dame Women’s Boxing that blends female empowerment with boxing and makes quality education more accessible in Uganda makes the program especially unique and inspiring,” Salamone said.

Feminist ND

Chess Blacklock, a senior with plans to go into public health after graduation, is the president of FeministND.

She said FeministND was one of the first student organizations she got involved in as a freshman and joined its executive board as service chair her sophomore year before becoming president as a junior.

Blacklock said the club’s mission is to “shed a positive light on feminism and the value of the ideology and movement as well as to bring a greater awareness of women’s role in history and women’s contributions to our current society.”

“We bring strong women’s voices to campus, celebrate powerful women and encourage women to seek out positions of power,” she continued. “Additionally, we seek to provide a space free of political or religious bias [for] students to share their opinions and ideas concerning gender issues and feminism while also acting as a general support group for women.”

One of the club’s biggest events is its annual menstrual product drive, which collects pads and tampons for local shelters for people experiencing homelessness. Blacklock said the success of last year’s menstrual product drive is one of the club’s proudest accomplishments.

“This past year, we collected over 900 products to donate,” she said. “Additionally, we collaborated with Campus Cup to allow students to sign up and receive a free menstrual cup. We had over 300 sign-ups for this programming, and while many students picked theirs up for personal use, many also chose for us to donate them.”

FeministND currently has about 200 members. The club has existed since 2016, but Blacklock said feminist clubs have had a presence at Notre Dame since women were admitted to the University half a century ago.

“Though we know these previous clubs existed because of the active role alumni have in our club, we don’t know too much about how these clubs operated due to the lack of consistent and thorough record keeping,” Blacklock explained.

Magnificat Choir

Hannah Schmitz, a junior theology major living in Welsh Family Hall, is the alumni relations and social media manager for the Magnificat Choir, a liturgical choir that welcomes all tri-campus students who sing in the treble range.

The choir sings each week at the 5 p.m. Saturday Vigil Mass at the Basilica and rehearses three times a week.

Schmitz said she decided to join the choir last fall when she was looking for community and a way to continue doing music ministry.

“I had grown up singing in a church choir, and it was something that I had missed doing my freshman year of college,” she said.

After realizing how much joy the choir had given her in just a year, she said she desired to pursue a leadership position.

The choir currently has about 45 members and Schmitz said they’ve built a great community centered around a passion for music and enjoyment of one another’s company.

In addition to rehearsal, choir members participate in group outings about once a month, including ice skating, volleyball and volunteering in the community.

“But honestly, sometimes we have the most fun just going to dinner together after a rehearsal or Mass and enjoying each other’s company,” Schmitz said. “During the fall semester, we love singing at the football Masses and seeing everyone decked out in Notre Dame gear.”

Schmitz said her proudest moment with the choir was last spring when they recorded the first half of their upcoming album.

“We worked for months to prepare these pieces before diving headfirst into a five-hour long recording session in the Lady Chapel of the Basilica,” she said. “We are very proud of what we accomplished so far and we are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to finish the album this upcoming spring. We are all very excited to hear the final product.”

Network of Enlightened Women

Gavriella Aviva Lund, a senior neuroscience major with a minor in theology, said one of her many passions is “bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to learn more about each other and to find common ground to build stronger communities locally and beyond.”

In fall 2020, Lund and Theresa Olohan ’21 began the process of founding a chapter of the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW) on Notre Dame’s campus.

NeW is a national organization, originally founded at the University of Virginia in 2004, that connects conservative college women and creates a space for them to talk about public policy and conservative values, Lund explained.

Lund said she and Olohan wanted to establish a chapter at Notre Dame to “provide an open community where women on campus could discuss and learn about social and policy issues they cared about while developing a network of women across the country who pursue the same mission as leaders in their professions.”

NeW at ND was established in the spring of 2021, and, now, the club has about 125 members. They meet at least twice a month, and members have enjoyed fun activities such as roller rink trips and ice skating, as well as lectures and professional development opportunities.

Lund currently serves as president of NeW at ND and said, though the club is branded as a space for women with “conservative values,” it does not endorse specific political parties or candidates.

“The university setting was originally meant to be a space where ideas are exchanged, which requires a difference of opinions,” Lund said.

She said NeW at ND plans to highlight this with the theme of the club this year: “Embrace and Engage.”

Instead of being afraid of those with different opinions on social issues or policies, she continued, she encourages people to, first, embrace the dignity and goodwill of every person and then “engage in an open dialogue to understand where our peers are coming from.”

“Coming together as one united community, we can learn so much from each other and make prominent social change,” Lund said.

Shades of Ebony

Thaddea Ampadu, a senior accounting major, is the co-president of Shades of Ebony, a club geared toward Black women at Notre Dame focusing on service and sisterhood.

Shades was founded 21 years ago by Arienne Thompson ’04 and Terri Baxter ’05 to create a space where Black women could come together and share their experiences.

Its mission is to “unify, empower and inspire women of all shades” through engaging in dialogue and service in the South Bend community, Ampadu said.

The club’s general meetings – which take place weekly or biweekly depending on what leadership has planned – often include discussions on topics like mental health, mentorship, career development, social life and equitable access to resources at Notre Dame and beyond.

“There are very few women of color on campus, and because of this, there are rarely opportunities to meet and have dialogue,” Ampadu said. “Attending our meetings is always the highlight of my week because I don’t have to explain certain parts of my identity because most, if not all, of us share those same identities and experiences.”

She said Shades has about 30 active members and about 50 who attend events more occasionally.

The club cohosts events and holiday parties with other student clubs including Wabruda, the Black Student Association and the Gender Relations Center.

Last year, Shades was named the “Club of the Year” by the Club Coordination Council. Ampadu and other club leaders are proud of the events Shades has organized and their successful efforts to revive the club after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The community is absolutely beautiful,” Ampadu said. “When we meet, I can visibly see how relaxed and comfortable our members become surrounded by women that look like them.”

Categories
Scene

Fifty years on the Scene

Maggie Klaers | The Observer

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of women at Notre Dame, Scene has created the ultimate female-powered playlist filled with Notre Dame alumnae, your favorite artists, the future generation and artists who paved the way for women in music…

Killer tunes by cool women! 

“Collected” (2021)  by Ratboys

Formed in 2010 at Notre Dame’s freshman orientation, Julia Steiner (vocals/ guitar) and Dave Sagan (guitar) established Ratboys. While Julia and Dave are the glue that keeps the band together, Julia’s songwriting elegance and dynamic storytelling is like no other.

“Rosy” (2021)  by Payant

Payant is the creative project by Ashley Finster (class of 2021) and friends! Throughout Ashley’s time at Notre Dame, she was a powerful force in the student band the Basement Boxers. Payant is a beautifully composed album filled with songs that give us insight into Ashley’s soul. 

“Just a Girl” (1995)  by No Doubt

A that song needs no introduction, No Doubt’s first single to reach Billboard’s Hot 100 list can be considered one of the greatest feminist songs of the 90’s.

“Brand New Key” (1972) by Melanie

Melanie Safka (or simply Melanie) is an American singer-songwriter often compared to Bob Dylan. Her unique folk undertones and sense of 1930s nostalgia, made her stand out amongst her male-counterparts, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles in 1972. 

“Angelica” (2022)  by Wet Leg

Wet Leg is a force to be reckoned with. After releasing two debut singles in 2021, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers found themselves on charts all over the world almost instantly. The English duo have firmly established themselves on the scene, and we are not complaining.

“Tonite” (2022)  by The Linda Lindas

Ranging between 12 and 17 years old, The Linda Lindas are the future. Since 2018, Bela Salazar, Eloise Wong, Lucia and Mila de la Garza are preserving the spirit of riot grrrl punk. 

“You’re so Vain” (1972)  by Carly Simon 

Topping the global charts in the early 70’s, Carly Simon is known for writing one of the greatest songs of all time. Her impeccably vivid yet ruthless narratives have rightly earned her the title of the most prominent confessional songwriters of our time.

“Under the Table” (2020) by Fiona Apple

Recipient of a Grammy for Best Female Vocal Rock Performance in 1996, Fiona Apple walked so Mitski could run!

“Scream” (2019)  by Stef Chura

Stef Chura is a Detroit-based artist with lots of soul and angst. In collaboration with Will Toledo (Car Seat Headrest), she released her second album in 2019. After the passing of her friend, she asked herself: “What do I have to do before I die? I have to at least make one record.”

“People have the Power” (1988)  by Patti Smith

Patti Smith, the godmother of punk.

“You Oughta Know” (1995)  by Alanis Morrisette

In the same vein as Carly Simon, Alanis Morriestte is known for her heart-wrenching confessionals. As a songwriter, she pours out her heart for her listeners, providing comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone. Her album “Jagged Little Pill,” is her biggest confession to date.