Tag Archives: women’s rights

Women’s Rights Movement in Colombia Takes the Stage

Colombian actress and social rights activist Patricia Ariza came to campus to speak to a full house of USF students and faculty, and other visitors about her unique movement for women’s rights in Colombia.

Ariza is the president of the Colombian Theater Corporation, and the co-founder and director of Teatro La Candelaria, which is a Colombian theater group. The group serves as an outlet for Colombian women to express their socio-political struggles through performance art. As Colombia’s first alternative theater, Teatro La Candelaria is a mechanism for Ariza and the women of Colombia to send a message to the Colombian government, people, and the world, about the corruption and violence of Colombia’s past and present, in hopes of creating a better future.

Ariza spoke in her native Spanish, with the help of a translator.

There are currently four million internally displaced Colombian peoples, most of whom are women. Ariza said the Colombian military uses women as “booty” or bait, and the majority of social rights movements in Colombia are lead by women who are survivors of war. These high-risk cultural resistance movements exist to promote social change in Colombia.

“I form part of this resistance,” said Ariza, by running a mixed gender theater group. “Like Virginia Woolf would say, 22 years ago I resolved to have my own room,” and as an actress, Colombia’s Virginia Woolf has found her greatest role of all as an activist for women’s rights.

In response to the socio-political issues that have long plagued Colombia, like drug trafficking, guerilla warfare and human rights crimes, Ariza channeled her talent and passion for theater into a tool for social change.

“Many of the things women show in these plays are what they are experiencing now and their ideas for solutions,” said Ariza, who uses publics spaces like plazas to put on performances. The idea of the plaza is to occupy spaces that are traditionally male-dominated by establishing a female presence, Ariza said. She played videos of recent performances during her discussion. Although the videos were in Spanish, and Ariza provided a brief translation: “These women are asking, ‘Where are the disappeared? Where are the dead?” The image of women filling a public plaza came to life as the room darkened, and the audience looked into the lives of these women a world away.

Other performances by Ariza’s Teatro La Candelaria include artistic demonstrations through city streets, like women singing and holding framed pictures of their loved ones who have disappeared as well as Ariza’s version of a fashion runway show, which she has taken international. On the runway, women sing and tell stories, sometimes painted and dressed up in traditional costumes. “This is not the typical [runway] which silences women and only accepts one type of beauty. Our women are subjects – elderly, obese. They speak and showcase the ability women have to turn pain into strength,” Ariza said. She is even planning a runway show in which female prisoners can participate. The runway has been performed in many different countries where Colombian women wish to mobilize and bring attention to the issues in their home country.

“Due to these movements, the Colombian government sees the need to reach a peace agreement,” Ariza said of her theater groups raw and emotional performances. Although she noted that the Colombian government has yet to be successful in responding to the equality and peace needs of its country’s women, Ariza strongly believes in the importance of pressing the movement so that women do not lose their voices.

Ariza is currently planning for a large immobilization in Colombia of a million people, and is also planning her next runway show in Denmark to further her goal of international mobilization for Colombian social rights. “We don’t work with these women as charity. It is an exchange of knowledge that transforms both groups,” Ariza explained about her goal to create a language of femininity to express the need for social change in Colombia. Ariza said her goal is to “produce a new type of language that corresponds to women,” and her career as an actress set the stage for Ariza to bring this creative vision to life.

Senior Sarah Pearson, a comparative literature and culture studies major admired Ariza’s alternative approach to social rights activism, “Performance art can be a powerful way of exploring themes of social justice.”

“The big picture is resistance. This was a great perspective from a different country to see how these movements are applied in real time, like the runway shows,” said senior politics major Marvin Pascua.

Ariza’s example of taking a personal passion and creating something bigger was inspiring to Media and Latin American studies professor Susana Kaiser. “In an environment permeated by violence it’s uplifting to see such a display of creative political action,” she said. “For me, some of the most compelling performances were those where the women manage to physically bring into public spaces the presence of the absent, their faces and their names, such as their covering of the city with framed photos of killed and disappeared people.”

Patricia Ariza’s presentation was part of the 12th Annual Global Women’s Rights Forum and co-sponsored by the Performing Arts for Social Justice (PASJ) and Center for Latino Studies in the Americas (CELASA) departments. Roberto Gutierrez Varea, associate PASJ professor and co-director of CELASA, moderated the discussion.

Women in Combat Falls Short of True Equality

My first reaction to the lifting of the ban on military women in combat was similar to many others’: What a proud moment for our country!

My approval slowly transformed into confusion after revisiting an article I read last semester: “Women Warriors” by Christine Sylvester. My confusion then morphed into steady disillusion, as Sylvester’s writings led me to revisit the documentary “Invisible War” produced by Amy Ziering.

My confusion did not come from the lifting of the combat ban for women; it was prompted by why it had taken this long to accomplish such a feat and what it now means. In many ways, the lifting of the ban is an institutional technicality. Women have served in combat prior to it, but are just now being recognized for their efforts and are allowed to serve in “small frontline combat units.”

Sylvester discussed the presence of women in the military as it dispels the widespread notion of women being innately peaceful, and dissects the oppressive power of our patriarchal society that is constantly “waging war on women.” The U.S. military is undoubtedly one of the most symbolic institutions of patriarchy, and at its core, it serves as a vanguard to preserve that power system.

Watch the film “Invisible War,” and stand in awe wondering why our nation’s greatest system of defense before 2012 had been so inept and unwilling to craft an internal adjudication process to protect servicewomen from sexual assault and rape from within the ranks. More often than not, these attacks were perpetrated by the servicewomen’s commanding officers (who would clear themselves of charges with ease).

More befuddling is the media response to this decision. The U.S. Marine Corps Commandant publically expressed his skepticism about women in small combat units and questioned the general interest in doing so. Headlines such as “Men Must Now Help Women Succeed in the Military” and “How Men Can Ensure Women Survive Combat” fail to reflect the idea that this decision will promote gender equality.

In more ways than one, the recent decision by the Defense secretary to reverse the combat ban is a cause for shame rather than pride. It is an insight into the military’s inconsistent and outdated views on women and is an attempt to save face instead of  promoting structural change to give women a shot at true equality within the ranks. For the sake of all servicemen and women in our military, I hope my skepticism is short lived and proven wrong.

Letter: Pro-Life Alumna asks Pro-Choice Student Columnist what She is “Trying to Protect”

I am writing in response to Amanda Rhoades’ article, “40 Years Since Roe v. Wade Some Still Determined to Halt Progress.”  I am grateful for my USF degree in Psychology, and graduate degree, which have enabled me to become the woman and mother I am today.

It is not my business to judge Amanda nor her uterus.  Each of us has a right to our own opinion.  I do, however, take issue with her “facts” regarding the Walk For Life and the reality of abortion.

I wish to express my compassion for Amanda, and my hope that she might come to understand that the word “compassion” contains the Hebrew root, “rechem,” meaning “womb.”  To have compassion means to “love from the womb.”  Amanda refers to her uterus quite often.  While catchy, this circumvents the heart of the matter.  Do unborn girls have uteri?  If they could speak, would they want them to be preserved for their future?

My uterus and I joyfully attended the Walk For Life with my husband and three sons.  We were overwhelmed by thousands of diverse and open-minded people passionate about the dignity of the human person.

Amanda asserts “… abortion does not have a negative impact on mental health…” Yikes!  I wish she could have stayed and heard the courageous speakers from “Silent No More,” an organization of women and men who suffer greatly from their abortion(s).  I suggest Amanda study www.silentnomoreawareness.org to be better informed.

I first studied post-abortion syndrome at USF, while writing a term paper in my Lifespan Psychology class.  My research was heart-wrenching.  I know that when speaking to someone who has experienced abortion, compassion and understanding are paramount.  Although some women and men are able to overcome their choice to end the life of their offspring, many suffer for deciding to flatline their baby’s heartbeat.  This is why WFL signs read: “Women Regret Abortion…I regret my abortion…I regret my lost fatherhood… etc.”

Amanda calls unborn human life “a microscopic group of cells.”  Amanda, please do your biology homework.  Our entire human DNA is present at conception, far from a random “group of cells.”  A unique, distinct, and unrepeatable human life trumps a uterus.  YouTube a 12 week, 4D ultrasound and if you have the stomach, learn how abortions are performed. I doubt you would consider penning “just a group of cells” in the future.

In all debates, one must discern what each side is trying to protect.  50,000 walked to protect a culture of life.  Amanda, what are you trying to protect?  The legal option to kill a preborn child is neither a humane nor progressive choice for a mother, a father, an innocent child, nor the cosmos in which the drama of life unfolds.  Empowering options exist for pregnant women, including adoption and numerous resource centers, whose raison d’etre is to truly love and support Mom and Baby.

Forty years of legal killing equals 55 million surgically aborted Americans.  Is that really progress for our country, or will it be our demise?

The human rights issue of abortion is far from a “squabble,” and I promise it will not go away.  If we do not protect and preserve the first right to life…liberty and happiness are moot.  Patriotic Americans are grateful that Abraham Lincoln persevered when slavery was legal.

Thank you for respecting my thoughts.  Please share them with Amanda, who will remain in mind, heart and prayer.  It is my hope that she will soon defer more to her heart and prefrontal cortex than to her uterus.

compassionate regards,

Colleen (McGuigan) France

USF Class of 1996

40 Years since Roe v. Wade, Some Still Determined to Halt Progress

This week marked the 40th  anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion and affirmed that people with a uterus have the right to choose what’s best for them in conjunction with their doctor, without the interference of politics. However, this weekend also marked the “Walk for Life” march in San Francisco, in which hundreds of anti-abortion activists toted pictures of babies and religious icons. When I walked past the march, I noticed that, while there were many women, the majority of the participants were cisgender men. In fact, the current president, John Paul Dugyon, of USF’s anti-choice group ‘Students for Life’ is a cisgender male. What I don’t understand is why people without a uterus are trying to tell me what I can and cannot do with mine.

Although it’s been established that access to abortion is a legal right, there continues to be a squabble over reproductive health care despite the fact that it’s been proven that having access to those medical services is good for both individuals and society writ large. In fact, a study conducted by UCSF confirmed that women who are blocked from having abortions are far more likely to wind up below the poverty line, unemployed and dependent on public assistance. They were more prone to staying with their partner, but also more likely to have experienced domestic abuse and feel less positive about their relationship. However, having an abortion doesn’t have a negative impact on mental health, and the vast majority of those that do have an abortion feel it was the right decision even after the fact.

People are at liberty to choose whether or not they want an abortion. It’s not my business what you choose to do with your body, nor is it anyone else’s. However, seeking to eliminate that right is an active attack against anyone with a uterus. Consider the death of Savita Halappanavar, the woman in Ireland who died due to being denied an abortion because public policy dictated that the fetus that was killing her was more important than her life. Think on the hundreds of thousands of other women across the globe who have suffered and continue to die under similar circumstances or by seeking unsafe ’back alley’ abortions when they don’t have adequate and unfettered access to the health care they need. To those who call themselves pro-life, I implore you to look in the eyes of someone who could potentially want an abortion at some point in their life and tell them you want them to significantly harm their own chances at living a prosperous, happy and healthy life for the sake of a microscopic group of cells.