Puzzle me this: Accurately constructing someone’s identity without having all the pieces to who they are, where they are from, what they love, hate, speak etc.
At the Center for Gender Equity (CGE aka “ge-spot”) retreat, we designed puzzle piece paper cut-outs with descriptions of our inner most identities and had a colleague, who was practically a stranger, try to piece together and explain our lives back to the group. It was probably one of the most vulnerable, yet enlightening experiences for me at Lehigh. Regardless of how many theories I read or histories I sympathize with, this activity showed me how influential and frightening it is to be on the other side of the a socially-constructed perspective.
I now understand why Lehigh and the CGE ardently encourage students to practice bLUeprint foundations, like inclusive leadership, that culminate in better and deeper relationships. I strive to employ these guidelines in planning my events. My CGE project, Love Your Body day & campaign, aims to impact students and staff of all genders, races, ages, abilities, mindsets, organizations, etc, so that everyone’s intersectional identity is represented and celebrated. It also starts a conversation about ongoing campus sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, and other beliefs destroying people’s self-image. The events planned have the potential to influence not just our school, but also society’s unwritten discriminatory and unfair procedures.
It is important that more voices be heard and dominant culture be awakened to communities they typically do not interact with, blatantly critique, or deliberately undermine. The tension on campus is at an all time high and through the CGE, I have learned how (and would suggest others) to get more involved, meet new people, create unexpected relationships with the faculty and staff, and get voices heard AND respected.
I think many Lehigh students get caught up in the mainstream college experience and forget about the dynamic communities outside Greek life. Fortunately, my Women’s, Gender, Sexuality Studies and Africana Studies double major offers me a kaleidoscope lens to look through, seeing beauty and opportunity in places others overlook. This is what led me to the Center for Gender Equity. I had often walked by (collecting many pro-woman pins), but never entered until this year. It is like walking into another universe, one that I had been searching for throughout my past two years here. The staff and interns are like me; we speak the same nerdy activist language. I feel truly confident to be un-apologetically me AND get school credits!
With a dynamic group, the “ge-spot” undeniably allows me and any person who walks in the opportunity to unforeseen connections with individuals across campus, connections that are absent in the Greek community. Thankfully, some of my CGE colleagues (shoutout to APhi’s Holly Gwydir) are trying to change that.
Projects and events I learn about whether it be CGE or Greek Allies-related, I share with my sorority and beyond. In GPhi, I became a self-appointed deputy house manager, decorating the bulletin boards around with upcoming events, body positivity posters, and other creative designs that relate to the CGE and other clubs. The change that is needed for progress to be transformational requires action from all parties.