2012 Feminists of the Year

A time-honored tradition, the awards for Feminists of the Year were given out at the Chellis House end-of-the-year fest on May 12. About 50 people came to celebrate this year’s nominees and winners. The Paradiddles and Vincent Jones ’12 provided musical entertainment and Anna Gallagher ’12 and Dane Verret ’12 performed some of their powerful poetry. Mary Kay Cavazos read from the ‘zine her students had produced for her class, “Voices of Black Women’s Liberation.”

All of the nominees and participants stand out for having used their voice to advocate for their causes, ranging from gender equity to awareness-raising about sexual assault. Professor Maria Hatjigeorgiou, who teaches in Religion and WAGS and also is the faculty co-head of Ross Commons, gave an eloquent, impromptu acceptance speech that her compatriot, the ancient philosopher Socrates, would have been proud of. Responding to the accolades of her nominators about her ability to weave spirituality into gender studies and her advising of students, Maria urged the audience to make use of resources on campus to help them develop their authenticity and speak their minds.

Speaking also on his fellow winner Margo Cramer’s ’12 behalf, student winner Luke Carroll Brown ’13.5 addressed the urgent need to raise consciousness about sexual assault on campus. Since the summer of 2011, when Luke interned at the Addison County Council against Domestic and Sexual Violence and Margo worked at a biology lab at the college, both hatched the idea of asking students to submit personal stories about experiences with sexual assault on and off campus anonymously on a website. On April 23, these stories were read to a full house at McCullough Social Space. As the Middlebury Campus pointed out, this event “gave students a sense of empowerment and the tools to engage with an issue that is often ignored or hidden. Instead of forcing a set narrative or ideology on the audience members, the orchestrators let the anonymous pieces speak for themselves. The power of their stories alone encouraged conversation.”

Tabasum Wolayat ’12 also garnered the 2012 Feminist of the Year Student Award. Since coming to Middlebury, Tabasum co-founded the organization Young Women for Change in her native Afghanistan. This organization has set up a women-only internet café in Kabul. In this safe space, women can gain access to information and also network with each other. With the help of Atwater Dining, Tabasum had prepared a scrumptious Afghan dinner for 120 diners to raise funds for her organization.

International student and scholar advisor Kaye-Lani Laughna has continued 2010 Feminist of the Year Dilanthi Ranaweera’s initiative to teach swimming to female students in an all-female environment. Her nominators also praised her for “keeping an eye to issues of diversity and inclusion on the Orientation planning committee and being a great role model for student workers.” Fellow staff winner JoAnn Brewer, coordinator of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research, garnered the award for her efforts to advocate for the rights of those who are the most marginalized among us, earning her the name of “Mama Jo” among students.

Also nominated were students Olivia French and Jessie Tibbs-Tacke ’14 for their work as co-presidents of Feminist Action at Middlebury; Emily Pedowitz ’14, co-organizer of “It Happens Here;” Joanna Rothkopf ’12 for her opinion pieces “That Think Down There” in the Middlebury Campus; Harriet Napier ’13 and Emmy Masur ’13 for organizing the MALT trip to the Center for Adolescents in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Lindsey Messmore ’11.5 for directing the play “Low Level Panic;” Daniela Barajas ’14, president of Women of Color; Allison Stanger and Matthew Dickinson from the Political Science Department as well as Cheryl Faraone from the Theater Department and WAGS Program and Sujata Moorti from the WAGS Program. A big thank you to tall the winners and nominees for their efforts and to all their nominators!