Author Archives: Karin Hanta

A Zoom Dance Party for the 2020 Feminists of the Year

When the Feminist of the Year Award was established 30 years ago, nobody would have been able to imagine how we would celebrate in 2020. Known for its inspiring laudatory remarks, warm embraces, artistic contributions, and loads of chocolate covered strawberries, the celebration seemed like straight out of an episode of The Jetsons this year. The virtual setting did not diminish the good mood, however. Celebrants smiled at each other across their computer screens and eagerly joined a virtual dance party. The celebration started with Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” our rally song for the foreseeable future. We first honored the faculty Feminists of the year. This year, the jury decided to distinguish two professors: Hemangini Gupta and Amy Morsman. Just within a short time, Professor Hemangini Gupta has become a huge presence in the GSFS program, one of her nominators note. Her courses are incredibly engaged with the major issues of Feminist Studies, but at the same time they reach out and connect to other fields such as Labor Studies and Science and Technology Studies and thereby bring in a wider group of students. In her free time, Professor Gupta is always ready to lend a hand to make feminism happen at Middlebury, whether it is organizing the pedagogy workshop for faculty during j-term, meeting with students over dinner to discuss various issues on campus, or volunteering to facilitate a feminist reading group in Womxn of Color.

The second winner, Professor Amy Morsman has taught cross-listed History and GSFS classes for close to two decades and has been nominated throughout the years for inspiring students in her “Women in American History” class. In 2015, Professor Morsman provided the scholarly foundations for the “Click! The Ongoing Feminist Revolution” online project developed by the Vermont-based “Clio Visualizing History” organization. “Click” highlights the achievements of women from the 1940s to the present and explores the complexity of gender consciousness in modern American life. In 2017, Richard Saunders, director of the Middlebury Museum,

asked Professor Morsman whether she was interested in designing an exhibition on the centennial on U.S. women’s suffrage. She followed suit and structured her following first-year seminar around this theme. The outcome was an amazing exhibition that opened in early September 2019 and can now be viewed online. The exhibit highlighted the challenges inherent in the suffrage movement—the racism and classism. Amy had designed and mounted the exhibit during her free time in the summer and continued to graciously donate her time in public lectures throughout Vermont, and—particularly heart-warming—for the middle school members of the Sister-to-Sister group.

Jason Vrooman, director of engagement and curator at the Middlebury Museum of Art, was nominated in the staff category. A 2004 graduate of Middlebury College and PhD in art history from New York University, Jason immediately connected with the Feminist Resource Center at Chellis House upon his return to Middlebury to see how we could collaborate. We have since collaborated on activities for World AIDS Day. Last December, for example, we had a panel of AIDS activists at the museum and then Jason brought out an original artwork by Keith Haring and gave a presentation. The day culminated in a screening of videos in the series “A Day Without Art.” Over the past 1.5 years, Jason has also shown his support by joining the Chellis House Advisory Board and initiated a few improvements, such as the redesign of the Feminist of the Year nomination website. Dr. Vrooman also was instrumental in facilitating museum presentations for younger audiences. In particular, he made his museum docents available to welcoming the Sister-to-Sister group to the “Votes…for Women?” exhibition in December. He has been an invaluable resource to faculty in the classroom, where he has come to talk about feminist art such as Guerrilla Girls agitprop.

The jury decided to award the prize to five students this year. Elissa Asch ’23.5 is a director of the SGA Sexual & Relationship Respect Committee. As part of her work with SRR, she has organized Sex in the Dark events aimed at answering students’ questions about sex and relationships, and in the time of covid—during sexual assault awareness month—she put together multiple comprehensive resource guides for the student body. In these guides she provides many resources related to self-care, support for survivors of sexual assault, support for those suffering from domestic abuse, positive sex ed, and much more. When on campus, Elissa continually promotes sexual health and healthy relationships in her daily interactions with her peers. Most remarkably, she has achieved what other students and staff couldn’t do in previous years: she has pushed for anchoring consent workshops as an integral part of orientation and has succeeded!   

Annie Blalock ’20.5, has been indefatigable as FAM leader for the past three years. Initially attracted by the group’s affiliation with Planned Parenthood, she cast FAM’s focus more widely, organizing activism outside of the Middlebury bubble and providing space for our community to respond to national events. FAM members and their allies called government representatives about DACA, gun regulations, and fair housing legislation, wrote to the Department of Justice about proposed changes to Title IX, and tabled for Planned Parenthood’s #Fight4BirthControl campaign. Most recently, Annie and her team went to Town Meeting Day to educate Middlebury residents about Proposition 5, a proposed amendment to the Vermont constitution that would anchor the right to personal reproductive autonomy in the constitution. As a lasting legacy to Middlebury, Annie and her team created Go/SexySources, a website to provide Middlebury students of all identities a comprehensive guide to sexual and reproductive health care on and around campus.

Mikayla Hyman ’20,  a human being with limitless energy, developed a particular passion for Feminist Science Studies during her four years at Middlebury. She led science projects at Sister-to-Sister events; went into elementary and middle schools to teach female-identified students about sciencethrough the STEAM Girls Vermont Program; organized and curated the first Feminist Science Art Show in BiHall, and together with Mika Morton ’19, designed a curriculum to teach a winter term workshop on how toincorporate feminist perspectives into science classes at Middlebury College. She also  she logged an astounding 600 hours of volunteer time as an advocate for WomenSafe and 275 hours at the Addison County Teen Center.

Even in his first year as a first-year senator and member of the SGA Relationship and Respect Committee, Christian Kummer ’22 showcased a passion for working through student government to make Middlebury a more inclusive, equitable, and compassionate space. He also served on the Institutional Diversity, the Health & Wellness, and the First Year Committees, advocating for the hiring of an assistant director of the AFC and the new Title IX coordinator. His work helping to organize the Panther Day Protest in 2018, which insisted that survivors of sexual assault be believed, not silenced. Besides working on feminist programming at Chellis House, Christian has also been involved in a variety of student organizations: he is a sex-positive peer educator in SPECs, he serves on the Community Judicial Board, he has been responsible for Q&A’s social media outreach, and he is a member of the Provost’s Student Advisory Committee. What is most congenial about Christian, however, is that he cares deeply of amplifying other people’s voices. As the head coach of Oratory Now, Christian has taught public speaking skills to dozens of people. It was very endearing to see him teach class of rather shy middle school girls at the Sister-to-Sister summit in November. By the end of the 45-minute session, he had gently led them towards giving a confident, powerful mini-speech. He has also served on the judicial board and now has been voted the Community Council co-chair.

As co-presidents of Womxn of Color, Ariana Rios ’21  and Izzy Rivera ’21  put a substantial amount of work this year into building community and keeping the club running.They have organized many different sustained initiatives, including Gal-ery, an art show featuring artwork, music and poetry by POC, particularly female-identified. They single-handedly put on a smashing Black Pearl Ball and hosted a lunch with visiting author Emily Bernard. They also changed the name of the organization, which made it even more inclusive group. Ariana and Izzi wanted to be a part of WOC’s organizing team because, as upper-class students, they wanted to fostercommunity and create space for folks just as it had been done for them when they were in their firstyear.

Please congratulate all the winners if you have a chance!

Author Tanya Lee To Speak about Girl Rising

On Saturday, February 22, Middlebury College’s student organization Sister-to-Sister is bringing renowned author Tanya Lee Stone from 2-4 p.m. at Hillcrest 103. A professor in the Professional Writing Program at Champlain College, Stone is the author of Girl Rising, a book that accompanies and expands upon the widely popular 2013 documentary of the same name. This documentary has spawned a whole movement. Around the world, the Girl Rising organization works with local partners. It provides customized tools and curricula to build confidence and agency in girls and to change attitudes and social norms so that entire communities stand up for girls and against gender discrimination. To illustrate her talk, Stone will screen one chapter of the movie, which includes narrators such as Alicia Keys, Meryl Streep, and Kerry Washington.

Around the globe, there are 130 million girls who are not being educated. What can we do about it? According to Stone, educating girls is the single most powerful tool we have to make our world a safer, healthier, more functional place. In her talk, she will unpack the major obstacles to education, including where and why they happen and how we can easily be activists.

Sister-to-Sister’s activities are normally only targeted towards female-identified 6th graders and middle schoolers. In a first in its 15-year history, the organization is opening this event to the entire community. The group hopes that this will stimulate an intergenerational dialogue about what it means to be a girl in Addison County. In an early celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the group will provide snacks from around the world. The event is co-sponsored by MCAB, the Center for Community Engagement, and the Feminist Resource Center at Chellis House.

For further information, please contact Karin Hanta by email at khanta@middlebury.edu or by phone at (802)443-5937.

Sat., Nov. 9: Sister-to-Sister Summit

The widely successful “Sister-to-Sister” Program is hosting its fifteenth summit for female-identified students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade on Saturday, November 9 from 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Middlebury College’s Kirk Alumni Center.

“Sister-to-Sister” brings together students from Bristol, Middlebury, and Vergennes with female-identified Middlebury College students. In a one-day summit on November 9 and monthly follow-up events during the rest of the school year, the students try out new things outside of the classroom (a-capella singing, hip-hop dancing, yoga, journaling, etc.). “Sister-to-Sister” also focuses on discussions of such topics as body image, relationships, and identity. A national program originally conceived by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), “Sister-to-Sister” works to develop strategies that support female-identified students. The program recognizes that in addition to teachers and textbooks, achievement is affected by what happens in the hallways, between classes, and outside of school.  “Sister-to-Sister” strives to make a positive difference by giving a voice to the needs and interests of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The program provides a “safe space” to talk about the challenges that female-identified students face in this day and age. It enables them to develop friendships with other students, even if they don’t go to the same school. The program is supported by roughly 100 volunteers and financial sponsors such as Chellis House, Middlebury College’s Community Engagement Center, and the local branch of AAUW. “Sister-to-Sister allowed me to get involved in the Middlebury community by connecting me with fellow students, faculty, and staff members, volunteers and most importantly, middle schoolers,” says Grace Giles, a Middlebury College graduate, who was involved with the program for three years. “Every generation represented in our sisterhood is experiencing the environment we live in through a different lens. When we communicate our perspectives, our lives become so much richer.”

All events are free. Sister-to-Sister provides breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Please let us know of any food allergies. To register and reserve your attendance pack, please call Karin Hanta at 443-5937 or email khanta@middlebury.edu.

The 2019 Feminist of the Year Awards

Every year on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, the Feminist Resource Center at Chellis House celebrates all the nominees for the Feminist of the Year Award. On May 11, 2019, a large group of Chellis House friends gathered in the backyard to celebrate the strides we made during another successful school year. Integral to making these strides are the many feminist activists and knowledge producers who never tire of investing their intellectual and emotional energy towards making this world a more equitable place. After enjoying delicious treats and the poetry of GSFS major Sam Boudreau ’19, we honored the award winners. Language in Motion Coordinator Kristen Mullins garnered the prize in the staff category. Her nominator noted that “Kristen [had] devoted the past five years to promoting and deepening cultural understanding on this campus, in the local communities through her K-12 outreach, and in Japan through her Japan Summer Service Learning program. For years now she has led community-focused anti-bias response trainings. Students and staff alike have found them tremendously helpful.”

         This year, the committee decided to distinguish two professors in the faculty category. Eliza Garrison, Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, was lauded for “consistently bringing a feminist lens to her classes in the Art History department. In particular, her class ‘Medieval Bodies’ in fall 2018 analyzed how women and other (literally) marginalized people were treated in medieval art and what the social and political ramifications of these representations were.” In all of her classes, Professor Garrison makes a point “both to assign feminist analyses of works of art and to discuss misogyny and othering in art.” The other professor who won the award was Lana Povitz, Visiting Assistant Professor of History. Her nominator highlighted her ability “to craft socially conscious and relevant syllabi in all of her classes, which require students to engage with the highly political world around them, allowing no one to remain apathetic or ignorant of the issues that dictate our lives. Her assignments allow students to self implicate, explore their own narratives, and counter traditional modes of history that sustain patriarchy.”

         This year, the selection committee decided to distinguish five students with the award although many more had been nominated. Throughout their four-year career at Middlebury, Miranda de Beer ’19 and Mika Morton ’19 often engaged in activism in tandem. By conceiving the “Middlebury 5K: Steps Towards Reproductive Justice” three years ago, they created an event with staying power. The event now draws close to 100 people who learn about reproductive justice through signs on the golf course while running or walking. They expand their knowledge at t-shirt making activities after the event where the event leaders are on site to talk about reproductive justice and hand-out pamphlets. Mika and Miranda also created a template for other students to continue their effort.

         Mika and Miranda often collaborated with Toria Isquith ’19, Grace Vedock ’20 and Rebecca Wishnie ’20. Toria raised awareness about the reproductive dangers associated with the proliferation of crisis pregnancy centers that pose as health care facilities to spread misinformation about pregnancy and abortion. For her senior project with Professor Carly Thomsen, Toria developed the “Bonefish” animation series, which brings to light the realities of abortion access and lived experience for women seeking reproductive healthcare.

In addition to being an activist against sexual violence and helping establish a digital archive for feminist activism at Middlebury, Rebecca Wishnie investigated the power dynamics of the Charles Murray visit throughout the past school year. In the course, “Gender and the Making of Space,” and at the student symposium, she examined how the architecture of McCullough helped to lend an air of legitimacy to Murray’s visit. For the 2018 Student Summer Symposium, Rebecca, together with Professor Sujata Moorti, investigated state-sanctioned violence and state-sanctioned mourning by comparing the film series The Handmaid’s Tale with the Charles Murray visit.

         Over the past three years at Middlebury. Grace Vedock has demonstrated a great passion for combating sexual violence. Tirelessly collaborating with Taite Shomo ’20.5 in the “It Happens Here” speak-out, she also testified before the Vermont State Committee on Education in favor of a bill that supports victims of campus sexual assault in Vermont. Grace also is a strong advocate on behalf of all queer students who were affected by this voices contesting their humanity on this campus.

         Please congratulate all the winners when you see them.

Caption: 2019 Feminists of the Year Toria Isquith ’19, Miranda de Beer ’19, Professor Lana Povitz, Grace Vedock ’20, and Mika Morton ’19. Not pictured: Professor Eliza Garrison, Language in Motion Coordinator Kristen Mullins, and Rebecca Wishnie ’10.

Sister-to-Sister Summit on November 10!

The widely successful “Sister-to-Sister” Program is hosting its fourteenth summit for middle school girls on Saturday, November 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Middlebury College’s Chellis House. “Sister-to-Sister” brings together middle school girls from Bristol, Middlebury and Vergennes with female Middlebury College students. In a one-day summit and monthly follow-up events during the rest of the school year, the students develop activities that encourage girls to try new things outside of the classroom (art, music, dancing, yoga, journaling, etc.). “Sister-to-Sister” also focuses on discussions of such topics as body image, relationships, and identity. A national program originally conceived by the American Association of University Women, “Sister-to-Sister” works to develop strategies that support girls. The program recognizes that in addition to teachers and textbooks, achievement is affected by what happens in the hallways, between classes, and even outside of school.  “Sister-to-Sister” strives to make a positive difference by giving a voice to the needs and interests of middle school girls. The program provides a “safe space” to talk about the challenges that girls face in this day and age. It enables girls to develop friendships with other girls, even if they don’t go to the same school. The program is supported by roughly 100 volunteers and financial sponsors such as Chellis House, Middlebury College’s Community Engagement Center, and private donors. “Sister-to-Sister allowed me to get involved in the Middlebury community by connecting me with fellow students, faculty and staff members, volunteers and most importantly, middle school girls,” says Grace Giles, a Middlebury College graduate, who was involved with the program for three years. “Every generation represented in our sisterhood is experiencing the environment we live in through a different lens. When we communicate our perspectives, our lives become so much richer.”

All events are free. Sister-to-Sister provides breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Please let us know of any food allergies. To register, please call Karin Hanta at 443-5937 or email khanta@middlebury.edu.

Sister-to-Sister Gal-o-ween on October 27

Middlebury College’s Sister-to-Sister program invites all middle school girls for a “Gal-o-ween” on Saturday, October 27, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Chellis House. We’ll decorate Halloween treats, make masks, and write our own ghost stories.

Please also mark your calendars for our annual summit on Saturday, November 10 from 9 to 4 p.m., which features various workshops (dance, yoga, STEAM science projects) and discussion groups.

Both events are free and include snacks (October 27) and breakfast and lunch (November 10)! To sign up, contact Karin Hanta at 443-5937 or khanta@middlebury.edu