Abortion rights, sexual assault and media misrepresentation were some of the issues that were addressed last night when nine student organizations came together in a joint effort to support women’s rights.
The fair, organized by Students For Choice, was held to mark National Young Women’s Day of Action. LSA junior Erin Stringfellow said the day commemorates the death of Rosie Jim�nez, one of the first known women to die from an illegal abortion after Congress passed the Hyde Amendment in 1977, which denied women federal funding for abortions.
Stringfellow, an executive board member of Students For Choice, went on to explain the main purpose of the national event. “The day itself is about raising awareness about the issues that women face, and what it means to be a feminist,” she said.
Another abortion advocacy group in attendance was MARAL Pro-Choice Michigan, a branch of the national organization NARAL Pro-Choice America. Members of the group said their main goal was to get people interested in joining a march on Washington. “Our big thing is registering people for the march for women’s rights to reproductive freedom,” said University alum Christina Kuo, a NARAL coordinator.
The march, set to take place April 25, is being organized by the four largest women’s-rights organizations in the nation. “We want to send a strong message to the president and Congress that we won’t stand for the loss of our reproductive freedoms,” Kuo said.
Congress last week passed legislation banning an abortion procedure that its opponents call partial-birth abortion. President Bush is expected to sign the bill.
The fair also addressed domestic violence and sexual assault. V-day, the student organization most-known for its production of the The Vagina Monologues, advocated granting clemency to women who have been put in prison for killing their abusive husbands. The Clemency Project, a statewide effort, especially focuses on women who were convicted before domestic-violence laws were implemented.
Amnesty International focused on awareness of rape, using live monologues to get its point across. “We’ve been studying rape awareness on campus, within the state of Michigan and internationally, and we’ve noticed that rape is used as a form of ethnic cleansing and torture for war-crimes in many countries,” said RC sophomore and Amnesty International member Ashwini Hardikar. “People don’t normally think about rape as a form of torture,” she said.
Also present was the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, which features a 24-hour crisis line that is staffed by volunteers. The organization’s main focus, according to LSA junior Lindsay Jolley, is “getting the word out about sexual violence, how it can be prevented and providing support for survivors.”
The media was a point of passion for the groups in attendance as well. The University Media Awareness Coalition focused on the way women are portrayed in print media. Its table was adorned with displays of advertisements featuring women that the group felt were degrading to women.
“UMAC tries to dissect messages magazines are selling to women from ages 18 to 35, particularly college women,” LSA sophomore Anne Cassard said.
The organization encourages women to send in the publications’ subscription forms, free of postage, stating how the ads in question make them feel.
The event took place in the Pendleton Room on the second floor of the Michigan Union.