Courtesy of the Yale College Council
To commemorate Women’s History Month, the Yale College Council has been focusing its efforts this March on amplifying the voices of women at Yale.
The Women’s Affinity Network of the YCC organized the Spotlighting Yale Women initiative, a social media campaign that seeks to feature the work of female artists at Yale, give Yale women a platform to speak about their individual experiences through social media and spread information about women’s history, both at Yale and in general. The initiative will continue throughout March and is hosted on the YCC’s instagram page.
“In celebration of Women’s History Month, we have turned our attention to spotlighting the work of women at Yale and beyond,” President of the YCC Aliesa Bahri ’22 told the News. “From giving away free books about the stories and journeys of Yale women to creating infographics highlighting the achievements of women, we have been working to honor this legacy of women before us.”
The Women’s Affinity Network, which Bahri founded in 2019, focuses on supporting women within the YCC and, more broadly, uplifting women at Yale. According to Bahri, the network’s initiatives have ranged from a campuswide mentorship program with the Women’s Leadership Initiative to internal events aimed at facilitating community among women in YCC.
Bayan Galal ’23, a Grace Hopper senator and the current chair of the Women’s Affinity Network, said that while the initiative is currently focused on social media, the Women’s Affinity Network is open to expanding it further, using other avenues of the YCC to spread awareness about the initiative.
“The Women’s Affinity Network has been working on a lot of initiatives to ensure that the work of women in YCC, women at Yale and women in general is highlighted,” Galal said. “There are so many talented [female] creators at Yale, and Women’s History Month felt like an ideal time to spotlight the many incredible [female] creators we have here.”
According to Galal, a primary objective of the initiative is to use the reach of the YCC “to spotlight the work of [female] creators,” broadening the audiences of female artists at Yale. Currently, female artists at Yale can be nominated or can nominate themselves online to be included in the Women Creators Spotlight Series.
The Women’s Affinity Network sought to approach this initiative “with an intersectional lens,” Bahri said, focusing in particular on the work of women from historically underrepresented groups.
“This [initiative] is especially relevant because for far too long, the work of women, and especially BIPOC women, has been either undermined or underrepresented,” Galal said. “It’s incredibly important for us to bring the work of [female] creators to the forefront and highlight their incredible contributions.”
According to Bahri, part of this emphasis on intersectionality included an effort led by YCC Accessibility and Disability Chair and Disability Affinity Network leader Joaquín Lara Midkiff ’24 to feature the work of women with disabilities. It also included a push from Sustainability co-Chair Katie Schlick ’22, to feature the work of alumnae in the field of sustainability.
Intersectionality was also a priority for YCC Cultural and Religious co-Chair Zahra Yarali ’24, who led a takeover of YCC social media on March 11.
“Many institutions of higher education need to consistently reckon with how movements for gender equality have brought us to where we are now, a place of progress, definitely, but also a place where we need to focus on issues such as gender equity as well, especially when also considering how race and queerness also intersect within individuals who are tied in some way to the identity of femme/womanhood,” Yarali wrote in an email to the News. “In social spheres that are historically (and to some extent still inherently) cishet, eurocentric, and patriarchal, simply the act of reclaiming space and shining under the spotlight is a powerful and courageous act.”
Bahri said that the broader ambitions of the initiative extend beyond Women’s History Month, and that YCC is committed to highlighting the work of women throughout the rest of her term.
Berkeley Senator and Deputy Equity Director Zoe Hsu ’24, who said that she felt inspired by the women, and especially women of color, in the YCC this year, thought the initiative was an important step toward uplifting women in spaces traditionally occupied by men.
“The reality is that gender inequality and sexism still exist,” Hsu said. “Women still feel obligated to prove their worth to others. That is why representation matters. Something as simple as spotlighting can provide inspiration and hope for other women.”
In April, according to Bahri, the YCC plans to shift its focus to celebrating Earth Month.
Lucy Hodgman | firstname.lastname@example.org