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Hamilton women find strength to “Speak Out”

By Shannon O’Brien ’15

April 25, 2013

In her opening remarks at the Women Speak Out this Tuesday, Claire Carusillo ’13 set the tone for the evening by stating that it would not be a night for apologies or suppression, but a night for women to speak aloud, telling their stories without shame or inhibition. The night certainly proved to embody the strength, energy and diversity of Hamilton women.

The Women Speak Out event began four years ago as part of a senior thesis and has been carried on by senior women’s studies majors. Carusillo participated in the Speak Out during her sophomore year, and her experience made her realize the importance of expressing oneself as a woman on campus. She said, “that night [two years ago] sort of cemented a lot of things for me: that if I continued to read my work in a public venue, Hamilton women (and men) are not stingy when it comes to giving their support.”

When she found out that no senior was leading the Speak Out this year, Carusillo “volunteered on the spot” and began recruiting women to share their stories. Carusillo emphasized, however, that “Women Speak Out did not represent every person on campus.” While she admitted to having anxiety-ridden dreams over the perfection of the overall event, in her opening remarks at the Speak Out, Carusillo made the point that all of the individual performers were perfect.

The women expressed themselves in a variety of ways, ranging from slam poetry to the reading of diary-like emails. Their stories were also told in a range of tones, reflecting subject matter that was either humorous or serious, or perhaps a mix of the two. The women were at once reflective, provocative and entertaining as they wove their stories. Admiring the bravery of her performers, Carusillo reflected that the “night was about trust.”

Along with trust, honesty seemed to be an overarching theme of the night: the stories were raw and perhaps uncomfortable to hear, as women told stories of their first experiences having sex, their insecurities with their bodies and their surviving of sexual assault. No matter how serious or not-so-serious each woman’s story was, the audience responded with a roaring applause, demonstrating the Hamilton community’s support of all the issues women spoke out about.

Abigail Noy ’15 articulated this theme of honesty when she explained during her Speak Out that “Confidence is a beautiful thing, but when it’s fake it just eats you up inside.” Through sharing their stories, the women shattered preconceptions about their identities in order to reveal their genuine selves to the audience. They expressed their opinions candidly and unashamedly. During her Speak Out, Wynn Van Dusen ’15 said, “I’ve grown to resent the phrase ‘losing my virginity.’ It’s not something you lose—it’s not a Hillcard.”

In her Speak Out entitled “Open Letter to a ‘Nice Guy,’” Allie Kerper ’15 broke down notions of masculinity and chivalry, playfully but honestly stating, “Refusing to walk through the door I hold for you makes you a prick.” She added later on in her poem, “You said I didn’t owe you anything and I am telling you now that I don’t!” Such stories of female empowerment were met with cheers and whoops from the audience.

Stories of female degradation were equally compelling and moving. Jasmina Hodzic ’13 spoke about the rape of Muslim women during the Bosnian genocide of the 1990s. Her Speak Out emphasized the significant position that women hold as “the backbone” of societies. She stated that modern wars are no longer fought over land; rather, “there is a war being fought on the bodies of women.”

The women also shared stories and thoughts of having a racial, ethnic, class, or sexual identity that made them feel marked as different and perhaps inferior. Each story revealed the speaker’s individual search for identity, and how such a search has been transformative and essential to shaping her identity as a woman today. As Dr. Elizabeth Lee, Assistant Professor of Sociology, expressed, “We’re all trying to learn to be together but not the same.” The Speak Out showcased the individuality of the women speakers while also uniting all women at Hamilton through the empowering act of open, honest words.

Thank you to the following Hamilton women for sharing their powerful stories this past Tuesday: Liz Amster, Arianne Bergman, Zoë Bodzas, Adja Drame, Jess Gutfleish, Jasmina Hodzic, Ada Horne, Julia Jarrold, Allie Kerper, Dr. Elizabeth Lee, Crystal Kim, Abigail Noy, Isabel Oskwarek, Anna Paikert, Virginia Savage, Micah Stimson, Wynn Van Dusen, Ashley Vanicek, Emma Wilkinson and Kailee Williams.

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