January 23, 2019

BLOG: Gender+ Justice Initiative Holds Third Annual Colloquium

On November 9, 2018, the Gender+ Justice Initiative (GJI) hosted their third annual Gender Justice Colloquium. The event brought together faculty from Georgetown’s Main, Medical, and Law campuses to share their research surrounding gender justice. The daylong event included three panels: #MeToo and Women in the Workplace, Intersectionality: Gender+, and Access to Health and Justice.

Audience members gather for the colloquium in Riggs Library. Photo courtesy of the Gender Justice Initiative.
Audience members gather for the colloquium in Riggs Library. Photo courtesy of the Gender Justice Initiative.

Gender Justice in the United States

The majority of the speakers at the colloquium focused on American injustices related to gender and myriad other inequities, including issues of race, health care, and economic justice.

Race

Rebecca Epstein, the executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and Grace Sullivan Buker, adjunct lecturer in the Department of Linguistics, discussed the “adultification” of black girls, specifically in relation to the way they are viewed in the legal system. Buker spoke on the Trayvon Martin case and the discrediting of Rachel Jeantel’s testimony. Epstein examined school discipline, pushout rates, and unequal representation of black girls in the juvenile justice system. The panelists concluded that black girls’ bodies are hypersexualized, which leads to them being perceived as adult women at a younger age. This perception creates unfair expectations of maturity and the discrediting of their voices. Their research really highlighted the injustices towards black women.

Health Care

Jennifer Bouey analyzed the current literature on health care access for the transgender populations, particularly those who are low-income and, therefore, less likely to have access to and seek medical treatment. This subject explored the intersectionality of gender identity, sexuality, economic justice, and health in a way that highlighted the Gender+ Justice Initiative’s emphasis on the interconnectedness of all issues of justice.

Sonia Francone shared her research on access to contraceptives and abortion care, particularly for adolescent females. Each state has different policies in place in terms of parental consent, and availability to any resources at all varies depending on a woman’s location in the country. She presented a case for telemedicine as a way to make these services more available to girls who need them. This topic seems particularly pertinent on Georgetown’s campus, where the availability of contraceptives is opaque and uneven due to its Catholic affiliation.

Economy

Lane Windham, associate director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, and Kristen Tiscione, a professor at the Law Center, both discussed women in the workforce and the intersectionality of gender with economic justice. They also examined the issue of gender equality in professional opportunities. Windham talked about the history of women’s labor movements as well as the beginnings of recognizing and labeling sexual harassment, specifically in the workplace. Tiscione highlighted the pay gap as well as the gender segregation within careers.

Lisa Singh, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, and Law Center professors Jamillah Williams and Naomi Mezey spoke on their research that has revealed the overwhelming prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, especially in male-dominated industries. They call on the need for legal changes that provide greater protection for women when they are at work. While they recognized the need for cultural and social changes in the acceptability of harassment, they argued that changing the laws is a good first step in improving the work environment for women.


Panelists discussing women in the workplace.  Photo courtesy of the Gender Justice Initiative.
Panelists discussing women in the workplace. Photo courtesy of the Gender Justice Initiative.

International Gender Justice

On the international scale, Rogaia Abusharaf, Jennifer Klugman, and Matthew Moore spoke on their respective global research.

Abusharaf, a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar, discussed her research on female circumcision in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her talk drew connections to the earlier discussions on health and gender justice. She spoke specifically on the intersection of gender, culture and tradition norms related to female circumcision, women’s health, and the more general role of nationality. 

Klugman is the managing director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security (GIWPS) and Matthew Moore is GIWPS’s Hillary Rodham Clinton Law Fellow. They discussed intimate partner violence in conflict-affected states. Their research on the topic highlighted the clear correlation between conflict settings and prevalence of domestic violence. Many aspects of conflict facilitate and perpetuate violence inside the home, evidenced by the case studies of Liberia and Afghanistan referenced in the talk. The elimination of this injustice must focus on changing the social norms around intimate partner violence as well as the prioritization of the implementation of laws on domestic violence. Their research showed that the majority of fragile and conflict-affected states do not have laws against domestic violence. This correlation indicates a cycle of violence that is often self-reinforcing.

Technology and Gender Justice

The potential for technology as a way to study, advocate for, and aid gender justice was touched upon by multiple speakers.

Singh, Williams, and Mezey highlighted their research being done in collaboration with the Gender+ Justice Initiative. They analyzed the use of #MeToo on Twitter in relation to major social and political gender-related events, and the conversation that seemed to follow by analyzing what other words were used with the hashtag. It shaped their conclusions on where sexual harassment is most prevalent and how changes could be made. The integrative research between Singh, Williams, and Mezey displayed the cross-campus collaboration that this colloquium hoped to encourage.

Sonia Francone is medical student at Georgetown whose research has shown that telemedicine has the power to improve access to contraception for girls. Francone’s work displays the possibilities of technology in changing access to health care for women who may otherwise be unable to access care due to their age, their distance from a clinic, or state policies.  

The colloquium meaningfully reflected the Gender+ Justice Initiative’s mission to explore the intersectionality of gender justice with race, class, sexuality, health, and nationality. The research presented the work undertaken across Georgetown’s campuses. In bringing all these gender advocates and experts together, the initiative hopes to foster new research and inspire more collaboration in the Georgetown community and beyond.  

This post was prepared by Allie Frei (C'19) as part of the HoyasForShe Student Fellowship.