Islanders Focus on Historical Struggle, Celebrate Cultural Gains During Women’s History Month

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Over the course of 10 virtual events and two in-person luncheons, Islanders celebrated Women’s History Month in March with a mix of thought-provoking presentations, a panel discussion, and a Netflix Watch Party, to name a few.

The schedule was organized by the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program co-coordinators Dr. Lisa Comparini, associate professor of psychology; Dr. Beth Robinson, assistant professor of history; Dr. Jennifer Sorensen, associate professor of English; and Dr. Jarred Wiehe, assistant professor of English.

The kickoff luncheon, hosted by the Islander Cultural Alliance, featured a keynote address by Islander alumna Alyssa Barrera Mason ’10, ’12, executive director of the Corpus Christi Downtown Management District.

“I come from women who have faced overwhelming odds,” she said. “These women gave me the confidence to do the things I do every single day, and hopefully you can look back and think on your life as well and recognize those women who have had that kind of impact on your life.”

On March 3, Dr. Larisa Veloz, assistant professor of History at The University of Texas, El Paso, gave a virtual presentation called “Courageous Crossings: Women, Gender, and the U.S.-Mexico Border 1910-1950.” In her talk, Veloz addressed how Mexican women navigated cross-border migration to the Southwest in the 1920s, the repatriations of the 1930s, and the re-ordered and gendered migration regime of the 1940s and 1950s.

“The students in our Intro to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies course were particularly impressed by Dr. Veloz’s focus on the specific barriers to entry leveraged against women and the rich materials she gathered from the archives,” the co-coordinators said.

The next virtual lecture was “Shaman Aesthetics: Accessing el Cenote through Andrea Muñoz Martinez’s Art” by Dr. Sara Ramírez, Assistant Professor of English at Texas State University.

Ramírez’s work is based on her contention that settler-colonialism has created “subjects of trauma.” In her presentation, Ramirez discussed various forms of trauma, or soul wounds, as she centers the work of visual and performance artist Andrea Muñoz Martinez.  

The next event was a virtual panel titled Poets and Writers on Our Health: The Socio-Political, which featured five contributors to the fifth volume of Switchgrass Review: a Literary Journal of Health and Transformation.

ICA held its first Netflix Watch Party for Women’s History Month on March 18, which was co-sponsored by I-TEAM. Participants screened “Feminists: What Were They Thinking?” The 2018 documentary checks back in with cultural icons such as Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin who were featured in a 1977 book embracing feminism.

Graduate student Danielle Gonzales said she was able to enjoy the experience despite the virtual format.

 “We were still able to engage with one another throughout the film through the chat feature,” she said.

On Saturday, March 20, Dr. Jarred Wiehe and English major/WGST minor Brittany Maxey co-hosted a Twitch stream, "Women's Gaming and Cultural Critique: Horizon Zero Dawn and Sci-Fi Genders.” Along with the chat, they theorized flipping the script on gendered narratives, how gameplay might be a form of gendered pedagogy, and questioned how speculative fictions open up possibilities for revising relationships to sex, bodies, and gendered norms. Maybe Horizon's imagination is more limiting than it looks on the surface, they said. There were 28 unique viewers who tuned in across the hour-ish stream and conversation-a good turn out for a Saturday stream during midterms, the co-coordinators said. 

The last of three virtual lectures was held on March 29. Dr. Crystal Webster, assistant professor of African American History at The University of Texas, San Antonio, shared her research on the “History and Legacy of Black Childhood in America,” which is the basis of her book “Beyond The Boundaries of Childhood: African American Children in the Antebellum North.”

In her talk, Webster said that some of the daunting challenges African American children face – inequities in education, criminal justice, and popular culture – stem from a history of racism and violence. 

Women’s History Month ended with an in-person gathering co-sponsored by ICA and I-TEAM called “Be-YOU-tiful Brunch” on March 31. At the event, Dr. Lisa Perez, assistant vice president for Student Life, shared candid details about her struggle with self-confidence as a light-skinned Mexican-American female teenager growing up in South Texas

“It really wasn’t until college life that I began to expand my knowledge and build confidence in who I truly was,” Perez said during her keynote address. “I became more self-aware of the importance of my heritage, more aware of what I can bring and offer to others in my lived experiences as a minority woman, and made it a passion of mine to seek out different minority perspectives from others so that they could provide guidance and awareness to areas in which I lacked.”

The brunch also included a guided awareness exercise that was led by Director of the University Counseling Center Dr. Theresa Sharpe, a highlight for kinesiology major Kayce Esquivel-Garcia.

“I enjoyed having time to relax and not think about anything – because there’s a lot on my plate,” Esquivel-Garcia said. “I also thought Dr. Perez’s keynote was very empowering. I come from a similar background – I’m Hispanic and faced a lot of the same difficulties she did – but my mom always instilled in me that I’m beautiful, I’m me, no one else can change me, and I have my own voice. It made me realize that I do love myself.”