Symposium Helps Women Find Voice

Kelly Pien, Editor-in-Chief

Helping students “find their voices,” the 2nd annual Women’s Symposium was held on May 14 in the library.

35 female students and 1 male student attended the event, which was organized by the Women’s Awareness on Campus (WAC) club and featured a meditation exercise, small group discussions on over-apologizing, a reflective writing activity organized by the Orinda Intuitive Writing Project, a musical performance by senior Betty Galindo, a student presentation about feminism in music, and a keynote discussion with California assemblywoman Catharine Baker.

“The purpose of the women’s symposium is we want to give students, men and women – because we do have men who come to our club regularly – to explore the differences that exist and how they go about being in the world. And to just give a chance for a lot of girls here at Campo how being a girl, a woman, a young person and how that impacts their experience,” said WAC adviser and history teacher Lindsay Webb-Peploe.

This year’s symposium theme was “Finding Your Voice”.

According to WAC adviser Molly Kerr, the theme was inspired by a quote from elderly rights activist Maggie Kuhn: “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”

“It’s an all-inclusive theme, and we wanted to have a broad enough statement that it would encompass a lot of different things. And so we thought finding your voice. So there’s self-expression in Drama. There’s self-expression in music. There’s self-expression in politics,” said WAC student leader Lauren Raff.

In comparison to last year’s teacher-and parent-driven Women’s Symposium, this year’s was student-centered. According to Webb-Peploe, the WAC club did not exist last year. The club leaders came out of last year’s symposium, and so Webb-Peploe called it a “natural outgrowth” for the students to take over key roles in planning the symposium.

“It was basically student-run, but with organizational help from Ms. [Diana] Obrand and Ms. Webb-Peploe and Ms. Kerr,” said Raff.

“I think it’s really powerful for students to see their peers leading them, and they got to do that in all different ways,” Webb-Peploe said.

According to Raff, the symposium was “specifically targeted towards women, but it’s for people in general.” Only 1 boy, senior Tenshi Lucasey, attended.

Raff said, “This was only the 2nd one, so as time goes on I do hope more guys show up, but if they don’t, I’m completely happy with the group we have.”

The symposium began with a “centering” activity led by seniors Calli Cunningham and Hannah Ross.

“The idea behind centering and yoga and mindfulness is that you find your voice when you’re centered in your body,” said Kerr.

“We did a lot of breathing exercises and we did Savasana at the end, so it was a nice break where you could just shut your eyes and reflect on the beginning of the women’s symposium,” explained Ross. “I think just sitting in silence with your eyes closed, you have a moment to think about yourself and how you find your voice and how others find their voice and how they inspire you to do stuff.”

Next, students watched a sketch by the comedienne Amy Schumer about how women over-apologize, which was followed by small group discussions led by WAC student leaders about the clip and the ways in which students found their voices at school, and in friendships, family, and their extracurricular activities.

For instance, Kerr said, women have a tendency to say, “‘Oh sorry, did I tell you I was going to meet with you today.’ Or ‘Oh gosh, I’m sorry I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“It’s almost like a filler in the way in which women speak and the argument being that women, in a way, dismiss themselves when they apologize too much,” Kerr added.

“I think the purpose of the Women’s Symposium this year is to educate women about self-expression in any form, and I think it’s a necessary thing to have because a lot of us, especially at this school, have an issue with being apologetic for things we shouldn’t be, and it’s just like educating us on how we should act and if we want something, to go for it,” said Raff.

The discussion was followed by an activity led by a representative from the Intuitive Writing Project, a program that advocates using writing to express emotions. “They talked about how it’s really healthy for women to get their emotions down on paper because that’s the healthy way to express different emotions. We talked and the thing she told us to do was write a letter to someone that you wish you could have said, that you wanted say to them. I chose 1 of my teachers and I wrote all about it, and sometimes I feel like this and this and this. And it was very healthy and we shared it in our breakout groups and it was nice.”

Following the lunch break, Raff and senior Sarah Santaguida gave a presentation about feminism in music. Galindo sang Colbie Caillat’s song “Try”, which discusses body image issues.

The symposium concluded with senior Tal Shoshan and junior Lydia Hancock interviewing Baker. “We had her not come in to give her platform – she’s running for reelection – but instead how was it that she found her voice, going back to high school and college and her life as a lawyer, and parent volunteer, and subsequently as a politician,” explained Kerr.

Webb-Peploe said that she was happy with the breadth of activities offered at this year’s symposium and the positive feedback from it.

“When you have a better understanding of yourself and finding your own voice, it allows you to enter the world in a positive sphere and hopefully in a more empowered way. Not that we’re proposing that there’s 1 way to speak or there’s 1 way to be actively involved, but it spilled into that awareness that you bring that self-confidence to there in whatever public activity you become involved in, or public pursuit,” Kerr said.

“I really think it’s good to have a Women’s Symposium because it brings more awareness to the actual fact that we want women to be more courageous and empowered and that was the theme for today,” said freshman attendee Mia Asunscion. “So I really think that really opened girls’ minds’ and also our 1 guy to be more assertive and say what you want to say.”