Monday, May 14, 2018

Internship with IMPACT Chicago: Connecting Women’s and Gender Studies and IMPACT

Much of my  internship with IMPACT Chicago has been  spent archiving the organization’s physical documents and photos. I appreciate being able to look back over a 30-year span and see the paper trail of the organization’s labor and dedication because it really gives me a fuller understanding of the organization. I have seen everything from grant proposals, instructional manuals, and conference presentations.One conference presentation  was on media portrayals of violence and implications for self-defense. Alena Schaim, Resolve (IMPACT in New Mexico) and Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago, analyzed popular media images and advertisements, examined assumptions underlying rape myths, and then reframed the images of violence, in order to challenge what the media makers (patriarchy) want us to believe and do. Violent images in the media do not only affect women, but they also influence men’s understanding of masculinity.
In the fall of 2017, I took a violence against women course, Just-321, and this conference presentation on Media  reminded me of an article we discussed by Quinn, 2002, “Sexual Harassment and Masculinity.” In the text they introduced the concept of “girl watching,” which is the phenomenon where a man or men come together to examine women for sexual gratification and humiliation. While they examined this concept in the workplace regarding the relationship between women and male supervisors, it can also be seen in various aspects of daily life through the media. Quinn stated, “Men see harmless flirtation or sexual interest rather than harassment because they misperceive women's intent and responses,” (p.389). We continue to find that, compared to women, men are less likely to define an act as being sexual harassment or violent in nature, and Quinn proposed that when women say, “men don’t get it,” there is actual truth behind these statements. Men do not understand women’s experiences due to the differences in their early socialization and their performative requirements of masculinity. Men tend to lack empathy for women because they lack the need to identity with women’s experiences, due to the male privilege granted upon them by the patriarchy. Men participate in girl watching because it affirms stereotypical-masculine behavior, and the dominant culture uses media subtext to normalizes images of gender-based violence.
          This  internship is aligned with my Women’s and Gender Studies program because it is offering me other tools that I can utilize when challenging hegemony. IMPACT is showing me how not just women in the rest of the world are resisting and creating change, but also how women in my own community are. I have also learned, for as long as IMPACT Chicago has been around, it is only one small branch of an even larger tree. I believe that IMPACT most identifies with third wave feminism because they practice intersectionality. IMPACT is inclusive of woman across all aspects of gender, race, class, and has also expanded their curriculum to create safe, healthy, and informed communities for women with disabilities. Their organization is a non-profit and has 10 chapters in the U.S. and two internationally, in the U.K. and in Israel, and are currently seeking to further expand globally. I believe they are also third wave because they rely on technology and social media outlets to form connectedness, in order to remain at the forefront of current research regarding violence against women, as well as advocating for women’s rights.

Stephanie Elyse Paredes, IMPACT Chicago Intern, Spring 2018
Quinn, B.A. (2002). Sexual harassment and masculinity: The power and meaning of “girl watching.” Gender & Society, 16 (3), 386-402.

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