Darder shares struggles with ULV

Professing the need for women to stop internalizing the beliefs and values of male dominated society, Antonia Darder, professor at Claremont Graduate School, spoke Tuesday about women's social, economic and personal issues. She emphasized the everyday injustices that work against women's own interests. / photo by Lauren Wooding
Professing the need for women to stop internalizing the beliefs and values of male dominated society, Antonia Darder, professor at Claremont Graduate School, spoke Tuesday about women’s social, economic and personal issues. She emphasized the everyday injustices that work against women’s own interests. / photo by Lauren Wooding

by Alisha Rosas
Editor in Chief

Born in Puerto Rico when free-sterilization clinics were promoted to regulate the overpopulated islands, a woman’s journey began.

At age 6, she was molested. By age 20, she had already given birth to three children. Her history clearly tells one of struggle.

However, what makes Antonia Darder, a professor of education from the Claremont Graduate School, different than most people, is her desire to share her history with other people.

Speaking in Founders Auditorium on Tuesday, she addressed the University of La Verne community with, “Women on the Edge: The Illusive Search for Freedom and Equality” in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

“Today many women seem to be living on the edge, and what I mean by that is, we are endlessly searching for a sense of freedom and control of our lives. We are constantly juggling to be good mothers, good workers, good lovers-we try to do it all because there is a sense that to be as capable as a man, we have to do it all,” she said.

Darder addressed many issues that she believed molded women’s history. She discussed how a change in societies from agricultural to industrial affected women’s work from that of being physical to practical. “We could be nurses, teachers of small children or we could join the nunnery,” she said.

“We have struggled politically, culturally and spiritually throughout history to achieve a place in society that really matters,” she said.

Darder, who has had nine books published regarding cultural differences and diversity topics, said that women have the ability to take control of their own lives despite the many responsibilities women have, including parenting and being a part of the workforce.

She noted how interesting it is to see a man have custody over his children while balancing a career. “I hear the conversations,” she said, “about how he is taking care of the kids and working, and I want to say, ‘Hey, where have you been?’ Women have been doing this forever and a day.”

Darder said that she believes that the struggle women have to obtain equality also centers around society’s patriarchal rule, which she said revolves around the expectation that women serve only as the primary caregiver to children, the aged or the sick.

Using statistics regarding sexual and violent abuse toward women, Darder said she believes that by living in a male-dominated society that many women are told in different ways that they are inferior to men and must serve as their property.

“[Each year] 1.2 million women are forcibly raped by someone they know. Also 2 to 4 million are battered yearly,” she said. “Hence, women are often victims of violence at the hands of the very people who claim to love them.”

Darder said she believed that with such figures there should be no question regarding why women have a “collective legacy of distrust” for men along with an incredible amount of rage for the opposite sex.

This too, she said, ties in with having control over one’s life. “[It used to be] that women who sought to control their own lives were perceived as ‘queer’ or ‘lunatic’ or in some cases, during earlier times, were burned at the stake,” she said. “I would suggest that even in more contemporary times, [that] burning at the stake occurs in much more subtle and much more sophisticated ways.”

However, Darder did emphasize her notice for the changes made throughout history. She shared her theory regarding women receiving the right to vote in 1919.

“It has been less than 100 years since women have been able to vote,” she said. “Our men were involved in the first great war [World War I] when we were granted the right to vote. That [war] changed perceptions and loosened rules. They needed women in the workplace then.

“Yes, things may have improved, or maybe they just seem to improve, but in terms of the degrees of separation in respect to the power that men yield in society and that women yield in society-what we find is that men have a lot more power than women [do].”

She spoke on salary differences based on gender. “Today women earn 60-70 percent of what men earn, even when the women have the same amount of education or level of experience as the men,” she said.

Darder also noted how religion takes on an important role for women in how they live their lives. She asked her audience to visualize the difference for men to believe that the religious deity is a male, and then to turn it around to imagine how it is for women to believe that the supreme being is a male. “How different would it be,” she asked, “if women could even begin to believe that the supreme deity is feminine?

“We would have a different world,” she said.

Darder discussed modern problems that affect today’s woman. She gave examples of how “so-called” women’s magazines did more damage then good to their female readers.

“Women in advertisements are depicted as seductive, as sex objects. This brings a typical belief that to be sexy, is to be a bad girl. But the bad girl image is only encouraged by men and then is sold big time in our society, which creates an even greater confusion to growing young girls,” she said.

Darder also said that she cannot comprehend how so many women in the United States suffer from eating disorders.

“Women in the United States suffer more today from eating disorders than ever before despite this abundance of food. There is food everywhere,” she said.

Darder said that changes in women’s physical appearances started forming in the 1960s.

“If you go back and begin to look at the images of women, what you will see is that the beautiful feminine body that used to be more voluptuous, began to resemble a more child-like appearance,” she said, naming Brooke Shields and the model Twiggy as examples.

She said that women have been given the wrong types of visuals to relate to in regard to how their bodies should look. “If Marilyn Monroe lived today, she would be out there trying to lose weight because she would be considered ‘too fat’ by the film industry,” she said.

She progressed from body image differences between men and women to that of aging.

“Aging is a complete double standard between men and women,” she said. Darder then gave a scenario regarding a man who may be seen dating a woman 30 years younger than he is and a woman in the same situation. “We will go out of our way to justify a man dating a younger woman. Either, he is a great lover or she is really smart. But when a woman is dating a man 30 years her junior, then we start imagining her being 70 and him being 40.”

Darder also said that when a man’s gets older, he matures instead of ages. “When a man goes gray, he appears more powerful. When a woman goes gray, she goes through an entire identity crisis.

“This should makes us think about our politics and what we are going to be in the world as women and as we get older. What will be our contribution and how are we going to challenge and resist the dehumanizing attitude about who we are, so that we get to choose to be seen as human beings in this world,” she said.

Plastic surgery and cosmetics in regard to appearances is another problem Darder has with women in today’s society.

“Women spend millions of dollars on cosmetics, weight-loss programs and clothes we do not need,” she said.

She does, however, recognize the difficulty one must face in being content with oneself.

“It takes enormous courage to let ourselves be full-human beings,” she said.

Darder said that women need to find their inner strength to overcome the struggles in their lives. She said that she believes that relationships play a role in this. “We carry dreams for our children and we carry those dreams inside of us. We must begin to put them out and teach the men. Otherwise, we will refuse to have relationships with men who strip us of our dignity. Because we will begin to stand up for ourselves, and we will stop abandoning ourselves, because when we abandon ourselves, what we are doing essentially is participating in our own repression.”

Daniel Loera, director of Multicultural Affairs for the Institute for Multicultural Research and Campus Diversity (IMRCD) said he was pleased with Darder’s chosen topics and overall speech.

“She reawakened us to things we, at one time, were aware of, but forgot. She called us back to what is going on around us,” he said.

Neal Houska, sophomore broadcasting major, said that he was not impacted by Darder’s speech. “I already knew about the differences in women and men’s salaries,” he said. “It’s not right that it is that way.

“She was very passionate about what she was talking about,” he said. “I was not that touched, but that’s probably because I am a man, but she could give hope to other women.”

After Darder’s speech, everyone in attendance was invited to attend an all-school luncheon in Davenport Dining Hall.

Representatives for Project Sister, the House of Ruth and Big Sisters of Los Angeles were also at hand during lunch to distribute information about each of the organizations.

Darder’s speech was made possible through combined efforts by IMRCD, the Office of the President and the Associated Students Federation (ASF) Forum, in collaboration with different organizations throughout campus.

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