Remley REST Center Hosts Best-Attended Women’s Conference to Date
Students, faculty and staff members applaud the “Your Story Matters” video. PHOTO BY JIM MALVEN.
BY STEFANIE EGGLESTON
STAFF WRITER AND SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR
Presentations on ethical porn, “The Vaginal Monologues,” female composers in the Baroque Era and many other topics took place at the Remley Women’s Conference last Thursday in Mueller Student Center.
This year’s conference was the best attended women’s conference to date, according to Remley REST Center Co-Adviser Dr. Cinnamon Brown, who has helped plan every Remley Women’s Conference.
A Women’s Leadership Conference was first held at Westminster in 2003, and in 2012 an event to celebrate Women’s History Month was started. In 2014, these events were brought together in honor of retired Westminster professor Audrey Remley to create the Remley Women’s Conference.
Your Story Matters
This year’s conference was titled “Your Story Matters,” after a video of the same name that debuted at the event. The video was created by Westminster sophomores Lisa Gardner and Khaled Khalili and features 17 Westminster students who have survived sexual abuse and assault. Gardner herself is a survivor of sexual assault and said that she created “Your Story Matters” in order to foster better understanding of survivors and to let them know that they are not alone.
The video elicited a large outpouring of emotions from Gardner, Khalili and the students, faculty and staff members in the audience. “I stood in the back of the room and just watched people as they took in the video,” Gardner said. “Khaled and I basically just leaned on each other and kept breathing sighs of relief mixed with some tears.”
“Khaled and I basically just leaned on each other and kept breathing sighs of relief mixed with some tears.” –Lisa Gardner
Many audience members cried along with Gardner and Khalili throughout the 15-minute-long video. At its conclusion, everyone in attendance gave the film a standing ovation, a reaction that Gardner said she did not expect.
“I was shocked at the standing ovation,” she said. “I started crying the more people I saw stand up. I couldn’t believe that so many people responded so well to it.”
Brown called “Your Story Matters” a “wonderful feature of the conference.”
“I was thrilled to see the survivors in the video feel heard, supported and loved,” she said. “It made the night so amazing, and I am proud that we could be a part of Lisa Gardner’s video.”
According to Gardner, the video has already helped at least one survivor. The day after the conference, a student told Gardner that the video made her realize that she was in an abusive relationship and that she ended the relationship before it became too serious.
On Thursday, Gardner and Khalili launched a “Your Story Matters” Facebook page, which will feature weekly posts about Westminster’s sexual assault survivors, Gardner said.
Women’s March on Washington
Following the video, a panel of several Westminster women who attended the Women’s March on Washington this winter shared their experiences from the march and discussed their reasons for marching.
Olivia Wilson, ’19, said she marched for everyone affected by what she described as offensive comments made by President Donald Trump during his election campaign.
“As a woman aspiring to run for public office someday, I followed the election very closely,” Wilson said.
Twelve students, along with chaplains Jamie Haskins and Maeba Jonas, traveled to the District of Columbia to march on Jan. 21, Trump’s first day in office.
“This is not just an issue that affects me personally, but people I live with,” said Jonas about why she chose to march.
“Marching in the march gave me a new hope,” Wilson said.
“Marching in the march gave me a new hope.” –Olivia Wilson
The Good, the Bad, the Unknown in Women’s Health
Kim Lorentz, Westminster’s nurse practitioner, gave a presentation on the services the Wellness Center provides, focusing on their services for women and sexual health.
Specifically for women, Lorentz offers Well Woman exams, which include a Pap smear and breast exam for women at least 21 years of age. These exams are free for all students, and any lab fees should be covered by insurance.
The Wellness Center also offers many contraception options. Free condoms are available in the waiting room, and Lorentz is also able to prescribe the pill, the patch, the ring, Depo Provera shot, Nexplanon and intrauterine devices. Plan B is available in the Wellness Center for $25.
Testing for sexually transmitted infections is also available. The Wellness Center staff typically offers free testing for sexually transmitted infections once a year, and this year’s screening was held last Wednesday. Normally, gonorrhea and chlamydia tests cost $22, although they can be covered by insurance. HIV and syphilis testing are free.
Many other services are available at the Wellness Center, which is located in the basement of Westminster Hall. Students can also reach the Wellness Center staff by calling 573-592-5361.
A Better Porn Industry
Golly Easterly, ’18, gave a presentation on the ethical issues of pornography. The presentation was originally a project for her women and politics class.
“I’ve always been interested in the general debate about the legitimacy of sex work and the challenges faced by sex workers,” Easterly said.
She said that because pornography is neither a completely institutionalized business like Wal-Mart or the Mexican restaurant Jalisco, or completely prohibited, it is hard to regulate the practice to make sure all workers are treated fairly. Many women who work in this industry must choose between paying for their hair and nails or paying for testing for sexually transmitted infections. It is also unlikely that porn stars manage to negotiate a contract and receive fair pay, according to Easterly.
“The feminist perspective has always seemed very divided on the difference between supporting sex workers by legitimizing their careers or by ending the industry that oppresses them,” Easterly said.
“The feminist perspective has always seemed very divided on the difference between supporting sex workers by legitimizing their careers or by ending the industry that oppresses them.” –Golly Easterly
In her presentation, Easterly defined “feminist porn” as focusing on making the pornography industry a better place to work for those who choose it. Some of the things proponents fight for is fair contracting and pay and required testing. They also focus on the sex portrayed to be authentic with real orgasms and clear consent from all parties.
Other presentations at the conference included a reading of “Girls at the Back of the Bus” by Dr. Stephanie Wells, professor of English at William Woods University; a speech on “Music of Female Composers and Musicians on the Baroque Era” by Isaac Coronel, ’17, who played works by female composers on his violin during his presentation; scenes from “The Vagina Monologues” by Annabelle Ginter, ’20, and Remley interns Reese Leech, ’17, Pfifer Duerkop, ’19, and Golly Easterly, ‘18; and a poetry reading of her own work by Dr. Colleen O’Brien, visiting assistant professor of English.