MURRAY, KY – Gender Equality is the theme of an interactive display at the Waterfield Library that begins the week of October 12, and leads up to the Come Together Kentucky conference that convenes on the MSU campus October 23-24. Students, faculty, staff and visitors to the library are invited to submit their written responses anonymously regarding gender and how it affects every aspect of life. Responses will be gathered and posted daily to inspire discussion of what gender equality means –past, present, and future.
The display is one component of a special grant from Kentucky Foundation for Women to award-winning writer and civic journalist Constance Alexander. Murray State University’s Women’s Center and the MSU Office of LGBT Programming are co-sponsoring the project, with Murray State University Libraries hosting and managing the interactive display.
Entitled “Gender Equality: I’ll Know it When I See It,” the KFW grant is the Foundation’s way of celebrating its 30-year history of supporting Kentucky women artists who promote positive social change. As a grant recipient, Ms. Alexander is conducting a series of creative writing workshops with a variety of groups on campus, including participants attending the Come Together Kentucky conference on October 24.
Workshops have already been presented to young women mentors involved in the Women’s Center program known as G.R.O.W., an acronym for Growing into Respected Outstanding Women. In November, Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) will have an opportunity to share their reflections on gender equality, and in January, communities of color will be involved. On February 4, Ms. Alexander will conduct a workshop in honor of National Girls & Women n Sports Day.
Workshop writings will be showcased live and online through a variety of media, including public performances and presentations at events like MSU’s annual Celebrate Women luncheon in honor Women’s History Month.
“Working with the Women’s Center and LGBT Programming is a logical partnership for a project like this,” Ms. Alexander said. “Diversity and equality are such important issues, yet discussions and examinations of our values associated with them are often avoided. Having the interactive display in the library is especially appropriate, since libraries are dispensaries of information and tireless advocates of free speech and meaningful dialogue.”
Jody Cofer Randall, MSU’s LGBT coordinator, sees the grant as a vehicle for sharing visions of gender equality. “Often times those living with the harmful impact of inequality struggle to find their voice by sharing it with the community,” she said, “but through this program and, specifically, the workshops with Constance Alexander, we are helping people to come out of that space at least in the moment to tell their stories.”
Abigail French, director of the MSU Women’s Center, believes that every age group can benefit from the writing workshops. “Often we lack the self-awareness to truly understand or recognize how gender impacts us in daily life,” she said. “We consciously and unconsciously accept stereotypes and biases that perpetuate gender discrimination. Through telling our stories we not only open the eyes of others, but we enlighten ourselves as well.”
Recipient of a 2014 Governor’s Award in the Arts, Constance Alexander has received numerous grants, fellowships, and awards from the Benton Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ragdale Foundation, Kaiser Foundation, Helmsley Charitable Trust, Newspaper Association of America, Kentucky Press Association, and the Kentucky Arts Council. She is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, a memoir, two poetry collections, short stories, and many plays. Currently she is a vice president of the Kentucky Historical Society board and also serves on the advisory board of the Institute on Rural Journalism and Community Issues.
The Kentucky Foundation for Women promotes positive social change by supporting varied feminist expression in the arts through grants and other programs. For more information, log on to www.kfw.org.