College Dems march for equality, rights
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 17:09
People who were on campus Monday at noon may have seen a large group of banner-toting students marching and chanting slogans. These students and community activists were marching for women’s rights and paying homage to the women’s suffrage movement of the early 1900s.
The march was put on by the College Democrats at UCF Women’s Caucus and co-sponsored by VOX, an activist proponent for Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women. While the groups are politically affiliated, the event was nonpartisan and inclusive to all sides of the political spectrum. Ida Eskamani, a former president of the College Democrats and UCF graduate student, believes that “women’s rights are not party exclusive."
The groups teamed up and organized a rally in front of the UCF Reflecting Pond that included booths with T-shirts and speakers blasting uplifting music. The march meandered past the Library, in front of the Student Union, into the John T. Washington Center and back. Women’s rights slogans urging equality and asking bystanders and women to vote in the upcoming election were chanted throughout.
Onlooker Austin Chalfant, a senior military history major, was supportive of the march, saying, “Discriminatory gender roles have gone on too long” in the United States.
The march was set in coordination with the 92nd anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. Though the march was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac’s threatening wind and rain, the participants’ fervor never dulled. Passionate speeches by local women’s advocates and politicians moved the crowd to raucous applause with speeches that outlined women’s struggles and asked for a continuation of the fight to bring equal rights to all women in the U.S.
Speakers included Winter Park City Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel, the first female chairperson of the Orange County Commission Linda Chapin, Orlando Planned Parenthood CEO Jenna Tosh, UCF Student Government Association Vice President Rachel Brill, UCF Women’s Studies Chair Maria Cristina Santana and the executive director of Florida Watch Action, Susannah Randolph.
Women’s reproductive rights and health care have taken a front seat in recent months after Missouri politician Todd Akin made the now infamous “legitimate rape” comment. Randolph said attempts in state and federal government to legislate a woman’s body, including “18 bills attempting to regulate women’s health in Florida,” also add to the controversy.
It has been nearly 40 years since Roe v. Wade opened the doors to safe and legal choices for women to help plan their families, and the subject is still one of the most controversial topics in America’s political discourse.
Katherine Whitton, a senior history and political science major, is appalled at what she perceives as a war against women by conservative groups.
“Funding is decreased, Planned Parenthood is propagandized against, abortion is misrepresented and affordable women’s health care is being trivialized” by those who propose new women’s health laws and aim to repeal the Roe v. Wade decision, she said. If women do not get out and make their voice heard, a worst-case scenario of “anti-choice legislation, affordable care act repealed and regulations on a woman’s body” could very well be a future political reality.
“We need to prevent the problems of the past from coming back,” Whitton said.
The fear that women will be further oppressed pushes this group to move forward toward total gender equality. There is hope and a belief that with women being more vocal and active in elections, there will never be more laws governing women’s bodies and diminishing their rights. The way to ensure this is to vote. With women making up 52 percent of the population, the power of their votes are felt.
SGA President Cortez Whatley and Vice President Rachel Brill say they believe that voting is the way to make your voice heard and affect your community. Whatley said that the importance of voting “can’t be overstated.”
Regardless of political affiliation, speakers at the march said that women’s rights are a universal and nonpartisan stance. They said that while the glass ceiling has not disappeared completely yet, the fight continues, and those standing up for what they believe to be right will continue the march.