By Elaine Ezekiel
On April 27 at 7 p.m., nearly eighty people gathered in the Hicks Banquet Room for a screening of Catherine Ulmer’s documentary “After the Rape: the Mukhtar Mai Story.” A panel discussion about global violence against women followed the viewing.
Donna Lartigue, Associate Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, facilitated the event. She introduced the hour-long movie that documents a girls’ school in rural Pakistan. Muhtar Mai founded and ran the school after she was gang-raped as punishment for her younger brother’s alleged affair with a woman from another clan.
Mai’s uplifting story caught the attention of Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times journalist and this year’s spring lecturer for the Arcus Center, who wrote about her in his book “Half The Sky.”
Following the film and a buffet dinner, the audience — comprised of Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff, and several guests from West Michigan — turned their attention to the panelists. The six-woman group included: Professor of Anthropology at K, Kiran Cunningham; Assistant Professor of African and Gender and Women’s Studies at Western Michigan University, Miriam Konate Deme; Executive Director of the Women’s Co-op in Battle Creek, Teresa Phillips; Program Director of the Domestic and Sexual Assault programs at Kalamazoo’s YWCA, Misty Larthridge; and K senior Mackenzie Fowler.
Lartigue moderated the panel in a discussion detailing their own stories of survival after experiencing sexual violence, comparing American and Pakistani sexual climates and opening up K’s discourse on the subject.
Latrigue pointed out that a misogynistic media shapes children’s normalization of sexual violence. “It’s the water we swim in,” she said. “We have to reach out to our men and show them what a real man looks like.”
Jaime Grant, Executive Director of the Arcus Center, attended the event and challenged the audience and panelists to think about how they can foster positive change on campus. She asked, “What’s in a healthy, sex-positive community?”
Lartigue closed the event with a quote by poet Audre Lorde: “I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.”