Why IWAU?

Melanie Bellwood | News Director

As midterm season comes to a close and hundreds of tired students walk the halls as mentally exhausted zombies, it is easy to miss what is happening right next to you. For people near the Northern Pride Center (NPC) on October 21, this was the vandalism of the “Blood Ban” resources outside of the NPC. This article is not casting blame on anyone nearby, because blame is not the reason that this act is important. No, the homophobic slurs and vandalism on NPC property is important because it reminds every student that we still live in a world where one person’s ability to be themselves can not only be threatened, but it will be threatened, and more than likely, it will happen in public. Therefore, when something like this happens, it becomes the responsibility of every person on campus to, before anything else, recognize it. This is exactly what Northern Pride Centre President Jade Mah did, when they sent out a mass email to other clubs and organizations acknowledging the gravity of what had occurred, and the way that they were looking at dealing with it.

“We want to show the pride and support that UNBC has as a community, and to do that we need to come together. We have gotten overwhelming support from various clubs and centres in the past, and we’re hoping that we can get you all to stand with us again in the time of this offense. The board of the Northern Pride Centre will be writing an open letter to both those who are vandalizing our resources and to the UNBC community, to make everyone aware of the fact that this campus should remain safe for everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, and anything or everything in between,” said Mah on October 23.

This event is only one example of what can happen when the line blurs between freedom of speech and ignorance of freedom. Unfortunately, in a place as large and as politically charged as a university, it is difficult to find harmony among groups that all parties can rely on. Therefore, it is incredibly special when a community such as the University of Northern British Columbia is given the ability to host an important series of events, such as Inspiring Women Among Us (IWAU). Opening this year on November 14 at UNBC with a flag raising and opening ceremony, the IWAU celebrations look to bring together people from all walks of life to honour the contributions of women to society. It will kick off with a speech from Marissa Janae Johnson, called “Thinking Outside the Box: Revolution By Any Means Necessary,” and will be followed by an enthralling series of inspiring events and talks throughout the week, that will encourage us to think about women, leadership, and power from an educational perspective. IWAU, a successful celebration in its fourth year at UNBC, will use the power of women, learning, networking, and creativity to bring forward issues that students face every day. IWAU not only recognizes the trials that women have gone through to this day, but the tribulations that many women are likely to face in the future, and are already facing now.

But, what does this have to do with the NPC being vandalized two weeks ago? It has everything to do with the NPC being vandalized. The ability to appreciate one another in an educational and creative scope is not limited to women, men, or LGBTQ2S+ individuals. It is a fortunate side effect of learning how to respect another person’s thoughts and opinions, while still being able to develop your own; something that every university student has strived to accomplish at one point or another in their educational endeavours. While the IWAU events look to celebrate women and how women have changed society in big and small positive ways, it also asks individuals to become comfortable with the idea that perhaps one day we can all look at each other as equals. Whether you practice this concept by attending “Feminist Children’s Storytime” at Books and Company this November, or by writing in to Over The Edge Newspaper in support of the Northern Pride Centre against homophobic vandalism on campus (or anywhere, for that matter), or even by choosing to learn about a person before passing judgement on them, you are making an important step in the direction of social responsibility. Thus, the next step after the recognition that something bad has happened becomes the active attempt to educate yourself about the situation, another reason why IWAU bears such importance in the university sphere. These events, while celebratory in nature, are a means of learning about a difficult history without having to feel sorry for the events of the past, and this feeling applies to more than just the history of women. In the long list of social and ethnic minorities in Canada, women do not stand alone, just as they do not stand alone during the events of Inspiring Women Among Us.

So, when a student asks another student, or professor, or cafeteria worker, or friend, “why should I care about Inspiring Women Among Us?” the answer should be more than just “for women.” Events like these, especially in partnership with our city and our school, raise money and awareness for people. Regardless of what one person identifies as, they are a person above all else that deserves respect and support. As we enter our fourth year of Inspiring Women Among Us at UNBC, let’s see what we can do to make the positivity and power reflected in these celebrations part of our everyday lives, and represent our school from a place of support for everything that has already been accomplished and what is to come.

If we can become people who support people, then the celebration will last much longer than just one week, and we will be able to move forward and past the actions of those who just haven’t yet figured out how to articulate their own opinion without disrespecting and hurting others.