Empower Women March and Rally unites community in support for women’s rights

Alyx Weaver, a neurology graduate student, holds a sign during a Planned Parenthood rally on Risman Plaza.

Kelsey Meszaros

Women’s rights activists gathered on Risman Plaza for the Empower Women March and Rally Oct. 26 for a peaceful demonstration to encourage and empower each other.

The event, held by the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kent, started with speakers talking about equality before participants marched to the rock at the front of campus to paint it pink for women’s rights.

Madison Newingham, a junior political science major and president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kent, said it didn’t matter how many people showed up, she just wanted it to be noticed.

“We just want to make sure that we’re starting a dialogue on campus that frames the women’s rights movement in a positive way,” Newingham said. “We want to make it clear that feminism is synonymous with equality and it doesn’t represent misandry.”

Madison Newingham; Caris Kuhn, a junior political science major and communications director of the Kent State College Democrats; Loreal Hawk, a junior political science major and president of the Kent State Speech and Debate Team; Clare Goebel, a senior special education major and political director for the Kent State College Democrats; Emma Getz, a junior human development and family studies major and president of UNICEF KSU; and Jessica Kukura, a psychology graduate student and president of the Kent State College Democrats, spoke in front of the crowd to encourage women to fight for their rights.

Hawk highlighted the importance of the Planned Parenthood services available to women.

“Planned Parenthood not only offers sexual services in terms of STD testing, but also mammogram screenings, cervical cancer screenings and anything like that,” Hawk said.

Kukura emphasized her views on the importance of a world where everyone is equal.

“I want to advocate for a younger generation and know that they are brought up in a world where they’re accepted regardless of creed, political orientation, gender, or religious affiliation,” Kukura said.

Students in the crowd were seen holding up signs that read “I stand with Planned Parenthood” as they listened to the speakers’ testimonials.

Amanda Schwaben, a junior applied conflict management major, participated not only as a woman supporting her rights, but as a student observing the nonviolent way the march fought for its cause.

“I wanted to observe how the practice nonviolent action and protest, but I definitely agree with Planned Parenthood’s mission and I think it helps a lot of people,” Schwaben said.

Between speakers, the crowd chanted phrases including, “My body my choice, her body her choice” and “Hey hey, ho ho, the patriarchy has got to go.”

Participants also answered women’s rights-based trivia questions such as, “What percentage of women make up congress?” for a chance to win tote bags and T-shirts.

While the event targeted women’s rights, men also came to show their support.   

“Men have the power to empower women,” Hawk said during her speech about the allies women have.

“I think that the fact that we have to argue for women’s rights in 2017 is messed up,” Paul Smalcer Jr., a junior political science major, said. “If women need help then I’m here to help.”

Participants sporting vibrant pink shirts for the march drew in curious people walking past.

“I just got done (with class) early and thought it would be fun to hear the speakers,” Alyx Weaver, a biomed-science neuroscience graduate student, said.

Following the march, participants painted the rock in the front of campus pink in honor of women and then gathered around it to do yoga.

“The yoga is just for the point of decompressing,” Newingham said. “This year has been really exhausting under a Trump presidency, so we figured it was just a nice way to wind down.”

The organizers of the event wanted others to be able to forget about politics and focus on women empowerment.

“What we need to focus on is empowering each other and also empowering ourselves, and through the positivity, we can raise ourselves up and overcome,” Getz said.

Kelsey Meszaros is the student affairs reporter. Contact her at [email protected].