Film screening informs about women’s rights

The documentary “Equal Means Equal” screened in the Great Hall on March 22, with a panel discussion following the film.

The film covers topics regarding women’s issues, including domestic violence, wage discrimination, reproductive health care and rape and sexual assault.

“Equal Means Equal” is focused on the push to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was passed by Congress in 1972, but did not get enough votes from the states to be added to the Constitution.

Instructor of History Sheryl Nomelli, who led the discussion after the film, said that there is a common misconception that many people mistakenly think feminism is a form of misandry.

“A feminist is someone who advocates for the same rights and opportunities for women that men have,” Nomelli said.

She said that she hopes to see the ERA ratified in the future because it benefits women and men.

“Women clearly don’t have equal protection under the Constitution as it stands right now,” Nomelli said. “The only part of the Constitution that specifically gives women rights is the 19th Amendment.”

Nomelli said that her History 52 class is one of her most popular classes, with a high student success rate. She also said male enrollment has increased.

“One of my ‘Women in History’ classes has a male enrollment of about 35 percent,” Nomelli said.

Panelist Yisel Borges said she thinks feminism is important, especially to young women who are treated unfairly and dangerously.

“We need feminism because young girls need to know that the horrible things that have happened to them should not be happening,” said a teary-eyed Borges, as she shared her experience with domestic violence in her family.

Borges said she has experienced unfair gender-based treatment at places like her former high school.

“It was the worst,” Borges said. “I like to wear dresses, and there were so many times that my male principal or dean would say that my shoulders would be distracting to the boys.”

Despite her experiences, she is hopeful that if parents teach their daughters and sons about feminism, things can improve.

“I really see hope in the eyes of my younger brother and sister,” Borges said. “The other day, my brother came home and told me he now understands that it is sexist to tell someone that they throw like a girl.”

Psychology student Allan Flores said that though he was aware of the feminist movement, he learned more about the rights of women from watching “Equal Means Equal.”

“I was really surprised about what they said about laws that are supposed to protect women,” Flores said. “I thought that restraining orders were mandatory, but sometimes, they can be useless. It all depends on the lawyer, and I didn’t know that. It can be pretty unfair.”

He said he wants to be able to educate the women in his life, including his sister and newborn niece, about equal rights and the treatment they should expect.

“I think feminism, in the sense of family, means having a say in the decisions made,” Flores said. “If we project that into the outside world, it can also apply there in society.”

Flores said that he would encourage others to watch the film and educate themselves about gender-based issues.