Happy Women’s History Month, where you hear about bad ass women that you should’ve been hearing about all year long. Disappointed? Me too. It’s time to start recognizing women making history right now, so for this article the I interviewed women changing the world in large and small ways from the dot that is Ohio State.
We’ve all heard the successful college dropout stories of Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Mark Zuckerberg, but there’s another story that should be on that list, and it’s Claire Coder She had her monthly mishap on campus and immediately questioned why toilet paper was free in public restrooms, but menstrual products weren’t? The next day, she dropped out to start her business, Aunt Flow.
Do you ever feel like you’re being underestimated because of your age or woman-status, or do you think people respect you as one of the big dogs?
Yes to underestimated. The overarching female mentality is that we are not enough—we don’t know enough. We don’t have enough. We are not old enough, pretty enough, savvy enough. Wherever we are at right now, is ENOUGH.
Where is there still progress to be made in terms of accessibility to feminine care? What are today’s biggest roadblocks?
The problem is that periods aren’t normalized in society, once we normalize the topic, then we can help reduce stigma. I think it is also still a problem because not everyone gets a period, men do not, therefore it is difficult for them to understand the specifics of why women and others get a period. If everyone got a period, then it probably would not be as “taboo” of a topic. Talking about it and taking real, actionable steps is one of the most important ways to make change. The talk MUST lead to action. The more awareness and access that society has to quality menstrual products and education, the less shame there will be.
Still looking for a 1-credit hour workout class to add to your senior year? Make it something worthwhile. Julie Loeffler teaches women’s self defense at Ohio State and is incredibly passionate about making women understand that while your support systems are important, there are going to be times when the only person you can count on to be there is yourself.
Have you ever felt underestimated for your strength, or like you’ve ever had to compensate to prove you’re as tough as the rest?
Everyday. I don’t like to talk about, I like to show. I’m not someone who leads with my gender, I think you lead by example. Making mistakes really doesn’t seem like an option, we’re going to get criticized twice as hard and twice as fast. If you know that, it tends to make you better. You can’t stress about competing with anybody, you just do your thing and move on. When I first started training in 1994, I was one of two women in a martial arts school. It was difficult, but I appreciated full-integration training because there is something to be learned there. I now understand there are times when all-female classes are appropriate, because we share more when we can identify with people and relate with them.
What’s the best way for women to support other women?
Listen. Listen to what they’re saying and try to understand from their point of view. Listen with an open heart, an open mind, and try to be less critical because in here I don’t see differences, I see women. If people could understand that we all have the same anxieties, fears, questions, doubts, and we could work together on figuring out how to deal with them, how much more powerful we could be.
What is a personal piece of advice for women looking to toughen up?
Believe in yourself. That’s a tall order. You will be challenged on that point throughout your entire life, at different levels of your life. You must believe in yourself for someone else to believe in you. If you want to be that strong, independent woman as an example for someone else, you’ve got to start believing in yourself. [In class] we talk about mental strength: digging deep and finding that strength inside of you that nobody’s ever told you about, or that you’ve never had to use before, but you have it. There are case studies of people who don’t know any fighting skills at all but they defended themselves successfully because they were ready to fight mentally. It’s important to me to build the mind, body, and spirit, it’s all-inclusive.
Advocates for Women of the World is a relatively new student organization that is dedicated to advocating for and organizing projects that empower women globally, which also means here at Ohio State. You may be familiar with their Banner Up campaign where they hang banners on off-campus housing (specifically Greek life houses) to raise awareness about sexual assault during welcome week, when the epidemic is at its highest.
What work does AWOW do here on campus?
Besides Banner Up, we have Flow-And-Glow, our yoga event. All proceeds go to Days for Girls, an organization dedicated to reusable menstrual hygiene kits. Girls miss an average of 2 months every year of school because of their menstrual cycles. Teachers will take advantage of the fact that girls miss school every month, so they’ll ask for favors so that women can get products. No one thinks about them especially in disaster areas; it’s a necessity but it’s the last thing people think of.
What is the biggest difference between national and international feminism?
Feminism around the world has to be more intersectional. In the US, you’re able to have white-feminism that is very specifically focalized on a sector of society that already has a good amount of privilege. Talking about global feminism, you can’t separate any issue of oppression from feminism because women face the brunt of all the issues. Something
we like to say in AWOW is, ”If there’s a problem, women have it worse.” Whatever problems refugees face, women refugees face that and more.
What’s the best way for women to support other women?
My friends call me a spiritualist, so I believe that your life is a reflection of what you are on the inside. The best way for women to support other women is for us to look inside and deal with this internalized depression that we all have. I don’t think we realize how that colors our reactions with everyone else (internalized bias, internalized racism, internalized sexism). We think we’re cool, we’re woke, because we have a nice button on our backpack, but maybe a girl makes us feel insecure and we call her a hoe. Those little manifestations really hold us back, because we can’t move forward unless we understand what it is that’s holding us back. Little steps we can take might not make all the carbon in the atmosphere go away, but it sends a message that you’re telling yourself, I am a global citizen.