Remembering Leslie Feinberg

Post by Sara Lewis ’15

The November 17th passing of renowned social justice activist and theorist, Leslie Feinberg, comes as a tragedy for communities served by her depth of knowledge, passion for truth, and devotion to radical liberation of the oppressed. Feinberg, who believed strongly in the necessity of self-determination, identified as an “anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist.” Her written works on the fluidity of gender, most notably the pioneering Stone Butch Blues published in 1993, and her revolutionary Marxist view of organizing for transgender liberation, remain foundational for Gender Studies and Human Rights Studies curricula across the world.

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Leslie Feinberg

Feinberg’s partner of 22 years, activist and poet Minnie Bruce Pratt writes in Feinberg’s obituary,

[Feinberg] said she had “never been in search of a common umbrella identity, or even an umbrella term, that brings together people of oppressed sexes, gender expressions, and sexualities” and… believed in the right of self-determination of oppressed individuals, communities, groups, and nations. She preferred to use the pronouns she/zie and her/hir for herself, but also said: “I care which pronoun is used, but people have been disrespectful to me with the right pronoun and respectful with the wrong one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.”

While Feinberg was especially widely known and respected within the academy, she most strongly identified with working-class people. Growing up in a working-class Jewish family in Buffalo, Feinberg encountered oppression in nearly every sphere of her life. She struggled to find steady work and eventually removed herself from her hostile and intolerant biological family. She became active in the Workers World Party and joined countless additional anti-war, pro-labor organizing campaigns throughout the course of her life. According to Pratt, Feinberg’s final words were “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

Feinberg was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2008, but sustained her political work and grassroots organizing in Syracuse, where she lived with her partner and taught at Syracuse University. When Feinberg could no longer speak, she turned to art and visual representation as a medium through which she could advocate for her beliefs. In her final years, up until the final days before her death at age 65, Feinberg blogged about the worsening of her illness as a result of healthcare disparities and inaccessibility of quality care for trans people. Feinberg’s passion and dedication to the liberation of the oppressed will be respected and remembered eternally.

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Undergraduate Conference Friday 11/14

We are hosting the 2014 Undergraduate Research Conference for Gender and Women’s studies this Friday, November 14 in the Gamble room of Rush Rhees Library.

The conference will feature a keynote address at 12:00pm discussing religion, gender and food in America, “What we talk about when we talk about food” with Nora Rubel, Director of SBAI and Associate Professor of Religion and Classics. Lunch will be provided, and the conference is free and open to the UR Community.

For a schedule of presentations, please see the poster below this information or visit the events page of our website.

SBAI Undergrad Research Conference



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Two Icons Lecture with Jennifer Harvey

Each year, the Susan B. Anthony Institute and the Frederick Douglas Institute honor the legacy of the two remarkable Rochester revolutionaries by bringing in a guest lecturer to explore the intersection of race and gender. This year, Jennifer Harvey, Associate Professor of Religion at Drake University, will deliver the annual Two Icons lecture. On Wednesday, October 29th at 5:00 pm in the Hawkins Carlson Reading Room, we invite you to join for hors d’oeuvres us as Harvey presents “Framing Ferguson: Religious Faith, Righteous Feminists and Holy Fire.”

Jennifer Harvey, Drake University

Harvey will engage us in a stimulating dialogue where she will draw similarities between the 1950s and today with regard to the Civil Rights Movement and the current unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. She will use the perspectives of lesser known righteous feminists and religious leaders during the Civil Rights Movement to reveal why Ferguson should have shocked none of us. Join us as we hear Harvey’s insight and analysis in which she will ultimately ask the most important question: where do we go from here?

The lecture is free and open to the public, no RSVP is required to attend!

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Kafka award ceremony and reading with Ru Freeman

SBAI is pleased to announce that author and activist Ru Freeman is the 2014 recipient of our annual Kafka Prize for Fiction for her novel, On Sal Mal Lane!

Join us for the award ceremony in the Welles-Brown room on Thursday, October 23rd at 5:00 pm. No RSVP is necessary for the event which is free and open to the public.

A reading from the novel, book signing, and hors d’oeuvres reception will follow the ceremony. Copies of the award-winning novel will be available for purchase.

Ru Freeman

Ru Freeman

Freeman’s novel was selected from over 120 works of fiction by this year’s Kafka Prize committee. “In this haunting novel of a Sri Lankan neighborhood in the years leading up to the country’s civil war, Ru Freeman explores the interactions, small events and increasing national tensions that gradually transform life on Sal Mal Lane,” writes Kathy McGowan, chair of the Kafka Prize committee of the winning novel. Read more about Freeman and her novel here.

We hope to see you on Thursday!

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Title IX, Higher Education and the University of Rochester

Post by Sara Lewis ’15

Just a few weeks ago, a Columbia University student, Emma Sulkowicz, launched an unusual act of protest as a way to raise awareness and spread an important message to campus administrators and fellow students: rapes and sexual assaults happen, and it’s time for the University to stop hiding from it. This student has vowed to carry a mattress around campus until her rapist is expelled from the University. The student has received an outpour of support from fellow CU students as well as from other campuses around the country. Columbia University is not the only institution of higher education facing the challenge of combating rape and sexual assault. The University of Rochester is actively working to address this issue to ensure the security and justice of all its students, staff, and faculty.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 05:  Emma Sulkowicz (L),  a senior visual arts student at Columbia University, carries a mattress, with the help of three strangers who met her moments before, in protest of the university's lack of action after she reported being raped during her sophomore year on September 5, 2014 in New York City.  Sulkowicz has said she is committed to carrying the mattress everywhere she goes until the university expels the rapist or he leaves. The protest is also doubling as her senior thesis project.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Emma Sulkowicz (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)


Morgan Levy, Title IX Coordinator at the University of Rochester

Morgan Levy (Photo courtesy of the University of Rochester)

Morgan Levy, Title IX Coordinator at the University of Rochester, delivered a presentation last week at the Warner School of Education on the complexities of the legal obligations that the University has regarding sexual assault, and then outlined several ways in which the University is working to implement procedural and policy change. Levy and her colleagues aim to create policies that will not only provide support and access to care for survivors, but that will address the more deep-seated issue of violence against women as a way to prevent further violations.

The amount of media attention and political interest on this important issue is certainly creating necessary visibility, which subsequently has precipitated legislative action. Title IX, enacted in 1972, makes educational institutions that receive federal funding obligated to prevent and address harassment against students. Over the course of several years, additional legislative proposals have been passed requiring schools to take action on this issue:

  • The Clery Act requires colleges to explicitly disclose information and statistics about sexual assault and crime on campus and in surrounding areas.
  • The Dear Colleague Letter, enacted in 2011, mandates schools to pursue prompt, fair, and equitable investigations of assault allegations even if the student does not want the investigation.
  • The Campus SAVE Act (part of the Violence Against Women Act) adds to the Cleary Act by requiring colleges to include information on dating violence and stalking and requires the school to include a policy statement in the Cleary report about disciplinary procedures and training.
  • The Campus Accountability and Safety Act introduced this summer by Senator Gillibrand would require schools to have confidential advisors for survivors of sexual assault, in addition to expanding the Clery report, and implementing campus climate surveys and trainings.

The University of Rochester has responded to these federal regulations by implementing several new policies and procedures.

First, the University grants students who have been sexually assaulted and who want to take legal action the right to be accompanied by an advisor at any meeting. The University has created a New Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, which has been made more transparent and accessible to students. The Deputy Title IX Coordinator role has been created. Additionally, the training for students and employees has been updated and improved. The school has designated Responsible Employees, individuals who are obligated to report the basic facts when an incident has occurred and must provide written notification of options.

While the University of Rochester administration is certainly taking significant strides to ensure safety, security, and support for survivors of sexual assault, there is still more to be done. It is notable that the University community is working to address the root of the issue through student initiatives like SEGway (Survivor Empowerment Group) and MOVE (Men Opposed to Violence Everywhere), but we need the students, faculty, and administration to work together to enact sustainable change in order to eliminate rape culture and sexual violence on our campus and others across the country. Visit to learn more about how you can help in the fight to end sexual violence. Additionally, take a look at the local resources available.

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Rochester ’64 and Ferguson ’14

Post by Sara Lewis ’15

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By now the American public is likely quite familiar with the urban unrest occurring in Ferguson, Missouri. The city has become infamous following the police killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager. The tragedy incited community protests, and as a result, police stepped in to occupy citizens’ lawful space. News stories erupted across the globe raising questions about racial inequality, urban space, police force and militarization, and the role of media in shaping political protest. Just 50 years ago, similar unrest took place in Rochester. Riots of rebellion escalated following the arrest of an innocent African American teenager.

The Humanities Project at the University of Rochester, in conjunction with the Frederick Douglas Institute for African and African-American Studies, and the Department of Anthropology, will be holding symposium Inequality, Race and Rebellion: Rochester ’64 and Ferguson ’14 to investigate similarities and differences between the two contexts.

Verdis Robinson, MCC

Robinson, Panelist

The panel of community experts will discuss how reflections on Rochester on 1964 can aid in our understanding of the unfolding situation in Ferguson in 2014.

Panelists include Carvin Eison, SUNY Brockport, Jim Lawrence, Democrat & Chronicle, and Verdis Robinson, Monroe Community College.

The dialogue will address themes including the role of media in portraying these types of events and how we can think about the increasingly militarized police force, mass incarceration, and the prison industrial complex with particular analysis regarding race, class, and other marginalized identities.

Join us on Monday, September 15th from 6:00 to 8:00pm for this important and insightful discussion. The event will take place in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library.

Learn more about the event on Facebook or contact for additional information. Hope to see you there!


Eison, Panelist

Jim Lawrence, D&C

Lawrence, Panelist

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Welcome Back!

Happy Women’s Equality Day and welcome back to campus! We’ve missed seeing and hearing from all of you and we’re looking forward to catching up.

We had a very eventful summer during which we finished an incredible second year of the Rocxxy Summer Internship in Feminist Activism and Leadership program (stay tuned for a post about this summer’s program and our awesome interns) and planned out a bunch of interesting events for the 2014-2015 year.

Rocxxy interns and staff being silly on a field trip to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, NY this summer

Rocxxy interns and staff on a field trip to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, NY this summer

SBAI also went through some changes this summer with Honey Meconi completing her term as SBAI Director in June. She is spending the next year on sabbatical, after which she will continue her research and teaching at the University of Rochester. While our goodbyes were sad, we’re so happy that SBAI will have her as an associate for years to come.

Meet SBAI Director, Nora Rubel at one of our welcome back events

Meet SBAI Director, Nora Rubel at one of our welcome back events

We were so pleased with Nora Rubel’s appointment as Director of SBAI. Nora is an Associate Professor of Religion and Classics and she specializes in: American religious history; American Judaism; African American religion; Black Judaisms; religion and foodways; ethnicity and immigration; new religious movements; religion and gender; representations of religion and gender in literature; religion and popular culture. We’d love for undergrads, grads and faculty to come up to SBAI for one of our welcome back events over the next couple of weeks. Take the opportunity to meet our new director, eat some delicious free food, enjoy great conversation, and get to know SBAI a little better! We’ll be holding a wine and cheese gathering for faculty on 9/4, a dinner for undergraduates on 9/10, and a luncheon for graduates on 9/15. Follow the links for further information and how to RSVP.

We are also very excited for our Meliora Weekend event on Saturday, October 18 at 9:00 am. We are hosting a breakfast and panel discussion: “Best Perspectives for Women in STEM: The Rochester Perspective.” The event is entirely free and we will be providing breakfast. Students, faculty and alumni will come together to enjoy a breakfast buffet and panel discussion featuring University of Rochester alumnae and faculty working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. These women will share their stories, discuss issues women face in these professions, and offer valuable perspectives to those involved and those who wish to become involved in these fields. The breakfast and panel discussion will take place in Salon D of the Meliora Restaurant. If you’d like to attend please register through the Meliora website here.

And finally, we are THRILLED to announce that we’ll be hosting Laverne Cox (!!!) at the University of Rochester for An Evening with Laverne Cox on Saturday, October 18 as a part of Meliora Weekend. Get more information and your tickets (they’re selling fast!) here. Laverne Cox is an Emmy nominated actress and TV producer who stars as an incarcerated trans woman on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Through this role she has reached a huge audience and uses her success to broaden the reach of her advocacy for LGBTQ communities.

Laverne Cox is coming to Rochester!

Laverne Cox is coming to Rochester!

“Laverne is the first trans woman of color to produce and star in her own television show, VH1’s TRANSForm Me, which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. Laverne is also the first trans woman of color to appear on an American reality television program, VH1’s I Wanna Work for Diddy, for which she accepted the GLAAD Award for Outstanding Reality Program. Laverne was named one of Out magazine’s “Out 100,” one of the country’s top 50 trans icons by The Huffington Post, and one of Metro Source magazine’s “55 People We Love.” Laverne’s critical writings have appeared in The Advocate and The Huffington Post. A graduate of Marymount Manhattan College, Laverne holds a degree in Fine Arts.” -Excerpted from her full biography, read the rest here.

We have eagerly anticipated the beginning of the fall semester, and we’re so glad it’s finally here! Check out the SBAI site later this week for an up-to-date list of all of the events we have scheduled for the coming year!






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Rocxxy 2014 has begun!

SBAI’s Rocxxy summer internship in feminist leadership and activism has begun! We have doubled the number of interns from our pilot program last summer (that makes 8!), and our interns are working with a handful of new sites.

We currently have interns working with: Alternatives for Battered Women, The Center For Youth and The Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, The Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley, The Genesee Valley Chapter of the NYCLU, Girls Rock! Rochester Summer Camp, Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, and The Young Women’s College Prep Charter School.

Roccxy Interns Christian Nelson (left), Margaret Speer (center), and another NYCLU intern during their first week on the job at the Genesee Valley Chapter of the NYCLU

Rocxxy Interns Christian Nelson (left), and Margaret Speer (center) during their first week on the job at the Genesee Valley Chapter of the NYCLU

Last Saturday, Rocxxy took a trip to the Susan B. Anthony House and toured the museum and house with a wonderful, informed, and passionate guide.  Interns learned about some of Rochester’s rich history of social activism and progress, and about Susan B. Anthony’s tireless commitment to creating a more just world. We ended the tour by joining together in saying “Failure is Impossible!” Reminding everybody that despite setbacks in working towards positive social change, whether on their own or with an existing non-profit organization, failure only occurs when a person stops trying.

Interns are back at their sites now, and we can’t wait to hear about their second week on the job!

Since SBAI has a lot to do this summer, we’ll be taking a short break from blogging (we’re sorry!), but we’ll be back in full swing by September!

Rocxxy's first field trip to tour Rochester's Susan B. Anthony House and learn about her activist history

Director of Rocxxy, Angela Clark-Taylor and Rocxxy interns on their first field trip to tour Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony House and Museum

Madalina Ciocanu is working with Girls Rock! Rochester

Madalina Ciocanu working with Girls Rock! Rochester

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Kimberly and Beck, and Transition-Related Health Coverage for a Healthier Rochester

At this point anyone who keeps up with Rochester news has heard about The Buzz 98.9’s “Morning Buzz” segment with Kimberly and Beck last Wednesday, but for those of you who missed it we’ll briefly recap the story: Two morning drive radio show hosts made a handful of misinformed and extremely transphobic comments on air (listen here). They were discussing a trans woman on a local softball team and the City of Rochester’s decision to include transition-related medical expenses to city workers’ health care plans.  The Rochester community stepped up, started a petition, and spoke out against the hate speech broadcast over the airwaves, and two days later both hosts of the show were fired from the radio station. Kimberly and Beck have just issued a formal apology.

We are so glad that Rochester has chosen to include transition-related expenses in their coverage of city employees, and we are pleased that The University of Rochester recently made a similar decision to include transition-related healthcare in its student healthcare plans beginning in the 2014-2015 year. John Cullen, Outreach Coordinator at the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership spoke to The Democrat and Chronicle about the new plan:

“Students who are enrolled in the student healthcare plan will be eligible for services including hormone therapy, medical and psychological counseling, and gender affirmation surgery. ‘It’s a medical necessity,’ he said. “It will also help promote a more inclusive environment and a more healthy and productive student body.”

We are proud to be among the fifty-some Universities in the United States to extend their healthcare benefits in this direction, and we hope that more will soon follow suit! We hope that last week’s egregious radio broadcast, Rochester’s new healthcare benefits, and the University’s new student healthcare benefits will push individuals to learn about the importance of  transition-related health care benefits as well as the difficulties faced by trans* communities. According to a report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Task Force, “Injustice at Every Turn,” :

  • Transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty.
  • Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.
  • 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • 22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color.  Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
  • 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.

When these unfortunate numbers are considered with findings from a recent Pew poll which suggests that only 8% of Americans say they personally know someone who is transgender, it becomes clear how important it is for the media to get it right when discussing transgender related issues. You can help combat derogatory speech as well as the spread of misinformation. If you would like to become better versed, this FAQ page on GLAAD’s site can be a good place to start.

We hope you join the University and City of Rochester in creating a healthier and happier community!


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Congratulations Class of 2014!

Thanks to all of the students, staff and faculty that made the 2013-2014 a wonderful year!

You may have noticed that the SBAI blog has been fairly quiet over the past couple of weeks. We have been busy gearing up for summer: sending off our senior students, tying up the loose ends from spring semester, preparing for our annual “If I Had a Camera…” photo exhibit, and inviting into our classroom the eight wonderful students who are participating in the Rocxxy Summer Internship Program in Feminist Activism and Leadership (more on them soon!)

Last weekend, Sunday May 18, we celebrated commencement in the Welles-Brown Room with a small, but lovely, ceremony.

Serenity Sutherland receiving her Graduate Certificate from Jennifer Creech

Serenity Sutherland receiving her Graduate Certificate from Jennifer Creech

While this year we had no graduating majors, we were pleased to send off three Women’s Studies minors: Alyson Baker, Mara Hyatt, and Katie Adams. As Director Honey Meconi says, “SBAI minors are just majors in waiting.” We believe that a student chooses to minor in Women’s Studies only because they are unable to fit the major into their schedule, or they already have too many majors! We can count on Women’s Studies students to be incredibly active both in the classroom and the community.


Katie Adams and Marie-Joelle Estrada

In addition to receiving her minor certificate, Katie Adams also received the SBAI award for Independent Research, an annual award presented to the student who has completed the best undergraduate research project in gender and women’s studies during the academic year. SBAI’s award was not the only recognition that Katie’s “A Study of Women’s Experiences With Hooking-Up” received. She also received the Deans’ Award for Social Science for this sophisticated and insightful research. Congratulations, Katie!

Emily Sumner received the SBAI Community Connections Award, an annual award presented at to the student whose work in gender and women’s studies has contributed most significantly to the local campus or Rochester community during the academic year. This year, Emily co-founded the University of Rochester Survivor Empowerment Group (UR SEGway) which has been active in offering informational meetings for students to become better versed in issues relating to sexual assault and rape culture, as well as lectures and gatherings to discuss body positivity, how to combat gender-related violence in our society, how to promote consensual sexual activity, and more. This group successfully engaged a broad group of students and raised awareness on campus about these topics. We’re glad to have Emily for another year at the University of Rochester!

Angela Clark-Taylor, Jennifer Creech and Honey Meconi

We were so happy to award Graduate Certificates in Gender and Women’s Studies to SBAI’s Program Manager Angela Clark-Taylor who is a student with The Department of Educational Leadership at the Warner School of Education, and to one of our Graduate Conference Chairs, Serenity Sutherland, a student in The Department of History at the University of Rochester.

The Dissertation Award is awarded annually to the most distinguished dissertation in gender and women’s studies at the University of Rochester. This year Rebecca Burditt, a student in the Visual and Cultural Studies Program and a beloved adjunct professor here at the SBAI, was our honored recipient.

Congratulations to all of you! We wish all of our students the best of luck and invite you to stay in touch!

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