Welcome to the official blog for Villanova's Gender and Women's Studies program! Please come back often for information on events, programming, academic opportunities, alumni news, student accomplishments, and more! Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest Post: "Human Trafficking Panel Brings Issue Close to Home"

Guest Post: "Human Trafficking Panel Brings Issue Close to Home"
by Marie Bouffard
(This article was also published in Vol. 102:5 of The Villanovan)

When most people think about human trafficking, they conceive of it as an international problem, not something close to home. The reality, however, is that labor and sex trafficking goes on right in this country, in this city, and in this area. A panel on human trafficking took place February 12th as part of the One Billion Rising campaign. The event sought to open up a dialogue in the Villanova community on such a pressing matter.

Several panelists who are experts in the topic of gender violence and human trafficking presented during the event, including faculty member and area coordinator for rhetorical studies Billie Murray, anti-labor trafficking attorney John Rafferty, Dawn’s Place Executive Director Sister Michelle Loise and “Project Dawn” graduate Anne Marie Jones. Two of the featured panelists, Loise and Jones, represented Dawn’s Place, a non-profit organization located in Philadelphia that provides support for women who have been victims of trafficking.

Although sex trafficking is often the first form of human trafficking to come to mind, it is not the only one. Labor trafficking is also prevalent and could be going on in any house in any neighborhood. Trafficking in the labor industry can occur anywhere including domestic workers, warehouses, construction, agriculture, dishwashing and landscaping. Basically anywhere there are people who need jobs and cannot afford to be picky about their employment, labor trafficking can be a problem. Traffickers lure people in by promising them valid employment opportunities and then yanking them away, leaving people trapped and exploited. The case is often that people will bring in someone from their home country under the promise of employment and once they are here, simply not pay them. The victims are then trapped in a foreign country where they do not speak the language and are afraid or unable to get help.

Such a complex problem requires a multifaceted solution, and health care professionals are not the only people who can make a difference in the lives of people suffering under human trafficking. Among trafficking victims there is a great need for legal assistance, so that law professionals like recent Villanova Law School graduate John Rafferty make their career helping exploited workers. Rafferty works as an attorney at Friends of Farmworkers where he focuses on human trafficking. Rafferty works to identify cases of human trafficking in Pennsylvania and to empower victims of labor trafficking. As to solutions to the problem of human trafficking, all the panelists agreed that this is a complex structural problem, and there is no quick fix. Human trafficking is a systematic problem, which means that solutions will have to interdisciplinary and will require everyone to look at the part we play in the system. It is not just labor traffickers, pimps or prostitutes who are implicated. Everyone is involved in this system.

There are many people who do not understand that sex trafficking and prostitution are not victimless crimes, so these issues are not investigated properly. Pornography is closely linked with sex-trafficking because of the differences in the way it portrays men and women and because what starts out as being voluntarily filmed can easily turn into sexual exploitation. Things like glorifying pimps, victim-blaming, and joking about prostitution all contribute to the rape culture that allows this system of exploitation to exist.

The key to fixing these structural issues is awareness. The panelists all expressed the importance of understanding the problem, especially for those in power such as police officers, judges and prosecutors. This system of violence against people who can’t speak up is prevalent in our culture. It is vital to help these victims, seeing as they often do not have the means to help themselves. In order to change the system, people must first change their own behavior by being aware of a culture that perpetuates  harmful views on subjects like relationships, pimps, prostitution and what it means to be a man or woman.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New GWS Grad Class

Villanova's Gender and Women's Studies Program is offering a new interdisciplinary graduate course during the Fall 2014 semester.

Course Code: GWS 8000-001
Course Title:   Critical Perspectives on Gender
Professor:  Dr. Jean Lutes
Schedule: Wednesday 5:20-7:20 PM

An interdisciplinary study of gender, women, and sexuality, this course surveys contemporary developments in feminist, gender, and queer theory. It also applies those theories to a variety of topics, such as the representation of gender, the history of sexuality, the science of sexual difference, gender in the workplace, and gender in the digital age. Throughout the semester, we will consider how ideas about gender are bound inextricably to ideas about race and class. Likely theorists include Sandra Bartky, Karen Barad, Simone de Beauvoir, Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler, Patricia Hill Collins, Michel Foucault, Elizabeth Freeman, Judith Halberstam, Alison Jaggar, Chandra Mohanty, and Eve Sedgwick.

Email Jean Lutes at jean.lutes@villanova.edu for more information! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Perspectives on Same-Sex Marriage in Pennsylvania

Please make note of an important upcoming GWS event! On Wednesday, March 12th at 4:30 p.m. in Driscoll Auditorium, GWS will host a panel discussion on same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.

Since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, many gay couples have been challenging analogous state laws, claiming that they too are unconstitutional. This panel will explore same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania through a variety of perspectives, including John Culhane, Associate Director of Pastoral Care Education, Campus Ministry; as well as several local Philadelphians who have a stake in same-sex marriage laws in the Commonwealth: Isabella Barker, a litigant who filed a law suit against Pennsylvania; Jessica Streeter, visiting professor of Sociology at Villanova; and, Ken Oakes, a disability rights activist member of the vestry at Christ Church.

 The panel co-sponsored by GSC (Villanova's Gay Straight Coalition).