Women’s Day event examines

John Adams

Dancing, pounding her bare feet on the hollow stage to the spiritual song, “I’m gonna stay on the battlefield,” Ananya Chatterjea portrayed the rage of rape, and its aftermath when it goes unpunished.
The dance, “Unheard Testimonies,” depicted the 1978 gang-rape of a Muslim woman. Muslims, a minority in India, were outraged and alleged that police committed the crime. When the police were exonerated, the rage grew into a nationwide women’s movement.
Chatterjea, an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, performed the dance for the fourth annual International Women’s Day on the St. Paul campus Saturday.
About 600 women of all ages and backgrounds attended the free event titled “Women’s Voices,” which was organized by the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and the Minnesota Women’s Foundation.
Organizers from the groups say the event was a success due to a larger sponsor base and a more diverse format than last year.
Kathleen Graham, a board member for the Women’s Foundation, said the variety of lighter performances mixed in with serious issues improved the format and made it a success this year.
Event coordinator Malinda Schmiechen said she was pleased with the wide range of women who attended. She said the turnout improved this year due to the increase in the number of sponsors from 30 to 50, which drew a more diverse crowd, and more workshops offered to girls.
One of those was led by Joah Ionnatta, a graduate student in kinesiology and research assistant at the University’s Tucker Center, which focuses on women in sports.
The workshop was titled “Women and Girls in Sports” and focused on how female athletes are portrayed in the media.
Ionnatta displayed slides of women which showed the “hyper-sexualization” of female athletes by the media to the 15 women and a few young girls who attended the session.
Ionnatta argued that women now receive about 5 percent to 7 percent of all sports coverage in the media. And much of that media coverage marginalizes their participation in sports in favor of their sexuality.
One slide showed the women’s Olympic hockey team draped in just the American flag, wearing their skates.
Another slide Ionnatta called the “sorority shot” showed the University of Mississippi softball team. The slide showed a formal picture of the team in dresses, seated on couches in a large living room. Ionnatta drew on her experience in sports as a track athlete in college.
“I know college athletes don’t dress like that. Where’s the jerseys, the hats?” said Ionnatta.
Alison Nakashima, 26, remarked on the participation of girls in the day.
“It’s cool to see young girls getting out there and making a difference,” said Nakashima.
The day culminated with a call to action by the group, “In The Heart Of The Beast, Puppet and Mask Theater.” About 15 women gathered on stage each displaying colorful, three-dimensional hearts and reading a message of hope.
Then, with music playing in the background, the women raised a large cloth bird with a 20-foot wingspan and a huge face and eyes. The women wailed a high pitched ululation, a rejoicing sound, which Chatterjea said cuts across Muslim and Hindu cultures.