SEVEN SISTERS

SMITH COLLEGE, WELLESLEY COLLEGE, BRYN MAWR, VASSAR, MOUNT HOLYOKE, BARNARD, RADCLIFFE

Six female athletes are coming together to swim 40 miles this summer — across the Catalina Channel in both directions — as a statement of teamwork and empowerment for women everywhere.

The two-way Catalina Channel open-water swim will be completed by a group of six women representing the iconic Seven Sister Colleges. The swim is scheduled to begin in the evening of Friday, June 16th, from the Palos Verdes Peninsula; the total distance to be swum is approximately 40 miles. The women swimming across the channel are all either current students or alumnae of the Seven Sisters Schools (which include Smith College, Wellesley College, Bryn Mawr, Vassar, Mount Holyoke, Barnard, and Radcliffe). 

Here is the Mission Statement for the Swim: 

As Seven Sister College students and graduates, we all believe in the power of women supporting women to achieve greatness. The six of us on this relay represent women of different ages, interests and geographical location, bound by a fierce love for challenge and passion for excellence that we developed at our respective colleges. We are embarking on this relay to be an example of empowerment — the empowerment found when women take on an incredible challenge as a team and work together, and empowerment via paying it forward and being a role model for those who want to dream big and fulfill their own goals.

The team is comprised of Abigail Bergman (Smith ’18), Rebecca Nevitt (Wellesley), Charlotte Samuels (Smith ’20), Eliza Cummings (Smith ’17), Gabriela Kovacikova (Wellesley ’14) and Cathleen Pruden (Mount Holyoke ’16). Each woman in the relay will swim one-hour shifts starting first from the California mainland to Catalina Island, then after touching shore, turning around and swimming all the way back.

Each of these women have competed at the college level, at times swimming against one another in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), as well pursuing individual open-water and pool accomplishments. In 2016, Bergman swam the Catalina Channel; Cummings completed a Plymouth to Provincetown Crossing. Samuels is the youngest swimmer to have completed the Triple Crown of swimming (English Channel, Catalina Channel and circumnavigation of Manhattan Island). Nevitt has swum both Manhattan Island and the Catalina Channel. Pruden came 3rd place in the NCAA Division III Championship 400 IM in 2016. Kovacikova swam the English Channel in 2013.

Beware the danger of Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional female equality. Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women, or you do not.

Feminism Lite uses analogies like “He is the head and you are the neck.” Or, “He is driving but you are in the front seat.” More troubling is the idea, in Feminism Lite, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to “treat women well.” No. No. No. There must be more than male benevolence as the basis for a women’s well-being.

Feminism Lite uses the language of “allowing.” Theresa May is the British prime minister, and here is how a progressive British newspaper described her husband: Phillip May is known in politics as a man who has taken a back seat and allowed his wife, Theresa, to shine.

Allowed. Now let us reverse it. Theresa May has allowed her husband to shine. Does it make sense? If Phillip May were prime minister, perhaps we might hear that his wife had “supported” him from the background, that she was “behind” him or that she’d “stood by his side,” but we would never hear that she had “allowed” him to shine.

“Allow” is a troubling word. “Allow” is about power. A husband is not a headmaster. A wife is not a schoolgirl. Permission and being allowed, when used one-sidedly — and it is nearly only used that way — should never be the language of an equal marriage. Another egregious example of Feminism Lite: men who say, “Of course a wife does not always have to do the domestic work; I did domestic work when my wife traveled.”

Our world is full of men and women who do not like powerful women. We have been so conditioned to think of power as male that a powerful woman is an aberration. And so she is policed. We ask of powerful women: Is she humble? Does she smile? Is she grateful enough? Does she have a domestic side? Questions we do not ask of powerful men, which shows that our discomfort is not with power itself, but with women. We judge powerful women more harshly than we judge powerful men. And Feminism Lite enables this.

At first glance, woman interrupted may seem like a small problem, but it reflects deeper issues of gender inequality at work and in society. Women struggle every day to get their space in the workplace and the right to express themselves. When they get there, manterrupting reduces their participation. Women want men to ask themselves: Am I doing this without even realizing it? After all, what’s the point of having more women in a meeting room if nobody hears what they have to say?

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