International Women’s Day Panel Hosts Healthy Discussion

Bex Law, Student Reporter

More than 60 countries, which included Marshall students, faculty and staff, were represented in the International Women’s Day Panel, hosted by the Women’s and Gender Center, in a discussion on international diversity and inclusion on Wednesday, Mar. 8.

“Change comes from using our voices,” said Dr. Zelideth Rivas, moderator of the panel and Japanese professor. The panel included Dr. JiYoon Jung, Bindu Mannan, Dr. Pamela Puppo, Elnaz Rahimpour and Nko Okina Solomon. 

Jung spoke about navigating a different culture with different cultural priorities and standards. 

“I didn’t know how to use the system,” she said, referring to entering spaces not occupied by women in her country. She was raised in systems that depend on women for domestic work, but coming to America allowed her to enter into different workforces. 

Mannan spoke about how in India, a woman’s in-laws take preference over her children and her husband. 

“If you don’t give 200 percent, you’re a bad wife,” she said. She has lived in America since she was a child and has learned from observing other Americans’ behavior about what is common and standard cultural practice. “It’s nice not having to monitor what I say to my husband,” Mannan said. 

“In my country, my name is Pamela, but I think I have perfected the American accent calling me ‘Pam,’” Puppo said, poking fun at a generalized American accent. Puppo spoke about the Lantinx experience in West Virginia. She hasn’t met very many Latinx people; however, she has found a new found family in Africans. 

“The southern hemisphere has a lot in common, and there’s not a lot of Latinos here, but the support network is so important,” she said. 

When asked about the pros and cons of living in America, Solomon said, “You’re richer because you know more cultures, but there’s always a price. You’ll always be missing something from home.” 

Rahimpour, who was born in America but lived in Iran for ten years as a child and teenager, gave insight into the experience of young adults protesting modesty laws in Iran. 

“They don’t think anyone cares,” Rahimpour said. “They have lost hope that the world cares about them.” 

All of the women on the panel expressed excitement to be at the panel, but Rahimpour was especially touched. Through tears, she said, “It’s beautiful that we are here. In my country, there is no Women’s Day.”

Rivas explained her theory of “boutique multiculturalism.” She explained how through food, clothing and media, people may begin to view other cultures as performances. She said, “We begin to view other cultures almost like dolls on a stage that we can play with.” 

Moving forward, the panelists invite Americans to move past boutique multiculturalism and find opportunities to hear the true stories of other cultures and peoples. 

“International folks carry the burden of being ambassadors,” Rivas said. 

Rahimpour closed by referencing the motto for the Iranian liberation movement: Women, Life, Freedom. 

“Accessing basic freedoms isn’t something we should have to ask for,” Rahimpour said. “These things are yours. ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ will someday be all over the world, spoken in every language, when we are finally all liberated.”