The Women’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati (WCC) held a women’s economic, mental and physical health expo in Fountain’s Square on Friday May 29. About 50 people and 15 organizations attended, with the primary goal being to bring together a variety of agencies to raise awareness for women’s issues.
At the event, a three-and-a-half minute movie was shown on Fountain Square’s Jumbotron. Pushpop media created this movie for WCC, and it portrayed economic inadequacy.
State representative Denise Driehaus, who is in her last term, first took the stage to advocate women’s rights. Among other things, Driehaus mentioned that statehouse legislation is dealing with accommodations for women in the workplace – for example, not getting fired because of a pregnancy leave or court dates due to domestic violence.
“You should not be fearful that you’re going to lose your job if you take half a day off for that (reason),” Driehaus said at the event. “Until we recognize (pay equity) and our colleagues recognize it, we cannot do anything about it. We are fighting the fight but we need your help.”
Additionally, local artist and advocate for women’s issues and child sexual abuse Melissa Rowland displayed her art piece, “Perceived Value.” The piece was a women’s mannequin covered in dollar bills with pennies over the breasts and between the legs.
“She’s expressing the value that some people place on womanhood,” Rowland said about the piece. “The parts of the body everybody has—shoulders, thighs, belly buttons—those are equal already, so they’re all dollars. But when women are devalued and they’re worth less, that’s what she shows.”
This isn’t the first social justice art piece that Rowland has created. Her last artwork was a series of several mannequins called “Finding Voice” that depicted the timeline of sexual abuse from a young age to adulthood. She said this was featured at the Fringe Festival last year.
This issue of pay equity is an important issue for people not only concerned about women, but also concerned about children in poverty, low-income family’s health, and children’s education said Vanessa Freytag, executive director of the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
“Research that was done at University of Cincinnati’s Economic Center found that four out of seven jobs in our region that women hold right now don’t pay her enough to take care of herself and just one child,” Freytag said at the event. “You cannot lift a family to all the areas that they need to be if you don’t start with the fact that that family must have enough resources to take care of itself.”
Beth Schwartz, Executive Director of Jewish Family Service, spoke about taking the “food stamp challenge” for one week with her daughter, who was 14 at the time, in 2011. She said she had participated in the food stamp challenge in the past and kept a blog update, but was criticized for not having an “all beans all the time” diet. She said the second time around, she was surprised her daughter volunteered to participate, and she vowed to try and make healthier choices.
“I started the challenge as an advocate and wanting to raise awareness, and I finished the challenge with a very personally transformative experience,” Schwartz said at the event. “I learned what it felt like to be poor. I learned what it meant to have food and security.”
The event wrapped up with dancers from Pones Inc, performing to “Uptown Funk.” The organization “provides artistic opportunities for community growth by creating engaging new ways for audiences to experience dance.”
Executive Director of Pones Kimberly Popa took the stage with four other dancers who performed a dance to “Uptown Funk.”
“That dance had a lot of repetition in it, so what I’d like to do now is invite all of you brave souls to learn a bit of that dance,” Executive Director of Pones Inc. Kimberly Popa said, as participants gathered in front of the stage. “We use dance to create community.”