Meet: Josie Gomez
Class of 2014
Ethnic Studies and Spanish
March might be known as “Women’s History Month” but that doesn’t mean the conversation has an expiration date. Senior Josie Gomez strives to explore and communicate the ongoing issues surrounding women’s appreciation, most recently through her responsibilities as a facilitator for the Empower Retreat.
"I work in the Women’s Center now and have for all four years, starting as a volunteer my freshman year. It became such a huge part of my USD experience, and Empower was a major element of the center.
The Empower Retreat happens every year in the spring for first-year through third-year female students. It is specifically through the Women’s Center, and we had applications with a series of basic information and a couple of short-answer questions to get an idea of why people wanted to go on the retreat. I went my sophomore and junior year as a participant, but when it came to my senior year, I was encouraged to apply as a leader. Leaders included five senior women and five administrators or faculty. We each paired with a faculty member and as a pair took charge of a small group.
The retreat was really about leadership and teaching it through the lens of feminism. Growing up, I had an idea of power and balance and being a woman of color. I knew differences existed. The one thing I really like about the feminist leadership style is that it is less grounded in a hierarchical structure and more in a horizontal structure. Regardless of position or title, any one could be a leader in any place. It rejects the assumption that there should be one person in charge. It is an attempt to put everyone on an equal playing field and to see each person’s voice as a vital part of the group. So often in society are women put at a disadvantage, so retreat is a good way to get together and have conversations about these disadvantages women face and all the ways to ban together and overcome such structural injustices.
An emphasis during the retreat was the sacredness of people’s stories and how those stories shaped their lives. We encouraged people to think about their own stories, and as facilitators, we each picked a piece of our lives to tell, specifically framed around gender. My story talked about balancing independence (as a feminist) with interdependence (as someone in a relationship). Writing my story helped me see something I had not necessarily thought about before, and I had the chance to flesh it out and tell to the younger women in the group.
In terms of social justice issues in general, it is easy to get caught up in how bad everything is around us. We talk a lot about sexual assault, pay, or equity. It becomes hard to know how we can change the world. Women’s history celebrates those who have done something and shows me what more we can do. People don’t necessarily think about gender issues anymore because many believe it doesn’t exist or we have moved on. I’d like to see a wider appreciation year-round for women because there are so many who do a lot day in and day out, and I hope the Empower Retreat will continue to grow and inspire."
"Any one could be a leader in any place."