Views 108 | Time to read: 2 minutes | Uploaded: 2 - 11 - 2014 | By: Kelsey McDougall
The exuberant Toya Cooper presented three stories about what it means to be a woman this Saturday at the fifth annual DiversiTEA. As students, faculty, and staff munched on delicious cucumber sandwiches and cherry scones, Cooper vividly described different crossroads in her life concerning the stereotypes and assumptions that strangers, family, friends and even other women have about womanhood.
Cooper admitted she didn’t have all the answers, joking, “If I knew what it meant to be a woman, I would tell you every day and we could get some sleep at night!”
Fourth-year Tori Kessel said she enjoyed that “the stories that Toya told were from a different perspective than what women usually hear.” Cooper honestly discussed her journey from being a girl to becoming a woman, a journey she admitted she is still discovering.
In her first story, Cooper beautifully explained that the “capacity to love a child” is a far greater part of what it means to be a woman than the ability to bear one. As she continued through two more stories concerning safety and stereotypes, she explained that when people say nothing, they let others tell their story.
After the talk, Kessel said, “It’s OK for a woman to be girly… but it’s totally fine to be loving and authoritative.” Cooper explained that stories are an essential part of growing up. She said, “Part of learning includes learning the stories around you and the ways they impact your own [story]. I know more about me because I know you, and together we can learn more about God.”
People are able to find their own story best when they are in community, Cooper explained. Sophia Meulenberg, third-year, highlighted the ability of a story to convey truth through experience, rather than through explicit facts and rules. Meulenberg said, “Without vilifying or condemning people who might think differently from her, [Cooper] acknowledged the difficulties in defining womanhood, speaking with refreshing humor and poignant authenticity.”
Cooper explained that stories are helpful ways of discussing race as well, saying, “We see a dominant phenotype and assume that all the same phenotypes have the same stories. But we don’t.” Through warm cups of tea and a few good stories, students can listen and learn to love one another more truly and fully.