MOSAIC discusses social basis for gender

Credit: J.W. Ramp/Contributing Editor Credit: J.W. Ramp/Contributing Editor Credit: J.W. Ramp/Contributing Editor Credit: J.W. Ramp/Contributing Editor

Carnegie Mellon’s 14th annual community-wide gender conference, MOSAIC, will be held on Sunday, Feb. 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the University Center. The conference is free and open to the public, and it offers 11 sessions on topics ranging from the history of feminism to the biological and social basis for gender.

“More than awareness, we want to create a space where people can have conversations they may not be able to have otherwise,” said Rowshan Palmer, the advisor for MOSAIC. Echoing that, MOSAIC 2010 offers sessions on often-controversial issues, from “What Feminists say about Pornography” to “The (In)visibility of Transmen.”

Ashley Brown, the MOSAIC Committee chair and the Student Life gender/GLBT intern, agreed that “the MOSAIC gender conference pulls in interest from every part of the gender/GLBT spectrum, allowing everyone to find his or her own session topic of choice.”

Students attending MOSAIC will also be offered the opportunity to become locally involved with issues of gender relations and construction.

One in Four, a national organization whose name comes from the statistic that one in four college women has survived rape or attempted rape since her 14th birthday, will host “How to Help a Sexual Assault Survivor: What Men Can Do.” This session will offer men advice on what to do if a sexual assault victim approaches them for help, with the goal of empowering men to help eliminate sexual assault on campuses nationwide.

In a session titled “Making a Difference — Locally!” students will also be invited to volunteer with a variety of local community groups including 100 Black Men, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Strong Women, Strong Girls.

Lisa Tetrault is leading a session titled “F-Word: Feminism 101.” The presentation will provide a brief history of feminism and facilitate a discussion on the modern connotations of the word “feminism.”

“I think it is useful to discuss why it is young women feel it is so dangerous to identify as a feminist and to understand that this identification does have real costs,” Tetrault said.

MOSAIC is seen as especially important to H&SS’s relatively unknown gender studies minor. Kristina Straub, the faculty advisor for the minor, described the gender studies courses as popular with students in a variety of majors, despite low enrollment in the minor. She explained that “having that mix of majors contributes to an interdisciplinary discussion. Gender studies, in some of its best instantiations, is interdisciplinary.”

The conference will end with a live student performance of The Vagina Monologues, directed by first-year drama major Lio Sigerson. MOSAIC’s closing will also include the screening of clips from a filmed performance of The Men’s Story Project. According to the official website, The Men’s Story is a “public performance and community dialogue project that explores social ideas about masculinity, using the arts as a medium for community-building and social change.”

Carnegie Mellon also hosts other events throughout the year focused on women and gender studies. These include upcoming events in March, for Women’s History Month, and Speak Your Mind, a series of monthly discussions on current events.

MOSAIC is sponsored by Student Life, Student Dormitory Council, Women’s Leadership Institute, Student Senate, Multicultural and Diversity Initiatives, the Activities Board, and a number of other groups.

More information about this year’s MOSAIC, including a program for the day, as well as instructions concerning how to register, visit