Programs explore society’s views of women

By Brenden Walz

The real lives women lead compared with the public perception of how they live their lives will be the focus of this year’s observance of Women’s History Month.

“Her Stories: Public Images; Private Realities” is the theme for events planned during March, Women’s History Month.

Lois Self, director of the women’s studies program at NIU, said this year’s theme is made up of two parts.

The first part of the theme concerns the idea of getting around the “public images,” or stereotypes, of women that are widespread among people. Self said one limited stereotype of women presented in the media is a woman who is a “blonde, blue-eyed, middle-class woman.”

She said the idea is to explore the many different stories of individual women. “It’s important to understand the differences between women,” Self said.

The other part of this year’s theme focuses on the realities women face every day. As an example, Self cited the image of the homeless woman.

She said homeless men often are portrayed as drunken men down on their luck. “We want to point out that it’s often women and children who are homeless,” Self said. “Reality usually contradicts the image.”

When women do try to come out and tell their side, Self said, they are often looked upon as lying or crazy. People prefer the image of the stereotype, Self said.

There will be a number of events held during women’s month, with the majority starting after Spring Break.

Among the events will be a three-person panel discussion titled “Homelessness: Perceptions of Homeless Women and Shelter Directors” on March 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Holmes Student Center’s Heritage Room.

Among the panel members will be Joe Vigneaux, who works with Hope Haven in DeKalb; Barbara Dancy, an instructor in the University of Illinois-Chicago department of Psychiatric Nursing; and Frances Barge, a UIC instructor of a class about maternal child health.