The lecture “Sex and Gender in the New Millennium” kicked off Women’s History Month on March 1 with Rev. Ann Hayman speaking about the need for more women in leadership roles.
Hayman, a Presbyterian minister, spoke to an audience of approximately 50 and was introduced by Regina Lark, adjunct history instructor and adviser to the first feminist club on campus, the United Womyn’s Council.
Hayman said that the Presbyterian Church started ordaining women ministers in 1956 and “has been the better for it.” But she said that she initially failed a test she had to take for ordination because she refused to answer a situational question that required pretending to be a man.
Hayman said that it is important for women to take leadership roles to affect respect for women in a still patriarchal world.
The more women there are in power, Hayman said, the more women will be placed in high esteem, dispelling the stereotype of the weaker sex.
Hayman is the program director for the Mary Magdalene Project, a residential program in South Gate for street prostitutes.
“I have learned far more from them than they have from me,” Hayman said of the women she works with. The minister said she was surprised to learn that 85 percent of the prostitutes she worked with came from church-based families and 100 percent were survivors of child abuse.
Paradoxically, the women have told Hayman that prostitution gave them a sense of control over their lives — at least over whom they will or will not sleep with.
She also shared experiences that instilled in her a need to promote feminism. As a child Hayman remembered being told by a teacher that there were only four women in history: Mary, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale and Eleanor Roosevelt.
To point out the conflicts between tradition and change in the church, Hayman recalled a recent Christian feminist event she attended. Ultra-right members of the church called the event a “man-hating gathering of witches.” Men are still threatened by assertive women, she said.
The minister ended the lecture with statistics that affect men, women and children. She said that 3,000 children die every year from child abuse, and that there is case of wife-beating reported every minute of every day.
To actively engage the audience in her cause, she ended by handing out index cards to the audience so they could write a promise to themselves and to her to get involved in all issues from child abuse to creating healthy family environments.
The lecture is the third of the Annual Women’s History Month lecture series and was held in honor of two GCC graduates: the late Karen Hale Newcomb and Donna Clare Gerken. Newcomb was married to Dr. Robert M. Newcomb, whose financial support established the Women’s History Month Lecture Series.