Emerald Empowerment kicked off Monday night with its first speaker Jaclyn Friedman, an Emerson alumna and the author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex & Safety.
Formerly rebranded from last year’s title Take Back the Night, Emerald Empowerment is the Kappa Gamma Chi sorority’s weeklong spring campaign dedicated to raising awareness of domestic violence and partner abuse.
In a lecture room in the Paramount Theater, Friedman started off her presentation by simply holding up a water bottle.
“Let’s imagine, for a minute, that this delicious, unopened bottle of water is a delicious, unopened bottle of lady sex,” Friedman said.
The audience broke out into a fit of laughter.
“So, what is my job as a lady to do with this delicious bottle?” Friedman continued. The audience responded with, “Don’t open it.”
To which Friedman said, “Because this is the most valuable thing I own, right? If someone takes it without consent, I obviously wasn’t protecting it and didn’t value it enough. So, why should we, as society, care?”
Through writing, performing, and speaking, Friedman said she is trying to redefine what the concept of sex should mean for young women, in the hopes of ending the systematic sexualization and violence toward their gender.
Kappa Gamma Chi member Shanae Burch said she thought Friedman, with two published novels on the subject and her own connection to Emerson, would be perfect for kicking off Emerald Empowerment.
Wearing a bright green shirt in support of the event, Burch said Friedman’s message can help Emerson students reclaim their sexuality.
“This is one day of our entire week, but this is exactly the message we want to be sending out to the community,” said the senior performing arts major. “You can combat this violence by being who you truly want to be — don’t edit yourself, don’t clean yourself up, just be who you are.”
Monica de Pinto Ribeiro Hancke, a member of Kappa Gamma Chi, said this campaign is designed to provide students with an open environment to talk about healthy sexuality.
“This week is all about raising your voice and remembering that your voice matters,” said the junior performing arts and political communication double major. “We’ve seen through research that a lot of times, rape and sexual assaults go unaccounted for. And that might be because survivors don’t feel compelled to share their story.”
With the help of a picture slideshow behind her, Friedman continued her presentation, addressing topics like the portrayal of women in society, women’s sexuality, and the rules of consensual sex.
At one point, Friedman pulled up a picture of No Doubt band members Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal rocking out on stage together. She said the picture perfectly represents what she calls “the collaborative, creative model of sexuality.”
“Instead of thinking of sex as a commodity exchange, if we thought about it the way two musicians play together, it transforms everything,” she said to the audience. “That is what sexuality should be like.”
Kappa has raised over $3,500 through its Crowdrise account with the goal of reaching $5,500 by the end of the Boston Marathon, after Emerald Empowerment Co-Chair Lauren Cortizo crosses the finish line.
The money will go to the sororities’ two beneficiaries in Massachusetts: Casa Myrna Vazquez, a women and children’s shelter in Boston; and Transition House, a battered women’s shelter located in Cambridge, according to its website.
Kappa is hosting another event called the Vagina Monologues later in the week, and de Pinto Ribeiro Hancke said 10 percent of ticket sales will go to author of The Vagina Monologues Eve Ensler’s V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.
After her slideshow was over, Friedman opened up the floor for questions. An emotional but thought provoking conversation followed as students asked what could be done about the situation. Friedman said she was thrilled to see such an intense interest in individual sexuality.
“I found it so inspiring,” she said. “To see a lot of women, especially young women, really care about these issues made me feel like we were all working on a better world together.”
Cortizo, a senior marketing communication major, said she was impressed with how invigorating Friedman’s speech was.
“She made things so much simpler,” she said. “It showed us that you should never let society make you think something if you don’t feel that way.”
Because women’s sexuality in the media is normally a hard topic to approach, Friedman explained some of her strategies for explaining this kind of issue to people of varying beliefs and opinions.
“Everyone can make their own choices,” she said. “If you have a set of values that are different than mine, my belief is that you should have the right to them. What I’m after is a world where we all have equal access to our own sexuality, where we can both figure out and know what we want, and then pursue it, as long as we aren’t hurting anyone else.”