ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca High School’s Supporting Women Impacting Society club will continue HerStory, their annual fundraiser for the Advocacy Center in Tompkins County, virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Since 2014, HerStory has invited women to share their personal stories and views on feminist issues with the community.

This year’s theme is “Women Around The World,” and will feature more than half a dozen speakers from across the globe discussing how where they live has affected their lives and professions as women. 

There will be a live discussion with some of the speakers on Friday, June 5, at 1 p.m. that will take place via Zoom, and the link to join the call can be found on their event website here. The discussion is open to the public and you do not need to register beforehand to attend. 

The discussion and videos of even more individual speakers sharing their stories, which will be added to the event website over the next couple days, will be available until the end of June. The website also provides a link where people can donate to the Advocacy Center, since there will be no charge to participate in the discussion or to access any of the resources on the website.   

SWIS, which formerly stood for Strong Women Impacting Society, changed its name two years ago to be more inclusive to all students regardless of gender. 

Goldali Danberg Biggs, the president of SWIS, said the club wanted to incorporate the experiences of a broader spectrum of women in this year’s event. Last year’s HerStory theme was “Women In Politics,” but Danberg Biggs explained that it mostly focused on United States politics instead of branching out to a diversity of feminist figures. 

“Coming from that, we really wanted to broaden our spectrum and really incorporate all women,” Danberg Biggs said. “A lot of feminist culture in the United States really focuses on white women and white women alone, and that’s problematic so we wanted to make sure that HerStory included people all across the world so that young people and people in our community understand that feminism is not exclusive and that equality means equality for all. That’s really the theme that we’re trying to push.”

According to Danberg Biggs, this year’s HerStory was originally set to take place at the Cherry Artspace near the end of May. When the coronavirus began to take hold in the U.S., the group wasn’t sure if they’d be able to provide an event that would be equally as enjoyable in the new age of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. Nevertheless, they persisted. Rachel McDonald, one of the co-advisors of SWIS, said this event was mostly organized by the students, who she said were enthusiastic about reaching out to family friends and community members about speaking to ensure this year’s HerStory became a reality. “It’s incredible for me to see people being so organized so young. It gives me hope,” McDonald said about the student members of SWIS. 

Along with videos of this year’s speakers, SWIS is also promoting feminist resources on their website including book titles and podcasts, as well as national and international organizations that are working to better the lives of women.

Danberg Biggs and McDonald added that there have been advantages and disadvantages to moving the event online. While this year’s event won’t have the same in-person experience as the rest, Danberg Biggs pointed out that the virtual event makes HerStory accessible to community members who may not have been able to attend in-person, and that it’s also made it easier to feature a broader spectrum of women, including women from other countries. “I was disappointed at first though because a lot of HerStory is meeting the people, shaking their hands and talking to them, but I think we’ll be able to get a similar experience from the live part of the event,” Danberg Biggs said. 

McDonald added that virtual events may not be as exciting as in-person events but encourages the community to join the live discussion on June 5 and to check out the resources on their website. “I’m really hoping that the community comes out to support the hard work that the members of SWIS have put into making HerStory reimagined as a virtual event due to our current limitations,” McDonald said.

Featured photo courtesy of Goldali Danberg Biggs.

J.T. Stone

J.T. Stone is a contributor for The Ithaca Voice and a 2020 graduate of Ithaca High School. Questions? Story tips? Email him at jt22stone@gmail.com.