By Irish Noel – 1851 Staff
Sharyn Lowenstein holds up a “peace” hand gesture while sitting in her office. Photo by Irish Noel.
For 16 years Sharyn Lowenstein has been advocating and bringing attention to social justice movements, gender issues, and the LGBT community on campus. She continues to do so by inviting the group known as Phallacies to the school.
What topics are you focused on bringing to people’s attention around campus?
I am very invested in diversity and inclusion issues and issues of social justice. Of course, that’s a big topic and everyone defines it differently. In general, my definition would be doing actions and creating initiatives in legislation and programs that would work for the largest common good. On campus, that can be things like looking at the holidays that we celebrate. For example, I would like to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. I have also focused on things like the transgender bathrooms. I’ve gotten very involved with transgender issues and I have been on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for years and will continue to be. Because of my work I am very interested in Lasell Community relationships, particularly partnerships, so that we can work to better the community in the way that the community wants to expand or be enhanced.
What event will be happening on October 25, 2017? Who are the Phallacies? What do they do?
On October 25, Lasell is hosting the Phallacies, which is a men’s performance troop. They act out different scenarios in order to get across different messages. They do the sort of counterpart to the Vagina Monologues by looking at men’s issues, which of course, are also women’s issues. Or issues of misunderstanding gender. The set of performances will look at the pressures in society that really influence us whether we realize it or not. They will do a range of scenarios that will be very fast and yet very powerful. Some of the scenarios will have just a few people and others will involve the whole troop. Because of how the show is run it feels very intimate. It feels like you’re in somebody’s living room because of how they do it.
Compared to the Vagina Monologues, how is this different?
In my memory, the Vagina Monologues are literally louder. They might seem to have a deeper impact, they might seem to some people more painful, and they might seem more funny. When you look at the ultimate impact I think they both make you think a lot about how you interact with people in society. You realize, in both of them, that things we do automatically or don’t do, like self-censoring, is not because we try to intentionally do it, but it’s much more complicated than that. You get a better sense that there’s a lot of social structures in the media, news, religion, certain places, and in our own families that propel us to act a certain way.
When they came years prior, what was the outcome? How did the community react?
You heard a lot of laughter. You heard a lot of questions. It wasn’t like people rushed out at the end like they usually do. I think the audience was very present for the performance. I felt moved by it and that I had questions that I didn’t really have before.
What are you hoping the outcome will be this year?
Conversation. I want people to come away with more questions than they went in with. To realize that, yes, this is funny, poignant, this is powerful, but we do have work to do as a society. So, let’s get busy, roll up our sleeves, and do something together. We need each other. It’s not just men vs women. It’s everyone working together. It’s also not as simple as just men and women, because as we know there’s like a million different genders.
Do you expect any changes around campus to occur due to their appearance?
I can’t really speak to on campus, but what I can speak to is our own class. Because our class focuses on gender I am hoping that we will be able to have a more informed discussion…There are challenges for men, women, everyone on the gender spectrum and there’s so much that distracts us from being ourselves. So, what I want to come out of this is a discussion about what it takes to be yourself or to be whatever gender you identify as. What are the challenges to this and how do we overcome them?
Why do you think it’s important for events like this to happen on campus?
College students are in an ideal position to make changes within our society. Your generation has the future ahead of them. If your generation takes this on as one of their interests, I think we can make a huge difference in this. I don’t think people have to suffer in the ways that the people in my generation or the people before me have. I think it’s very important to take this on in college.
Do you hope for similar events to happen in the future? If so, what?
I’m not sure. Obviously, the Vagina Monologues happen in the Spring. I would love for someone to come up with some events with me. Maybe some kind of publication or producing of a video on campus. I don’t know exactly what it would be. We have a lot of relationship violence so we could have something that brings attention to that. I think we do well as a small campus, but there’s always room for improvement.