During women’s history month, Flagstaff residents are encouraged not only to evaluate the challenges women have faced throughout history, but also to celebrate the local women who have achieved great things and taken every opportunity to empower their fellow females.
Sophomore Emily Molstad said she’s proud her city has a female mayor, who serves as a role model for women in the community. Coral Evans has served as the mayor of Flagstaff since she was elected in 2016, after having been a city council member for eight years. She believes the community should be proud of all the women working to make positive progress in the region.
“Locally, we have some really strong females who have been through a lot, know a lot and can be mentors,” Evans said.
Among these women, Evans said, are Mary Babbitt and Deborah Harris: two people she considers to be her personal mentors. Babbitt is a female activist in Flagstaff and the wife to former mayor, Paul Babbitt. Harris is the president of the Southside Community Association and is an activist and volunteer at the Murdoch Center — an organization that helps support local youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Harris has been deeply involved in the Flagstaff community for decades. She began volunteering full time in the city in 2017 after retiring from a faculty position at NAU. Harris said she values her womanhood but feels there are great challenges that come with being a woman — especially a woman of color.
“I think that women of color tend to have a double-edged sword to deal with,” Harris said. “Not only are we women, we’re also women of color. We have to deal with both of these issues.”
Evans echoed these sentiments and said it’s important to fight for equal treatment and point out the disparities between genders. She also said that people tend to subconsciously fixate on the personal and, oftentimes, insignificant aspects of a woman’s life rather than her morals and leadership abilities.
“Maybe they like my policy, maybe they don’t,” Evans said. “Either way, someone’s going to talk about my hairstyle or the clothes that I’m wearing.”
Despite others’ judgement, Evans said the most empowering thing about being a woman is that she can do whatever she wants. She said that while Babbitt was helping her pick out suits for her position as Mayor, Babbitt encouraged her not to feel pressured to always wear suits — even though people expect her to.
“She told me, ‘If we were going to elect our mayor based off their suit, we’ll just keep the one we have. He wears nice suits. What you do has nothing to do with what you’re wearing. You wear what you’re comfortable with on your platform,’” Evans said.
From a student perspective, Molstad said it’s always important to acknowledge the biases people might have towards prominent women. She said she believes these biases are ingrained in American culture and can cloud people’s judgment.
“A lot of people say women are too emotional to hold positions of power because they might make irrational decisions,” Molstad said. “But we really don’t do that any more than men do.”
Sophomore Sariah Desazio said that, despite all the challenges women in power may face, it’s incredibly important to have women represented in political roles.
“I think it’s really good that women get into positions of power,” Desazio said. “It gives young women good role models. They can now picture themselves doing things of great importance and changing the world in the future.”
Harris said that, to her, the most important thing about being a woman is attitude. She said that women who have a powerful, world changing attitude toward life and are in control of their choices can overcome any obstacle.
“It’s about not letting your fear take control,” Harris said. “I tell this to young women all the time, ‘Don’t let fear stop you from doing something. You need to climb over that fear and conquer what it might stop you from accomplishing. Be the best woman you can be.’”
Evans agreed that a powerful attitude is crucial in achieving great things, and said that women need to sometimes be reminded that they do have what it takes. She said when she first ran for office, she was discouraged because she thought she didn’t have enough experience for the role. After discovering her male counterparts’ levels of experience, she said she realized that confidence would be crucial in determining the outcome of her campaign. Evans said it’s important for all women to practice confidence.
“If you’re curious, if you have gumption, if you’re willing to work and want to understand things, then go ahead and do it,” Evans said.
Desazio said that, along with having this attitude, women should be supportive of one another. She said in a male dominatedworld, it is great to see women helping each other out and wishing success for one another. Desazio said women belong at the top just as much as men do.
“The most important thing is to support each other,” Desazio said. “Not just women supporting women, but humans supporting humans.”
Molstad said women’s history month is a great time to remember those who have struggled and fought for equality in the past. She said it’s also about looking towards the future and trying to advocate for equal treatment.
Harris said that although celebrating women’s history during the month of March is a good thing, the celebration should continue throughout the rest of the year.
“Let’s give some serious thought celebrating women’s history every day,” Harris said. “We don’t have to wait until March to celebrate women.”
Harris said the starting point to achieving a daily celebration of women begins by empowering young girls and ensuring they’re awareness, from a young age, of their individual capability as human beings. Harris said that when girls know how strong they are, they can then grow up to be women without limitations.