SDSU research center fosters student feminist activism

by Nicole Sazegar, Senior Staff Writer

The phrase “bread and roses” was the rallying cry of female workers on strike in the 20th century. The political slogan became an iconic reminder about social and economic justice to pay women enough to maintain a good quality of life.

Aligning with this motto, The Bread and Roses Center for Feminist Research and Activism came to fruition in 2002 by means of the San Diego State women’s studies department.

Co-director Doreen Mattingly said the center’s mission is to support the women’s movement through promoting feminist creativity, scholarship and community engagement.

“We really are most interested in helping prepare students to enter into women’s organizations and women’s movements as intellectual and artistic workers, so not just as unskilled interns,” Mattingly said. “(We want to) make them think, ‘I’ve learned all this stuff in college. How can I use what I’ve learned to help improve things for women?’”

The center has since become a hub for activism and feminist research. The center began with the intention to offer a sabbatical to activists and artists who wanted to take time away from their activism and work. As time went on, however, it proved unsustainable due to the lack of funds.

Two years ago, Mattingly and co-director Kimala Price revived the center thanks to the donation by alumna Deborah Carstens to create a fellowship for student researchers.

The revival of the center created opportunities for students to become more involved in social justice issues.

The center offers programs such as the feminist research justice symposium. The symposium connects students involved in activism for their research with local organizations with research needs.

“We have a lot of students who are really passionate and who really want to get involved but don’t know how to do it,” Price said. “We are here to help them make those connections by doing those kinds of programs where we bring in community groups. (These students) hear how people who are working in these big organizations got there and hear their stories about how they got involved and what they do.”

Another platform from the center is the feminist research colloquium series. The series allows for monthly discussions of activism and research in women’s studies.

The center also collaborates with Hoover High School to bring the school’s Young Women’s Studies Club to campus. The club has boys and girls talk about women’s studies and feminist issues about once a week.

Through everything the center has to offer, multiple students have gained opportunities they would not have received otherwise. The center helped some of them connect with top-level organizations.

One student currently works with Planned Parenthood as part of her graduate thesis. After her thesis is done, she will continue to work with the organization.

Another student received an internship with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. The student is now a finalist for The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, a fellowship that supports young people dedicated to public service.

While a lot of SDSU students who aspire to change the world are capable of jumping right into student organizations, some need a bit of a push. The Bread and Roses Center helps aspiring activists without a direction find the outlet they need.