Here’s our third BROWN UNIVERSITY CAMPUS CRUSH, Thea Aguiar, who is involved in working with such empowering organizations such as Breakthrough and 10×10!
1. Tell us about you.
Thea Aguiar, 2013
Concentrating in Urban Studies
Issues pertaining to women and girls. New media and forms of storytelling. Architecture. Photography. Traveling and exploring. Cats!
I’ve ridden an elephant in an abandoned parking lot in New York City before. My parents used to organize the Indian New Year (Diwali), and elephants were allowed in the city before a stampede happened in the early 90’s.
Favorites around campus?
Buildings: Rochambeau is unbelievably beautiful. Off campus – the Providence Athaneaum is incredible, as is the old bank on South Main St.
Ice Cream: The Inside Scoop – get the handmade coffee oreo.
Spring Weekend-related: Aside from just bathing in the sun with friends and music, that time when Wyclef did a surprise performance was so great – it made the fact that we were inside the hockey stadium really not matter.
2. How do you feel about feminism? Do you identify as a feminist?
I’m into using the f word. I very much identify that way. I think it’s a shame that it’s become such a loaded, negative word because it detracts from conversation – when you even use the word feminist, people tend to shut down. I think it’s something that needs to be re-understood. Recently in Persuasive Communication (TAPS 0220), I gave a speech about it using Gloria Steinem’s definition about feminism – the belief in the full social, economic, political equality of females and males, but also acting accordingly, not just believing it.
Do you have a feminist role model?
I do love Gloria Steinem. There’s this piece by her that I read in a GISP I was doing (If Men Could Menstruate) that just perfectly captures the all-too common gender biases we face – I think it’s a must-read.
On a personal level, my grandma on my mom’s side was the director of Planned Parenthood in Hartford in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I always knew that growing up and I thought that was so cool – she was so open, and so into education rather than imposing moral ideals.
3. Tell me about your work. What are your favorite parts?
I studied abroad in Delhi at an all-women’s college there because I’m passionate about women’s issues – my time in India shaped a lot of my values. I’ve always enjoyed working with new media and storytelling, and feel that those tools can be applied to social action. I found out about this organization called Breakthrough, a humans rights organization “that creates cutting-edge pop culture and innovative education to inspire new generations of leaders to act for change.” The woman who founded it was a human rights lawyer in New York who realized the power media has to influence peoples’ attitudes and beliefs, which is not always positive, but why not harness its power and use it as a means to spread social awareness?
I also worked with 10×10, a global action campaign for girls’ education – they filmed Girl Rising, and we were able to screen it at Brown a couple weeks ago. Being a part of the growing movement for girls’ education – even in a small way – has been incredible.
Not only does the organization appeal to people who believe that women and girls should be educated, but we are also able to PROVE that educating girls can break the cycles of poverty in just one generation. The statistics are all there – HIV rates decline, economies grow, GDP rises by insane amounts when women are educated.
4. What are you proud of in your work? What has been challenging?
It’s been amazing to work with people who so firmly believe in empowering women worldwide. Here in the fall, on International Day of The Girl, I was part of a campaign where we asked people to write on placards why they cared about girls’ education. I got a lot of positive feedback from the community – so many male-identified individuals wanted to participate. I think it’s really productive to be inclusive of men in feminism, but making sure not to be dominated by those groups. The Ring the Bell campaign by Breakthrough is all about getting men to take a stand on violence against women, which is wonderful.
Going abroad was definitely an eye-opening experience. I went on a camel safari with my peers, and we were led by several men who owned the camels. I was speaking with one of the men and he asked me if I had any brothers, and I said no. He told me, “that’s such a shame for your parents.” I kind of knew what he meant, but I wanted him to articulate it, so I asked – why? He said, “because, girls are useless.” It was just one of those moments that hits you. It made me really thankful of my environment at Brown and aware of my own privilege – and it also made me more certain that this type of ideology cannot be ignored.
5. If you could go back in time and sit down with your freshman self, what are some things you would tell her?
Make relationships with professors. Go to their office hours, ask for their advice on out-of-the-box projects, learn from them.
Read Morning Mail! Go to things – even if no one will go with you, just go! There are so many incredible discussions, film screenings, art openings, speakers … I would think that I had to do my work and not attend events, but you can always manage to get both done, and you’ll learn something amazing.
6. If you could be any famous artist, who would it be and why?
I’d be an architect – maybe Frank Lloyd Wright. Or Zaha Hadid actually. I would just want to be inside her mind and find out how she conceptualizes space.
7. What do you do when you are having a bad day?
I hang out with friends – I live with 8 people! If I need to be alone, maybe I’ll watch TV. Currently I’m in Storytelling in the Wire, so I’ve been watching a lot of that, and I’ve become addicted to House of Cards.
8. This might be too much, but – if you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and why?
When you hear arguments against rape, people so often bring up – “it could be your mom, your sister, your wife.” I understand why this argument can be appealing, but I want us to get to a point where we don’t need to make that argument, when it’s enough just to be a person. Nobody should face injustice or violence simply because they are a human being.
9. Favorite class at Brown?
American Culture and the City, with James Morone. There were about 15 of us and we read // watched everything from Native Son to Middlesex to The Social Network.
Neumann’s architecture classes are incredible. Danny Warshay’s The Entrepreneurial Process.
Tricia Rose’s Hip Hop and Culture, which is in so many ways a class about race, is one of my favorites – she’s so brilliant!
10. Add a question and tag the next person that you are inspired by!
Lucy Schultz! If you could visit one place in the world, where would it be and why?