Bey drive in

Mississippi State University organizations have come together across campus to recognize the month of March as Women's History Month. By looking at important and impactful figures of the past and innovative, powerful women of the present, MSU is empowering and encouraging women in recognition of this month.

The campus has come alive with events to honor Women's History Month, such as the Women's Day and Women's History Month social media campaign, in which students can share their empowering messages across social media. This also includes the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center's virtual "Brown Bag Lunch Series" with the MSU Gender Studies Program which will host a variety of speakers focusing on feminine issues across minorities, professionalism and prejudice.

The MSU Music Makers Productions, headed by student director and senior kinesiology major Madeline Emery, is organizing a drive-in movie to be shown in the parking lot of the Joe Frank Sanderson Center. The movie, "Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé," is a powerful movie about famous pop icon Beyoncé and her experience performing at Coachella.

"Beyoncé is one of the strongest women who is a pop culture public figure," Emery said. "I think it's great that you can see women like that, really strong powerful pop icons like her."

Originally planned to be an event recognizing Black History Month, the drive-in movie had to be rescheduled due to the ice storm. However, Music Makers found the subject and themes of the movie work just as well for Women's History Month and could still go on to serve its original purpose.

"Beyoncé was the first female black headliner at Coachella," Emery said. "This is the perfect opportunity to lift up women for Women's History Month, while still honoring Black History Month."

Emery said Music Makers found this movie to be a perfect opportunity to create a fun, educational environment that could be used to empower and encourage students across campus. "Homecoming" portrays a woman who represents outstanding confidence, bravery and strength, which are important traits to present to the MSU community.

"People can come for free and pull up to the drive-in and watch this movie to sing and dance and have a good time," Emery said. "She is just such a strong woman, and I think she can be a role model to anybody."

Although much of Women's History Month is able to focus on the good, exciting accomplishments of women across the world, the MSU Police Department is hosting a self-defense workshop to acknowledge, educate and prepare students for criminal acts that frequently target women.

Corporal Chantel Solis-McCoy, the crime prevention officer of the MSU Police Department, is focused on educating female students on common risks, as well as presenting options for defense in dangerous situations.

"The reason that self-defense is something that women should know is because it gives them several options if they are ever attacked," McCoy said. "There are going to be some situations where physical defense cannot be used without the risk of serious body injuries, so we try to give them other ways out."

Among the services provided by MSU to keep students safe is a program called the Rape Aggression Defense system (R.A.D.) program. This program is usually taught in one to two sessions per semester, in which students are taught a variety of ways to defend themselves in dangerous scenarios. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the in-person sessions had to be canceled.

"R.A.D. was designed to complement a woman's natural desire to resist rape aggression," McCoy said. "We teach women risk-reduction strategies for being out and about, in your home or in your vehicle as ways to remain safe and lower the risk of being attacked."

From physical self-defense tactics to psychological tricks to tips for lowering the risk ahead of time, the MSU Police Department is determined to provide a myriad of ways for students to be able to defend themselves.

"It doesn't matter how big, small, tall or strong she is. If she really puts her mind to it, a woman can do anything," McCoy said. "I feel that these skills could save someone's life."

Many female MSU students have become public leaders and role models, working to better the community and encourage community members. Gracie Anello, a junior geoscience major, has been an active community leader on MSU's campus and outside in the community, after being crowned Miss Maroon and White in the fall of last year.

"I do a lot of stuff on campus, speaking to a lot of different organizations, getting to know different influential people inside of each department of the university, helping with the Health and Wellness Center with their breast cancer awareness initiative back in October and stepping into classrooms just to say, "Hi," to Bulldogs and welcome them back to classes," Anello said.

Anello spoke of her experiences as a prominent female leader in MSU and the surrounding community, how she hopes to be an encouragement and welcoming face to all who come to MSU and how she respects the resilience of MSU women.

"I think it's really important to younger girls that we give them good role models by highlighting what the women in our country are doing right now and what the women in our university are doing right now," Anello said. "It is so important to be a strong and respected woman in our world today, and I am a big proponent of that. And that's something that I choose to look for in my own life."

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