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Friday, June 02, 2023
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I love being a woman. 

Women possess a certain kind of magic. 

We’re intelligent, sophisticated, naturally beautiful and hold a special amount of empathy others don’t. We’re ethereal, for every single human originates from the womb. Without women, the world would crumble. 

We’re mothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, scientists, doctors, teachers, athletes, scholars and hopefully, one day, U.S. presidents. 

Despite how great we are, we are looked down upon when we exhibit natural human characteristics considered "unladylike." We’re criticized for not acting soft, pretty, gentle or caring. We're stripped from our feminine identity when we favor something or act in a way that’s stereotypically masculine. 

We’re objectified and dehumanized to be nothing more than a pretty face who answers to someone higher. 

Throughout history, we’ve risen above the unfortunate circumstances thrown upon us. We fought against gender roles and for suffrage. We protested for abortion rights and equal pay — something we’re sadly still working on. Many people don’t know we couldn't have credit cards until 1974 or that marital rape was legal in some states until 1993. 

However, the path to equity looks different for every woman. 

Women of color and LGBTQ women face unique challenges that often go unnoticed. Despite the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, Black women couldn’t truly vote like white women could until 1965. The Stonewall Riots, led by transgender women of color, sparked the first Pride parade. 

Today, LGBTQ women are sexualized and criticized in politics and media, and women of color continue to face sexism and racism daily. Although all women share similar experiences, we must not forget the struggles of those who simultaneously face different obstacles. 

I wish the rest of this piece were a Women's History Month celebration. 

But, yet again, we’re under attack. 

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I came to UF from my tiny town in Georgia hoping for a well-rounded and intentional education. I yearned to be around different types of people from different walks of life who were celebrated and loved by the community and the university. I dreamed of a place that fueled creative minds and supported hard working students. I aspired to thrive in an environment that loved, supported and uplifted its women. 

However, Gov. Ron DeSantis has continued to strike higher education in once-unimaginable ways. 

DeSantis has been evident in his extremist ideologies since day one. 

His right-winged viewpoints that target women, women of color and LGBTQ women have trickled down into Floridians' daily life since he was elected in 2019. 

Now, we’re fighting a new monster: House Bill 999. 

HB 999 is a painfully vague bill that attacks everything we know about higher education. This bill potentially gives the Florida State Legislature almost complete control over what happens on Florida campuses. If this bill passes, there’s no prediction for the evil that will unfold on the campus we call home. 

HB 999 would completely eradicate courses, majors and minors associated with "Critical Theory," including, but not limited to, gender studies and queer theory. 

Women and any other students pursuing gender studies degrees are left with less academic freedom, while professors in these categories face the risk of losing their job. 

LGBTQ history would be washed away, leaving stories like the Stonewall Riots in the past. Our stories have historically been left out in conversation, but now, with HB 999, we’ll not be left out — we’ll be forgotten. 

The bill also bans diversity, equity and inclusion practices at our university. 

National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council organizations, as well as other inclusive spaces, will be heavily restricted, silencing the women of color who call these organizations home. 

LGBTQ students are at high risk, as safe spaces for these students will be also dictated by HB 999. 

DeSantis wants to make our campus a political playground by completely controlling what we are doing, what we are learning and who is present on our campuses. He wants to erase the hard work for which women have shed blood, sweat and tears just because he doesn't agree with it. 

If the above sounds confusing, as politicians try their best to be, let me try and help you: UF as we know it is at risk, and women, women of color and LGBTQ women are stuck in the crossfire of political warfare. 

Higher education is a place of open-mindedness and eagerness to learn, but it is now being threatened with censorship and regression. 

We’re fighting for our right to academic freedom. We’re fighting to keep this campus a safe, inclusive environment for everyone. As Ben Sasse settles into his role as UF's new president, it’s hard to believe his selection was nothing short of a political move. 

A politician who has consistently opposed women’s rights and LGBTQ rights has no place on our campus. 

As a female student, I’m sick and tired of hearing news every week about DeSantis and his extremist agendas against the campus we call home. 

We’re regressing. 

Everything that women have fought against for so long may be eradicated, forgotten and disrespected by HB 999. 

Each and every one of us should be scared right now. But, more importantly, we must be willing to speak out and fight against this dangerous bill. 

If you don’t identify as a woman, continue to support us and uplift our voices. 

Contact your representatives and continue to speak out. Decades of hard work from those who came before us are at risk with HB 999. 

UF will never be the same for women, women of color and LGBTQ women if this disgusting bill goes into action. 

Perhaps in the future, Women’s History Month will be a celebration of the victory against HB 999 — not just another month of fighting against an oppressive system.

Juliann Carpenter is a 20-year-old UF advertising sophomore.

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