This International Women’s Day, “The Want Project” displayed several banners in the Sage atrium, Statler Hall and Willard Straight Hall that challenged the traditional perceptions of how women “should” behave in society.
“Women have been the recipients of the word ‘should’ and it shows the constraints that women face,” said Shaibyaa Rajbhandari ’18.
The banners contained statements ranging from how women “should wear makeup” and “should have children” to how they “want to have an orgasm”, “want a level playing field” and “want to be a CEO.”
Rajbhandari, one of the three students who worked on the campaign, explained the motivation of launching The Want Project in an interview with The Sun.
She said it started last year when she reached out to Kate Huffman grad who was collecting “should statements.” When the Should Project did not materialize, Rajbhandari and Huffman decided to “do the opposite of should and focus on wants.”
According to Huffman, this year’s Want Project gathered over 280 statements while last year’s unfinished Should Project only had 100.
The banners went up in the early morning on March 8 and by 4 p.m., the ones in Willard Straight Hall and Sage Hall had been taken down, but the one in Statler remained.
Rajbhandari said that the management of Willard Straight did not give a reason as to why the banner was taken down.
The building managers of Sage Hall, on the other hand, reached out to her and said they had to take it down since the group was “not affiliated with the business school” and because an outside event was being hosted in the atrium.
However, pictures of the banner were taken and put up on one side of the atrium, and a marker board was made available for anyone who wanted to leave comments. Additionally, pictures were circulated to all MBA students in an email later that day to call their attention to the campaign.
“I really appreciate it that they are not trying to silence us,” Rajbhandari said.
In addition to the banners that were put up on campus, the team released a video that featured women reading out the “want” statements and men reading out the “should” statements in first person. As of print, the video had garnered over 13,000 views on Facebook.
According to JJ Erpaiboon ’18, the video’s producer and the third student working on “The Want Project,” the purpose of featuring both men and women in the video was to “put guys in the shoes of women” and encourage allyship.
“After we were done shooting the video a lot of men came up to us and told us that actually saying the statements out loud and ‘internalizing’ them changed the way they saw the ‘common stereotypes of women,’ even though such words were not new to them,” Erpaiboon said.
Aside from the banners and featured video, the team is looking into “phase two”, in which stories from behind the scenes will be released periodically to maintain sustained interest in the project.
The team is determined to transform this project into a long-term cause at Cornell. “We don’t want it to be a once a year celebration and then it’s over,” said Rajbhandari.