International Women’s History Month occurs each March, a time to reflect on what that monthly commemoration means.
At the beginning of each semester at Chapman, dozens of alien logoed yard signs and flyers dot campus’ green spaces, light poles, and benches. The friendly alien is the face of the South Carolina based social enterprise, Poster Invasion, an operation run by one woman: Mandi VanHill.
Poster Invasion is a pop-up poster sale event on college campuses that operates in over 40 states and is the first woman-owned business to successfully make it in the pop-up poster sale space.
“We are proudly woman-owned, and use our events to bring diversity, inclusion and representation to campuses nationwide,” stated on their website.
Jennette Canteen-Carlisle, who partners with Byrd for Poster Invasion tours– as they call it–noted how hard it was for VanHill being a woman in a male-dominated business industry.
“She’s actually been cut out of quite a few deals that she’s made with vendors just because it’s a ‘man’s world,’ which is very surprising when it comes to posters. But she’s had to deal with a lot, just being a woman in this business.”
Professor CK Magliola, the Director of the Women and Gender Studies program at Wilkinson reiterated the importance of supporting women in traditionally male spaces. “I always tell my 100 level students this: when you’re assessing your life…you’re going to ask yourself where you spent your energy, money, and time. It’s a reflection of your values and what you do with your life. These choices in a consumerist society are really important. You’re going to ask [yourself] who did you support and how did you spend your resources to help others,” she said.
This year’s poster invasion was in Argyros Forum. There was a plethora of art prints, posters, and tapestries with a variety of themes and styles “invading” the student center. The art on these mediums are sourced from artists all over the world in an effort to bring their creative work to print. You can sense the diversity in artists and artistry through each poster book. There are hanging tapestries with cartoon scenery; vintage National Park postcards; large scale posters of subway maps, Italian beaches, and artists such as the late artist, rapper Tupac Shakur.
When VanHill started Poster Invasion, she saw a need for a more inclusive poster company that celebrated the diversity of the people they attracted. Justin Byrd, who works for VanHill, sets up poster pop-ups on campuses around the country. He explained that VanHill wanted to make sure that everyone had the experience of finding something that fit their interests through the art sales.
“[We] try to make sure it’s a very inclusive poster sale. To where any type of student can walk in and find something that relates to them or has meaning to them… [like] a piece of home,” he said.
The Women and Gender Studies minor is an enriching program to reflect on these questions. “Reproductive rights…are associated immediately by many people on feminist issues. But as a field, it’s all of [it]. Feminism has to be intersectional not only when it comes to race, class and gender, but with all of those topics,” Magliola said.
Other subjects that Magliola strives to impress on her students include the importance of understanding how health and work affects students, no matter their socioeconomic statuses or privileges. The Women and Gender Studies minor is one of the largest of the interdisciplinary minors, but she hopes to continue growing the program’s influence. She encourages students to strive to close the gaps in their college education by taking advantage of the resources available: interdisciplinary minors, workshops on a variety of topics and special speaker events.
“Make the most of your time here and leave with as many credentials as you can. It shows employers what you care about and who you are! Because when you [graduate] you won’t have this much time and accessibility to get these classes and resources. Take advantage of this for your own benefit and enrichment! Being in college is a privilege. While you’re here, recognize that and do what you can,” says Magliola.
Educating oneself about relevant topics while supporting spaces such as VanHill’s Poster Invasion business are just some of the ways we can reflect on how to participate in celebrating International Women’s History Month in March, and every day.