UArizona Downtown Lecture Series Explores the Power of Women
The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences' annual series returns to explore the themes of fairy tales, gender-based violence, Latinas in politics, African American women's language and more.

By Lori Harwood, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Sept. 22, 2020

The University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is presenting its annual Downtown Lecture Series with the theme of "WOMANPOWER."

Breaking from the tradition of having the series at the Fox Tucson Theatre, the talks will be presented online this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The talks will premiere at 5:30 p.m. on five consecutive Thursdays in October.

Attendees can register at to receive a link to each talk. The free talks will also be available to watch online after the premiere date.

This is the eighth year of the Downtown Lecture Series. Previous years have focused on happiness, food, immortality, privacy, truth and trust in the global scene, music, and animals.

"Although the lectures will be virtual, we are working with our community partners to infuse the events with that distinctive flavor of community gathering that we've had in the past," said Maribel Alvarez, associate dean of community engagement for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "Our dean, J.P. Jones, will introduce each talk from a different downtown Tucson location connected to the series. Attendees will also receive a recipe related to the venue and/or topic."

Scholars from the college will explore the themes of fairy tales, gender-based violence, Latinas in politics, and African American women's language. The final event is an interview with special guest Yalitza Aparicio, the first Indigenous woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the 2018 Mexican drama "Roma."

"With 2020 marking the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote, we decided it was the ideal year to focus our series on the power of women," said John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "By looking at the power of women through various lenses – power imagined, contested, wielded, spoken and represented – the talks will be a fascinating examination of how women – especially women of color – fight the constraints placed on them."

The Downtown Lecture Series is sponsored by Mike and Beth Kasser and the Holualoa Companies; Ken and Linda Robin; and Dr. Barbara Starrett and Jo Ann Ellison.

Oct. 1: POWER IMAGINED: Fairy Tales as Survival Strategies

Join English associate professor Kate Bernheimer – who has been called "one of the living masters of the fairy tale" – in exploring such familiar figures as Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White through the centuries of their survival. In this talk, Bernheimer will harness the transnational energy across generations to excavate transformational themes housed in beloved fairy tales and place them back in service to the traumatized communities – often women – who created these stories of wonder.

Oct. 8: POWER CONTESTED: Rape and Skepticism

The public discourse about campus rape is heated. Arguments range from how to solve the problem to who counts as a survivor to how to adjudicate "word-against-word" cases. Further, many people wonder whether campus rape is actually as prevalent as media reports suggest. In this talk, Elise Lopez, the director of the Consortium on Gender-Based Violence, will explore two foundational issues that underpin skeptical public attitudes about rape – mistrust of prevalence rates and other statistics, and the passionate debate on the definition of consent. 

Oct. 15: POWER WIELDED: Latinas and the Quiet Power of Sacrifice

When measured using traditional metrics of power, Latinas fall short. Latinas' share of the population does not justify such a small locus of power. And when they do wield formal powers, their name is associated with the moniker "first" – from the first Latina senator (Catherine Cortez Masto in 2016) to the first Latina Mayor of Tucson (Regina Romero in 2019). In this talk, political scientist Lisa Sanchez will explore why Latinas are rare in politics, as well as the current nature of Latina power in the United States. She will examine how the narrative of self-sacrifice is a quiet power channeled into familial structures to bring about profound societal change. 

Oct. 22: POWER SPOKEN: Black Women Be Knowing

In this talk, linguist Sonja Lanehart will examine several ways African American women use language to tell the truth and shame the devil. African American women's language is not Black male speech as spoken by women and it is not white women's speech as spoken by African American women. It represents the intersectional lives and identities of Black women who continue to "talk that talk" in spite of everything that tries to silence them.

Oct. 29: POWER REPRESENTED: An Interview with Indigenous Actress Yalitza Aparicio   

Actress, educator and activist Yalitza Aparicio has broken many barriers, including being the first Indigenous woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in "Roma." She is also the new UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Indigenous Peoples. In a wide-ranging interview, Michelle Téllez, assistant professor in the Department of Mexican American Studies, will talk to the actress about her childhood, her experiences with discrimination, her role as Cleo in the movie "Roma," the importance of representation, and her activism for domestic workers and Indigenous peoples.