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ETSU's "Women on Wednesdays" wraps up 2015 series with talk

Tony Casey • Updated Dec 2, 2015 at 9:41 PM

East Tennessee State University wrapped up another year of “Women on Wednesday” talks with a trio who’ve worked specifically with populations here in Appalachia.

Dr. Amber Kinser, Dr. Kelly Dorgan and Kathryn Duvall spoke to a crowd of more than two dozen in the D.P. Culp Center, taking turns to discuss three topics that affect women in this part of the country.

Kinser started things by talking about the importance of family meals and what it means for the families that take part in them. Upon seeing a study from Columbia University and the University of Minnesota, Kinser said she became interested when learning about the study’s claims that families that sit down and make time for group meals are a cure-all for everything from future drug problems of the families’ children to suicide risks.

These didn’t sit so securely with Kinser, who wanted to explore the claims deeper, especially because of the expectations and blames put on the families’ matriarchs. She said they’re often blamed if these meals can’t be provided, for a myriad of reasons.

“Women are still responsible for family meal provision,” she said.

And it’s much more complicated than quantifying how many women are able to put a meal on their family’s table, she said.

Kinser said she wants to learn about why it’s more complicated than that, why women don’t have the time or resources to do so. Having available child care was key, she said, while studying this topic with the 31 people she worked with in focus groups.

Whereas schools and government services in the have helped to provide help for families like those in Appalachia, funding for those have been cut in recent years. This, Kinser argues, affects the way families provide for their children, and this needs to be explored before looking for a cure-all.

Duvall went on to speak about the communications she’s witnessed between mothers and daughters in the region when discussing cancer, often an disease they share. Unfortunately, Duvall said it was frequent that a mother and daughter might battle cancer at the same time, under the same roof.

Often this will leave the mother feeling guilt, a theme Duvall came across frequently where the mother felt she passed along the cancer gene and how this changed their relationships.

“The mother believed they caused harm to their daughter,” she said. “They asked what harm they’ve done to their daughter.”

Both mother and daughter vocalized wishes they could take on their counterpart’s burden themselves, unsure if each could handle it. 

Dorgan closed out the talk with a similar discussion, presenting to the group about the expectations of women and the effect it has on their help, with them often battling cancer. Dorgan also went into the prevalence of human papillomavirus, or HPV, which leads to different kinds of cancers in women.

Though this year’s series is complete, Dr. Phyllis Thompson, who directs the Women’s Studies Program, said next year’s series is already in the works and will resume after the first of the year.

Email Tony Casey at tcasey@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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