Take Back the Day begins April 25 at 4 p.m. in MU-109.
Take Back the Night is from 7-10 p.m. at the SEC.
Here’s why this is important…
Dr. Melissa Bird has seen first-hand how lived experiences, when shared courageously, have the power to create change and paradigm shifts in social policy. Dr. Bird is set to speak at Oregon State University’s Take Back the Day and Take Back the Night events on April 25, as part of an international mission to end sexual and domestic violence and assault. Dr. Bird has not only experienced sexual trauma, but has built her career around social justice advocacy, with a PhD in Social Work.
During her time as the Chief Lobbyist for Planned Parenthood in Utah — where Dr. Bird was born and raised — she successfully lobbied for the passage of six pieces of legislation that helped ensure women’s health. Before that, Dr. Bird worked for Equality Utah, a LGBTQ+ political action group.
“I really learned how to bridge the gap between conservative thinking and liberal thinking… how to engage with people where they’re at and not where I want them to be,” she explained.
Dr. Bird’s goal for Take Back the Day and Take Back the Night is to help students, staff, and faculty find and create spaces for openly engaging in difficult conversations about divisive issues that are typically met with reactivity and rigid thinking.
In doing so, Dr. Bird hopes that students and faculty will be more equipped “to come together on issues that are really, really complicated, like sexual assault and harassment… and have honest, thoughtful conversations and dialogue about how to move forward as a campus facility.”
Take Back the Day
Dr. Bird will first speak exclusively to staff and faculty at 4 p.m. at OSU’s Memorial Union, room 109, “about how faculty and staff can equip themselves to be able to identify not just when someone is in crisis, but when there is language being used that could marginalize or indicate that someone is either a victim of sexual assault or harassment, or that someone is willing to perpetrate sexual assault or harassment.”
A professor herself, Dr. Bird has witnessed how warning signs get glossed over or ignored in the classroom. She hopes to provide tools and resources for faculty to effectively address these signs — and more so, she wants to advocate for students’ lived experiences beyond the classroom.
“A lot of times we forget to look holistically at the student,” said Dr. Bird.
As she sees it, our culture of education puts students in individual boxes; a student is viewed in singularity with their area of study, as their lives outside of the classroom fade into the peripheral. “I want to remind faculty and staff that when they’re engaging with students, there’s a whole other world out there. It’s not just, ‘I’m here to do Chemistry or I’m here to do Public Health…’” Dr. Bird went on to list the many pressures students face outside of the classroom — social, familial, religious — that affect their lives and experiences on campus.
Take Back the Night
Dr. Bird will speak to the intersections of student, staff, and faculty experiences at Take Back the Night, while encouraging spaces for survivors of violence and harassment to not only feel safe, but be empowered in sharing their experiences — and only when they’re ready. She will address all who attend the event, which is open to the public and will be held at OSU’s Student Experience Center from 7-10 p.m.
“Oftentimes we try to force people to tell their stories when they’re not ready to, or we try to silence people… when it makes [us] uncomfortable… My hope with Take Back the Night is that we’re able to set a stage that creates a space where people are not just safe.” Dr. Bird believes that solely focusing on creating safe spaces “doesn’t empower people or victims of sexual violence and sexual trauma to actually be brave.”
Creating an environment where people are empowered to tell their stories will take a different kind of approach than what is typically seen within the culture of social activism. “I really have learned in my career that there is space and place for people to come out guns blazing, so to speak… [to] really protest and come out in anger… but there also has to be space for nuanced conversation where we don’t necessarily all agree on the way forward, but we agree there has to be a way forward,” said Dr. Bird.
Graceful Revolution & Finding Your Voice
Through community workshops and social advocacy, Dr. Bird is leading what she calls a Graceful Revolution, which she explains as two-fold. In its first stage, the Graceful Revolution helps us acknowledge how all of our individual experiences intersect and affect one another. In learning to value each experience, we can “get the tools to infiltrate the membranes of power, and actually take our stories within those spaces — to let people who are making decisions… know how our lives have been affected by policy.”
Whether you are into politics or not, Dr. Bird explained how each of us has been affected by policy, and has witnessed how sharing the way in which policies affect our lives directly changes how those in power think and act.
But how are we supposed to know what to fight for, or how to find our voice within what Dr. Bird refers to as the “dumpster fire” which is America?
“[Something] we fall prey to is that we try and force people to save all the things,” said Dr. Bird, going on to list the environment, homelessness, poverty, education, etc. In her workshops and advocacy events, Dr. Bird helps people find “the thing they are lit up about.” For those who feel a lack of passion, or care passionately about many subjects, Dr. Bird will reveal her wisdom, but no spoilers — you’ll have to see her at Take Back the Night.
Additionally, Dr. Bird provides a free handbook on her website, https://birdgirlindustries.com, called 5 Ways to Find Your Voice, to those who sign up for her newsletter. An avid blogger, Dr. Bird sends even more free content in her newsletter, and her website includes free scripts for letters to elected officials. You can also find details about her new Rebel School group coaching program, which teaches rebellious folks, whom Dr. Bird contends “are naturally creative” and “think outside the box” to hone in on their potential.
“If we started approaching rebels, not as something that needs to be punished, but as something that needs to be exalted, I think the whole world would change,” said Dr. Bird.
You can watch Dr. Bird in action, tackling difficult conversations each month with her conservative, Christian, Republican friend, Amy, on Facebook Live. The two talk about anything from guns to sex ed to racism.
Because of these conversations, “We both have shifted in ways that neither of us expected, and we love each other dearly,” said Dr. Bird.
Conversations such as these exemplify the bravery preached by Dr. Bird, who credits the best parts of her career to “the moments when I stepped through my fear and did what I thought was right, not just for myself, but for the entire community.”
Take Back the Day begins April 25 at 4 p.m. in MU-109. Take Back the Night is from 7-10 p.m. at the SEC. Both are sponsored by OSU’s Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Additionally, you can join Dr. Bird on May 15 at the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Corvallis for her Networking, Business, and Community Building event, “Finding Your Voice,” beginning at 4:30 p.m. Cost is $15.
Follow Dr. Bird on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @birdgirl1001.
-By Stevie Beisswanger