Durango woman gets ‘extraordinary’ award

Church lauded for work as executive director of Adult Education Center

Paulette Church, executive director of the Adult Education Center since 1999, on Friday was awarded the 2012 Extraordinary Woman Award at the Women’s Resource Center’s 25th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon at the DoubleTree Hotel.

The center’s director, Liz Mora, presented the award to Church and called her “the epitome of an extraordinary woman who has made a real difference in our community.”

“Not only did she save the Adult Education Center from the brink of extinction, she helped to grow the center’s programs and increase the number of GED graduates fourfold,” Mora said. “Her leadership has enabled hundreds of men and women to create better lives for themselves and their families through education.”

Victoria FittsMilgrim, as she introduced Church, said that Church had joined the Adult Education Center when it was on the brink of collapse. FittsMilgrim said that during Church’s tenure, the number of staff members has grown from six to 36, and the number of students served increased from 200 to 900 annually. More importantly, the number of students who’ve completed their GED jumped from 24 to 92 annually.

Church said she felt honored to have even been considered for the award, given the number of “amazing women” in Durango.

Susan Douglas, the author of The Mommy Problem, Where the Girls Are and Enlightened Sexism, gave the keynote address, exploring the relationship between sexism and media’s portrayal of women.

“I’m not supposed to admit I’m a feminist, and neither are you,” said Douglas, citing Rush Limbaugh’s recent denigration of Susan Fluke, a law student at Georgetown, as a “slut” and a “prostitute,” after she testified about women’s need for birth control before Congress – a reference that caused the crowd to vehemently boo.

Douglas said that according to feminism’s detractors in the media, “feminism was invented to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream. No movement was needed to allow pudgy and unattractive men access to the top” – a line that produced raucous laughter.

Douglas said that today, television trades in a brand of “enlightened sexism. It’s a new sneaky, subtle form of sexism that is really about repudiating feminism and keeping women – especially young women – in their place. This kind of sexism pretends that full equality has allegedly been achieved.”

Douglas marveled that “a movement that has done so much for society – for both women and men – has been so effectively vilified by the media. ‘Feminism’ remains a dirty word. Women should be much more indignant about the resurrection of sexist images. We should resist and indeed challenge the sexist message that feminist politics are passé and no longer necessary. We need feminism now more than ever,” she said.

Douglas received a standing ovation.

cmmcallister@durangoherald.com

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