On Thursday, Oct. 31 during community time, St. Olaf’s Feminists for Change group brought students together in Buntrock to share their views on feminism.
At the event, dubbed “Why Do We Need Feminism?”, students posed for pictures with a poster explaining why they needed feminism. Pictures will go up in the Rolvaag-Buntrock hallway the week of Nov. 18.
The event was popular, with 55 participants including students and professors. All had strong opinions to share.
“I need feminism because people still tell me that majoring in women’s and gender studies isn’t a real major,” one student wrote.
The event began with College Feminists Connect CFC, through the Minnesota Women’s Consortium, for which Chloe Vraney ’14 is St. Olaf’s campus liaison. According to Vraney, St. Olaf’s Feminists for Change group already existed but had fallen inactive in the past two years. Vraney revived the group as an intern at CFC. Aside from planning events, she also blogs on the CFC website and promotes feminism through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.
Vraney says the organization’s goal is to promote a better understanding of feminism on campus.
“Hopefully [our events will] encourage people to see that we do still need feminism, because a lot of people think men and women are equal, but in a lot of areas, that’s not true,” Vraney explained.
Vraney first became interested in feminism when she took Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies at St. Olaf. Since learning about the CFC internship over the summer, she has been hard at work promoting feminism on campus.
In addition to the “Why Do We Need Feminism?” event, Vraney hopes to collaborate on events with the Sexual Assault Research Network SARN, the Gender Equality & Empowerment GEE Honor House, Students for Reproductive Health SRHC and other organizations on topics like contraception and abortion. Given sufficient funding, she also hopes to invite a group of speakers to campus in the spring to lecture on the female orgasm.
As Vraney took pictures, subjects stood in front of a board with a poster that read, “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. – Bell Hooks.” Vraney noted that while many St. Olaf students are educated on the issue, misunderstandings remain.
“The word ‘feminism’ is very stigmatized,” Vraney said. “On campus we generally have a lot of students who are interested in social justice and equality, but I have had discussions with people who don’t believe in gender equality.”
Students’ posters ranged from all-encompassing statements about feminism to observations focusing on the St. Olaf community.
“I need feminism because CNN felt sorry for the Steubenville rapists,” one student wrote.
“I need feminism because nobody noticed Andy Grammer’s inherent sexism,” another poster read.
Vraney emphasized that feminism should be inclusive. She explained the idea of intersectionality in feminism, which means that women come from many different backgrounds and experience different types of oppression. These varying experiences cannot be analyzed in isolation.
“Feminism is often seen as a white movement, since people of different races have diverse experiences and therefore relate in different ways,” Vraney said. “White women need to recognize their white privilege, just as men need to be conscious of their male privilege.”
Vraney described Feminists for Change as more of a movement than a campus organization, as it does not have a core group of active members – only a mailing list of students who are interested in learning more but do not necessarily have time to commit to the organization.
Feminists for Change tailors its events to the general campus community, not just involved group members.
More event plans are underway for spring semester. Meanwhile, Vraney is busy spreading the word and educating her peers.
“We need to recognize that feminism is not just about gender equality, although that is the essence of it,” she said. “There’s all these different layers that come together, and we have to be conscious of that.”
Photo Credit: BEKAH ENGSTRAND/MANITOU MESSENGER