Whether it makes you swell with pride or wince in annoyance, feminism is powerful a word as powerful as the political, social, and personal movements it represents. Whether it’s putting women’s experiences in the center, or the movement to end all oppression beginning with gender inequalities, feminists don’t necessarily agree on a definition.
Under this f-word, students will meet this Thursday at the Feminist Connection, the quarterly networking event organized by the Women’s Center.
Women’s Center Co-Coordinator Rhiannon Andreini describes the Feminist Connection as a night of clubs and students—with an interest in women’s issues—organizing and teaming up.
“It’s an event basically to bring together all of the like minded organizations on campus,” she said. “All the groups or individual parties interested in becoming involved with women’s related things on campus and throughout the world.”
Representatives from Women’s Empowerment and Violence Education (WEAVE), Western Men Against Violence, the clubs of the Ethnic Student Center, religious clubs, and social issues clubs are invited, and that invitation is extended to everyone on campus.
Jessica Tracey, the other co-coodinator for the Women’s Center, is optimistic about the Feminist Connection. “I hope that a lot of organizations come to it, I hope a lot of women come,” said Tracey. “I also think that it’s a really great opportunity to get involved, too, and to recognize that it’s not just a bunch of loony, crazy stereotypical feminists.”
Because of the Feminist Connection’s name, Tracey and Andreini both acknowledge that feminism doesn’t always represent something positive for all women.
“The word ‘feminist’ historically has had kind of a negative connotation,” said Andreini, “especially with women of color, people who are not of heterosexual sexual orientation, and transgendered individuals. This year we really want to focus on the fact that there’s more than one feminism.”
Tracey and Andreini hope to be both critical of feminism while acknowledging the good it accomplishes.
“I feel like what we’re trying to do this year basically is to dissect feminism and take it apart and really look at it,” said Tracey. “Try to find space within it for more people. We really want to tackle and address the ways that feminism has excluded people, or been historically exclusive, and the way that it’s been used to divide women. We also don’t think it’s good to do away with a term like that because it does hold a lot of power and I still think it’s important to use it.”
The Women’s Center this year is especially trying to be inclusive towards those who don’t identify as a feminist.
“What I want to tell people is please don’t shy away from the word,” said Andreini, speaking of the Feminist Connection. “We’re inviting anyone who cares about the state of women in the community.”
“We just want people who are organizing around these issues to have a chance to come together in the same room and see what other groups are doing,” said Tracey. “Learn about each other more, find ways that they can connect with each other, find ways to collaborate... that’s why I really hope that women who don’t identify as feminists come to the event so they can understand it’s not an either/or thing.
Feminist or not, the Feminist Connection creates a space to discuss women’s issues, which are often marginalized or ignored.
“I feel like women’s issues in general aren’t necessarily taboo but they aren’t given as much credit as other issues,” said Tracey. “I don’t feel like there are as many chances for women to get together and realize the importance and the scope or breadth of what they’re doing and realize the ways it connects to all these different things.”
Women’s advocates often have a different area they work on, says Tracey, such as focusing on reproductive rights or ending domestic violence.
“[We’re] finding ways to put everyone together,” said Tracey, “and realize that there are these big monolithic things like sexism and sexist oppression and gender oppression, which I think is really huge, and we’re all fighting this one thing and coming at it from different angles, and really recognizing that there’s alliances. I think that’s really, really crucial.”
In addition to forging relationships, Andreini particularly hopes shyer students will attend the Feminist Connection because she can remember being in their place.
“For me, at least, as a freshman and sophomore—I didn’t really get involved until later—I was always really scared of all these events because I was intimidated by these great activist people,” said Andreini. “I really want to make it as inviting as possible. Don’t be afraid, you don’t even have to say anything... Push yourself to be uncomfortable, I think that’s what college is for.”
The Feminist Connection is Thursday, October 12, at 6:30 p.m. in VU 565.