In American culture, “feminism” is a term that is frequently stigmatized and misunderstood. In its most extreme form, the term feminist has become entwined with stereotypes about radical, militant women who are out to gain power over their fellow male citizens. Nevertheless, stereotypes about feminists can also take on a host of far more subtle forms. These can range from the belief that feminism means a rejection of everything associated with the female gender identity, to the idea that only women can be feminists.
Hana Kato and Kelly Grotke, the two co-coordinators of the Women’s Center, describe a style of feminism that affirms anything but these common misconceptions. The feminism they promote is one that embraces diversity, equality, balance and choice. It aims to level the playing field for all people, not create a landslide of power in the direction of any one group. “People define feminism for themselves,” said Grotke
“It’s not about women being on top,” added Kato. “It’s about balance.”
Along with the rest of the Women’s Center staff, these two intelligent, socially-conscious Western students are hosting the event “Feminist Connection,” on Tuesday, October 11, from 5:30- 7:30 p.m., in VU 565.
Feminist Connection is a quarterly event bringing together campus clubs, organizations and individuals interested in feminism to share what they have in the works for the upcoming quarter, network with each other, communicate thoughts and ideas, and make connections.
The event, now entering its second year, has been refashioned this quarter to make it into less of a strict meeting, and more of a social happening. This quarter, it is themed around food- a festive way to gather, share, and express identity. Clubs, organizations and individuals alike are invited to come and bring a dish that they feel expresses themselves to share in a giant potluck.
The evening will be divided into three sections. The first half hour will be a potluck composed of the food people have brought. Following this buffet, each group will give a 3-5 minute synopsis of what they are currently working on, and the lineup of events and projects they have planned for the quarter and year. The gathering will conclude with time to mingle and network, to build connections that bridge the various undertakings of the groups present, and find common goals.
Grotke spoke eloquently of the importance of realizing places of commonality among disparate campus clubs and organizations. “It’s really easy for people to separate themselves from one another. Feminist Connection is important so people can know what other people are doing. Maybe people are working on the same project and don’t even know it. [Through Feminist Connection], they could collaborate and make their project even better, bigger.” She continued to express that when groups don’t know what each other are doing, there may be some “latent feelings” that they are not supported by other groups. If they never talked to each other, how would they know they are not opposed, or find out they are working towards similar goals? Feminist Connection is about establishing a network to connect people, find common ground and launching collaborations inspired by shared vision. “It’s about knowing what social injustices are out there and starting to fight them together,” said Grotke.
Not only “feminist” clubs have participated in this event in the past. Some of last year’s participants include AS Productions, the Outdoor Education Center, several Ethnic Student Center Clubs, the Campus Christian Fellowship, and many ROP offices, to name a few.
Bringing together diverse groups, stressed Kato, is one of the main goals of Feminist Connection, and one factor that can lead to strong collaborations.
Though there will be many clubs and organizations present, you don’t have to come with a specific idea in mind, or as part of a club. It is a great opportunity to see what is going on in a lot of different campus clubs and organizations, to learn about the projects they are doing, and become involved.
When asked who should come, Kato said “Anyone who has a concern for women’s issues, anyone who is interested in getting involved with women’s issues, or finding out information about clubs that support women’s issues.”
If the word feminism still feels like term shrouded in confusion and oddity, Feminist Connection would be a great place to begin to sort through some of those questions. It is an event whose primary function is to help people find common connections and interests. Kato articulated,“[Feminist Connection] is about all the activists on campus starting to network more.
“We want more of a cohesive community so we bond together more instead of being repetitive. You don’t have to be a self-proclaimed feminist to come, just interested in issues that affect women.”