Students celebrate week of feminism

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Students came out of the feminist closet Monday to tell their tales of gender equality. The Gender and Sexuality Center opened their celebration of National Feminist Week with the truth wall, imitating Post Secret — a community mail art project where strangers anonymously send secrets on postcards for publication. Advertising junior Stephen Perl, a self-identified feminist, said the main goal of the project is to give a face to feminism and remove the stigma that is attached to it. “The face of feminism isn’t necessarily a white, female person,” he said. “We want to provide a space for people to tell their feminist truth and say what you couldn’t normally express in society as a feminist.” Spencer Mainka, anthropology junior and director of the Queer Students Alliance, said feminism is about acknowledging finding power in being a woman as opposed to feeling inferior. “To me, feminism is being aware that, as a woman, there are certain things that you have to be concerned about in making your way in this world that a man doesn’t necessarily have to,” she said. Mainka said she hopes students who have shied away from the idea in the past will be better informed and feel empowered by recognizing feminism throughout the week. “I think that within our generation there is no Rosie the Riveter and no big thing that is rallying our generation to proclaim: ‘I am a woman, I am strong and I can do this,’” she said. “So I think it’s really important that we claim these things and protest that we are a community rallying together.” In today’s context, to understand feminism you have to understand what it means to be a woman in a variety of contexts, said educational psychology graduate student Desire Taylor. “There are all these layers to what it means to be a woman,” she said. “You have to factor in differences in race, socioeconomic status and location and how they simultaneously influence and shape our experiences as women.” Feminism’s initial stage revolved around the women’s suffrage, said Carol MacKay, women’s and gender studies professor. The second stage in the ‘60s and ‘70s focused on the fight toward equal pay for equal work and revealed women’s literary accomplishments. The third and current stage evolved in the last couple of decades and is more encompassing, incorporating women of color and non-traditional sexual preferences, MacKay said. She said she finds it most interesting when she has students who say they are not feminist because they associate feminism with negative connotations. “If they say yes when I ask them if they believe in equal pay for equal work, I say you are a feminist and you have to decide for yourself what part you want to own,” she said. MacKay said the growing number of self-identified male feminists is unique and beneficial in this new wave of feminism. “They are more willing to speak about it and less inclined to take up the prejudicial behavior of the past that was demeaning to women,” she said. “So as far as that is concerned, college is an excellent time for that sensitive quality to be nurtured and developed.”