Are you a...?
No, I am not talking about a Democrat, a Republican or a demagogue of any kind.
Dare I say, a feminist?
This word is perpetually the source of recurring, fervent discussion, the result of which has led to a distorted and contentious interpretation of its meaning. What should be a non-confrontational word, representing empowerment and unification, has come to hold with it a negative connotation that adamant feminists argue misrepresents what the term stands for.
In 2014, Emma Watson (our beloved Hermione Granger) famously spoke in front of the UN to promulgate the He For She Campaign—a uniting movement for women and men to advocate equal rights and suppress what has become a “gendered” understanding of the word “feminism.”
Her speech raised an important question: Why has this word become such an uncomfortable one?
This prevailing idea is one that is explored at BC, with an even deeper emphasis on what it means to be a feminist on a college campus.
UGBC Director of Women and Gender Programming, Grace Lipo, MCAS '18, helped launch BC’s Advance Her collaboration back in February—a movement showcasing female empowerment that brought together several organizations, including Women in Business, UGBC, the Women’s Center, I Am That Girl, and the Lean In Club.
“The main goal in addressing this issue on campus,” says Lipo, “is to offer a more accessible view of Advance Her by providing a definition of what feminism is: trying to achieve equality for men and women.”
This definition would allow those who do not identify as feminists to acquire a better understanding of the term, especially those not wanting to align with the socially constructed negative stereotype that is often associated with it. This sparked the underlying rationale behind calling their campaign “The F Word”: to “acknowledge the negative associations of the term.”
The campaign as a whole, however, aimed at showcasing the individual reasons why students identify as feminists, whether they be personal experiences, or mere facts and statistics about equality (or lack thereof). Exploring these ideas on a college campus has allowed students to understand the significance of feminism in a more nuanced way and on a more expansive, global scale.
Students involved in the Advance Her campaign expressed some profound explanations for why “I am a feminist.” Some of the responses included reasons such as, “Feminism discourages stereotypes,” “'Like a girl' shouldn’t be an insult,” and “I refuse to be belittled by default due to my gender.”
These accounts clearly encompass the main goal of the campaign—providing a genuine, concrete and personal definition of the term. Feminism, particularly in the context of a college community, encourages individuals to think of other people’s reasons for being feminists besides one’s own. “People don’t understand that it’s not just about achieving equality for women,” says Lipo. “It is more than that.”
Reflecting back on her high school experience, Lipo admits that “[in high school] I talked about feminism, but I wasn’t as adamant about it until coming here. A college campus makes you realize how important it is to acknowledge people you meet from all over the world with different cultures and backgrounds—it is not just about you as an individual.”
The Own It Summit hosted by the Women’s Center last weekend is yet another example of the persistent ambition at BC to draw attention to this issue. And the pursuit of campaigns and initiatives on campus like Advance Her help to enhance students' understanding of feminism and inspire a sense of empowerment for men and women alike.