On Apr. 25, the Boston College student body united for the cause of gender equality in what has been coined as Feminist Coming Out Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Stokes Lawn, students of all years, genders, and backgrounds were able to agree on the common goal of defining the word “feminism” in their own individual ways whilst attempting to rid the Boston College community of the common misconceptions of feminism.
Founded in 2012, Feminist Coming Out Day was sponsored by the BC History, English, Psychology, and Sociology Departments, the Institute for Liberal Arts, the Women's Center, UGBC, and Lean In. Along with the support of other academic departments including English and Sociology, Professor Arissa Oh of the History Department founded FCOD. The cause was created in response to reports that BC's female students were graduating with less self-esteem than they had when they arrived. Asking BC, 'What does a feminist look like?', FCOD sought to redefine feminism by providing students with the opportunity to be expressive about their reasons for being outward in their feminism.
What began as a few volunteers setting up a tent with some stickers, buttons, and slips of paper that read, “I’m a feminist because…”, resulted in a paper wall of students’ declarations on why they are feminists. As the day progressed, more and more pieces were added to the paper puzzle. FCOD Ambassador Kayla Arroyave, MCAS ‘18 commented on the process of FCOD. “We are trying to get both men and women to come to proclaim their feminism and they’ll get a Georgetown Cupcake if they tell us why they’re a feminist.” Arroyave continued, “I wrote that I’m a feminist because an individual’s gender does not detract from their humanity. Someone else wrote, ‘I’m a feminist because I believe my little sister should get to dream big and have the same opportunities as my brother.’ That was one of my favorites.” When asked about why she decided to volunteer on FCOD, Arroyave responded, “I hope that if I’m active in my beliefs and outward about my feminism, that will maybe prompt other people to be more vocal about it.”
“Feminist Coming Out Day is intended to give men and women a safe space to acknowledge their identity as a feminist, in a time where the word is met with controversy, evasion, or incredulity. More importantly, Feminist Coming Out Day is an opportunity for those who have doubts about feminism, or those who outright reject the movement, to have a meaningful conversation,” President of Lean In at Boston College, Ali Takahashi, MCAS ‘16 stated. “I believe it is necessary to have an annual Feminist Coming Out Day because, as Lean In’s non-profit explains, 'Women are asking for more and stepping outside their comfort zones, and women and men are talking openly about gender issues for the first time.' For that reason, it is becoming increasingly imperative that women are not disadvantaged at home or at work by their gender and the associations of their perceived roles within our society.”
Feminism at Boston College has progressed from the first women students at Boston College in 1925, to the establishment of the Women’s Center in 1973. The plethora of BC women’s achievements since then, including success in academics, athletics, and leadership, have shaped the current state of the university as over half of the currently enrolled students are women.
As far as feminism in the context of BC today, Takahashi said, “The female students coming into BC freshman year have higher SAT scores and GPAs than their male peers, which remains the case for the duration of their four years at Boston College, in every school: LSOE, MCAS, CSOM and CSON. However, despite their academic competence, women still fall short confidence wise.” Takahashi drew this information from a study released in 2012 that confirmed that female students at BC graduate with less self-esteem than when they first arrived as compared to their male counterparts.
“The Women’s Center, Lean In at Boston College, Rise, Duo, Advance, The Undergraduate Government of Boston College, Smart Women Securities, Science Club for Girls, Strong Women Strong Girls, I Am That Girl, Women In Business, as well as the most recent large-scale event, Boston College Women’s Summit: Own It,” Takahashi continued, “are only a handful of the organizations on campus that are specifically addressing this issue by not only giving women a safe space to speak to struggles specific to their gender, but also to empower, support, mentor, guide, and champion their abilities, strengths, and power.”
"The formal dictionary definition of ‘feminism’ is the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. I’ve always understood the word ‘feminism’ as a synonym for gender equality, while also highlighting the reality that men and women are not created equal,” Takahashi claimed. “Feminism means speaking up when I feel that I have something worth sharing, supporting other men and women, encouraging myself and other women to enter fields of work dominated by men, pursuing leadership roles unapologetically, negotiating for a promotion when I feel that I have earned it, balancing a career and a family, looking for a partner who is willing to split the work at home, and encouraging other men and women to identify as feminists and join the motion towards equality.”