Feminist Caucus on Campus Tackles Issues, Spreads Awareness
Senior Lindsey Kocher says that are a lot of things she feels free to talk openly about on campus including racism, gay rights, and poverty. But, she felt like feminism was still a word that scared people, so she decided to start the Feminist Caucus, a new group on campus this semester.
The group has been meeting every other Tuesday, regularly attracting between five and 10 attendees including students and faculty. Kocher said the main purpose of the caucus is to discuss human rights issues; connect with other local feminist caucuses; support those with similar views on life; learn continuously about acceptance, policy, and viewpoints; and participate in activist projects and field trips on- and off-campus. Kocher runs the group with co-facilitator Jonnie Fabrizio.
A Women and Gender Studies minor, Kocher said she saw the need for feminism to be a topic of discussion that no one fears.
“I want to get rid of stereotypes and stigma and broaden people's views of what feminists do. Feminism is not a women's fight that is radical in itself, but rather it is truly a people's fight with ideas that go against society's norms that make it seem radical,” she said. “Everyone's opinion is important, but feminism offers people the chance to imagine an equal world for all with an educated opinion.”
Kocher said the Women and Gender Studies Department had wanted an initiative like this one to happen for several years now, so she was happy to jumpstart it with support from faculty.
During the meetings, the groups have tackled topics including what it means to be a feminist, the transgender community rights, issues and stereotypes surrounding feminism and being a feminist or " the F word," media and its influences, the gay community and the church, and other issues. They refer to articles, videos, comics, and social media during their discussions and analysis of feminism in society.
In addition to meeting regularly, the group has hosted and participated in a variety of events. They recently ran an activist project that was displayed in Basil Hall that showcased definitions of feminism, ran a night of silence in collaboration with the Clothesline Project, participated in a “Take Back the Night” event at the University of Rochester, attended the Angels of Mercy presentation on human trafficking, visited the Susan B. Anthony House for a tour and discussion, and spent a long weekend in Washington, D.C. for the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference.
“This truly is my passion in life, and I am so happy to share it with faculty and students that have a similar passion with different focuses maybe,” said Kocher.
The group’s faculty advisor, Dr. Jill Swiencicki, Associate Professor and Women and Gender Studies Program Director, said she was “elated to see a revival of student feminism on campus.” She said the caucus wanted to directly engage campus on the topic.
“We wanted to encourage people to start thinking that the term ‘feminism’ is about working for equality for women, supporting rights for LGBT community, seeking dialogue and understanding across race and class differences, educating people about current national and international political trends that hurt these goals, or enable them,” she said.
This semester, the group read “Fear of Feminism: Why Young Women Get the Willies,” by author Lisa Hogeland. They discussed the book and used it to solicit participation for the international “I Need Feminism” campaign.
The group plans to continue in the next academic year with plans for a symposium of Women and Gender Studies student from around the region learning community organizing, a campus program on sexual assault awareness, and continued meetings and other events. Kocher said one event they hope to do in the fall is a "Fem Fest," which would include all clubs and organizations on campus getting together and figuring out how they can help each other or how they all need feminism. The event could also include an "Ask A Feminist" panel, allowing people to ask questions about feminism, stereotypes, and ways to get involved.