I’ll never forget the experience that firmly implanted my feminist identity. I was sitting in my senior political theory class three months away from college graduation when a fellow student in the class proclaimed her belief that men who sexually assault women when they are “inappropriately dressed,” whatever that means, are not totally at fault and that the victims of such heinous violations should hold themselves accountable as well. I didn’t notice at the time that I hadn’t exhaled until another student in the class agreed with her. I felt my face flush and my lungs gasp for air as I struggled to bite my tongue and figure out a way to calmly respond to my fellow students instead of following through with my natural instinct to freak out.
It’s this experience and others like it that lead me to pursuing a post-graduate degree in gender and race studies at the University of Alabama. Not only was I exposed to some of the most profound thinkers of past and present but I also learned so much about myself and the potential that can be found in young adults like me. Through my studies I adopted a whole new set of feminist role models and social theorists including Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and bell hooks. I identify with Rebecca Walker’s proclamation, “I am the third wave.” I understand the inter-workings of social constructionism and the systems of marginalization that lead Simone de Beauvoir to declare that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” However, while studying these amazing feminists and adopting their understandings of our current social climate, I began to see where I differentiated from them.
I would catch myself writing paper after paper on the systemic oppression of the black body, women’s bodies, disabled bodies, the LGBTQ community, and many other marginalized lifestyles and individuals. I would rant and rave about things that have to be done in order to bring all bodies out of the margins and into the center. I would speak to those whose opinions I knew would mirror my own about all of the social ailments that continue to poison the human condition. I kept myself inside a bubble of like-minded individuals and institutions with no intention of escaping.
This is where I saw myself fall short of the individuals central to the narratives of various papers and presentations I would give in my academic career. All the feminists I look up to and who have shaped so much of my perception of the world have openly addressed the systemic marginalization that I had only condemned in papers and to fellow feminists. My feminist role models have broken out of feminist spaces and actively engaged audiences that are not always accepting of their messages. They have marched, given speeches, and written to thousands. They have founded and presided over organizations, social justice campaigns, and political methodologies. They have given feminism a voice.
After interrogating my personal silence, I put passive reflection aside and picked up a sign. I began marching with fellow students to end segregation within my school’s Greek system, attended conferences, emailed political organizers in DC, and worked with professors to raise awareness of dehumanizing immigration policies. Not only did I come to better understand the theories I had been poring over for months but I came to better understand fellow activists and what change was needed to empower feminist campaigns.
It is this local activism and a love of working with students of such astounding potential that has brought me to the Campus Team at Feminist Campus. Students on college campuses are more empowered than ever to bring about social justice and work alongside each other toward achieving a common goal. Our work here at Feminist Campus is all about helping students across the country organize to secure human rights and I personally cannot wait to work alongside each and every one of you.