Drumroll, Please: Announcing the Feminist You Should Know Finalists!

By Carmen Rios
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! After receiving hundreds of nominations for our Feminist You Should Know contest (and reading tons of inspiring stories which literally kept us awake at night for days), the Feminist Campus team was able to sift through them, sit down, knock our heads together, and decide on ten finalists! This was no easy task: every single nominee was the most amazing person we’d ever met so far in our lives. No lie.

Our awe-inspiring crew come from a diversity of backgrounds, universities, regions, and perspectives in the feminist movement – and it’s just not possible for us to choose a winner alone. And that’s where you come in! Over the next week, we’ll be posting blog posts written by each of our stellar finalists; on Monday, we’ll launch an online voting form where members of our community – that’s you! – cast a vote for who moved you deeply, inspires you most, or simply has your favorite haircut. It’s up to you! At the end of next week, we’ll announce the winner. And don’t fret! Each of our finalists and every nominee will receive a special prize package to honor their contributions to the future of the feminist movement and their local and global communities.

The stories we’re about to hear are phenomenal. The people we’re about the introduce you to are extraordinary. And, most importantly, the fun has just begun! To get you excited, we’re gonna introduce you to all ten finalists using excerpts from their nomination forms. Right now. Like, right at this moment.

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Editor’s Note: don’t forget to share these posts widely and tweet about the contest with #FYSK2013 to help make our nominees famous! And feel free to comment on the coming posts and this very one to tell folks how you’re feeling.

Mwende Katwiwa

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Mwende is an amazing spoken word poet (stage name: FreeQuency) who writes about a plethora of different social justice issues with the WhoDat poets. She represented New Orleans at a slam contest in Texas a few weeks ago and does regular gigs and slams in the New Orleans area. She is a blogger for Winnovating.com. This is a site she helped to found that focuses on female innovators from a range of fields and specialities. Mwende also blogs for the Anna Julia Cooper Foundation at Tulane (spear‐headed by Professor Melissa Harris‐Perry), which focuses on race, gender, and politics in the south. She is the Chair of the Black Arts Festival on Tulane’s campus and a member of the executive board for the Tulane Black Students Union. She holds the position of Service Chair in the Mortar Board Honor Society, which is a group of seniors (nearly all women) chosen based on GPA and involvement by the Newcomb College Institute. Mwende is a mentor and Girls Group cofacilitator for Upward Bound on Tulane’s campus. After participating in Vagina Monologues for multiple years, Mwende will be a producer for this year’s show. In addition to all of this amazing work she is a double major in Political Economy with International Perspectives and Africa & African Diaspora studies and a Resident Advisor.

Ashleigh Shackelford

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Ashleigh is a brilliant, driven, young woman. She is majoring in Business Administration and Political Science, and minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has taken a great interest in feminism, race theory, body positivity, and issues that pertain to the queer community. She has taken her experiences with marginalization, bullying, and adversity and channeled her energy into making positive change on campus and in the world. Ashleigh has created and started an organization, Free Figure Revolution, to serve as a platform to address the issues of body positivity, body autonomy, gender awareness, and safer spaces on our campus.

A student took a picture (without consent) of Ashleigh at her Body Positivity Rally and posted it online in order to ridicule her body and presentation. This was followed by a thread created by VCU students to body shame, slut shame, and humiliate Ashleigh, in addition to condemning her weight and choice of clothing. Ashleigh’s response to the bullying was beyond commendable. Ashleigh rose above the hatred from her fellow peers and addressed the bullying publicly and through an open dialogue on body shaming and cyberbullying panel with VCU students. Ashleigh’s peers, including myself, recognize her resiliency, outstanding leadership, ability to create and organize actionable ideas, and positive energy. Ashleigh was also nominated and voted as Vice President of the newly formed Feminist Student Organization at VCU. Her work has been crucial in setting the foundation for the blossoming organization. Ashleigh has provided the creative direction of this organization to deliver the most intersectional and inclusive community and specifically delivered events targeted towards women of color. Ashleigh also serves on the Gender and Sexuality Advisory Board, which involves strategic planning and organizing events for the Gender and Sexuality Studies Department. In addition, Ashleigh serves on the Gender Safe Committee in order help ensure the safety, awareness, education, and community outreach for nonconforming genders and trans rights.

Kendra Joseph-Rodgers

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From the age of 10 she was involved in the People’s Youth Freedom School, an anti racist community organizing program for middle schoolers. Through her teen years she was engaged in Anti racist community organizing, working with other youth to speak out on many community issues and to mentor younger children. At 16, she helped operate a People’s Youth Freedom School where she and other teenagers mentored middle schoolers and taught them neighborhood organizing and anti racism skills. During her years as a youth mentor, she began to develop a strong feminist consciousness and to apply it to her work and life. Kendra attended Trinity University in D.C. and there became a friend and mentor to many of her peers. She went to work in the abortion field and was widely respected for her compassionate and frank counselling skills. During her undergraduate years she also acted as a case manager for people who were evacuated from the Gulf Coast due to Katrina. She finished her BA in 2008 and began working full time in abortion care in DC. A year later, she returned to her hometown of New Orleans where she worked on two research projects related to Gulf Coast Disaster recovery. In between those projects she began working for a local Women’s clinic that mainly provided abortion. That was two years ago. Today, Kendra has completed her RN program and is a student in the Columbia University Nurse Practitioner Program, on the women’s health track. She is dedicated to working as an abortion care provider. She works with feminist networks, especially those composed of abortion care providers, both on campus and on the national scene. She recognizes and ministers to the common challenges and the passion for choice that people in the abortion provider community have. As a mother, I can tell you that it is frightening to have a child in this field. When Dr. Tiller was murdered, Kendra had a client scheduled to see him that week.

Aubrey Winkie

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I have participated in several feminist activities throughout the years. My sophomore year I worked with a foundation in India creating a writing workshop for women so they could have their voices heard by their local and global community. My junior year I interned for 3 months at an NGO called Health By Motorbike. I also mentored a group of adolescent girls, for whom I started a making education possible campaign. These girls were orphans and were missing school because of reasons like not having food or the proper clothing. I was able to raise enough money to get them their proper supplies and start an animal husbandry business so they had a sustainable solution to their hunger problem. Now I am working on raising funds to create scholarship for them to go to secondary school. While in Kenya I also created a library/safe space for the community I was staying with. Women and children would come here to learn, read, do art work or just escape. I also was a global listener for World Pulse (a website dedicated to giving women in developing countries a voice). With this I read Voice of the Future applications, gave my feedback and helped in the selection process. I currently work at the UW Campus Women’s Center.

Chloe Feller

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Chloe organized the first ever Slut Walk in Orange County, that turned out fantastically. She also created the Young Feminist Young Equalist club at her school, which now has branched out to multiple high schools, including my own, all over the southern Orange County area.

Donya Nasser

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I serve as the first PLEN (Public Leadership Education Network) Ambassador on campus, encouraging my fellow women to study public policy. I have revived the Women’s Studies Department, reminding the school that gender studies is important and vital to a respected University. I was selected as a speaker for Take Back the Night, and told my mother’s story to my campus, emphasizing the importance of awareness. I am the only individual, student and faculty alike, that has taken the initiative to challenge the University and encourage it to make the Women’s Studies Minor into a Major, because it should be a priority.

As the Chair of the Young Feminist Task Force for the National Organization for Women, New York State, I advocate on behalf of the feminist movement and encourage young women to embrace feminism while understanding what it truly stands for. I value youth engagement greatly. As the Youth Representative to the United Nations for AAUW, I advocate on behalf of women on an international stage, providing a youth perspective in an arena dominated by older leaders. It allows me to attend general assembly briefings, meetings with the Committee on the Status of Women and NGO’s, and other events at the UN. I am an ELLA Fellow for the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, and a Fellow for YP4. My project for both has become “Watch. Her. Lead.”, an initiative to encourage young women of color to run for office. The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute has agreed to sponsor Watch. Her. Lead. and my vision for hosting the first ever Young Feminist Conference in New York. My efforts have been recognized by NOW‐NYS, and I have been honored with the Rosalba Polanco Leadership Award.

Susana Ruiz

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Susana is an exceptional scholar, artist, and feminist activist. From her arrival at USC, she expressed a deep commitment to issues of social justice, to community organizing, to critical theory, and to alternative aesthetics. For her MFA thesis project, she completed the award‐winning video game, Darfur is Dying. I followed Susana’s activist and artistic work after she left USC and appreciated the grace with which she negotiated the widespread acclaim she received in response to the Darfur is Dying game. I was delighted when Susana returned to USC to enroll as a Ph.D. student in Media Arts & Practice, one of the few practice-based media studies Ph.D. programs in the country. Susana is a particularly impressive member of the cohort who has continued to run an interactive studio and speak about participatory media around the world while also completing her doctoral work.

Susana is a founding member of Take Action Games, a studio rich in pioneering spirit, intellect and creativity. One of the strengths of the TAG collective is their ability to directly tackle highly charged issues of emotional intensity with sensitivity and intelligence, enlisting the help of experts, working directly with affected individuals, and trusting their own instincts to create the most effective form of intervention in whatever issue they are addressing. This is especially true of the years of research that have already gone into projects like Finding Zoe, a game created for the Ontario Women’s Directorate to address issues of violence and sexism against girls. This project received an Adobe‐MAX Award for social responsibility, was featured in a report by the United Nations, and won the Ashoka Changemakers global competition. TAG’s work has also received a prestigious Governors Award from the Academy of Arts and Sciences (home to the Emmys), Webby Honoree status, and more. They have worked with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children, the Bay Area Video Coalition, the Independent Television Service, the International Crisis Group, and the Center for Asian American Media. Susana’s dissertation project emerges from this long‐standing focus on the intersections of participatory design, interactive media, documentary tradition, feminist and anti‐racist theory, and social justice activism. Along with the TAG team, she is working with ITVS to create a rich hybrid media environment that raises key questions about human rights, particularly in relation to women and girls.

Stephanie Kuhn

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Stephanie is a Junior majoring in Women’s Studies and Communications and a minor in Nutrition. I first met Stephanie when she was in my core group at the 2012 Martin Luther King leadership summit. During that intensive 48 hour retreat, Stephanie actively grappled with, absorbed, reflected upon and engaged the rich and complex material on social justice, diversity and privilege. She took in challenging and complex material in an active way, referencing her own life and actively relating her experiences to others. You could see that Stephanie was integrating learning and education exactly how one wants it to happen: with head, heart and hands.

In her first three years on campus, Stephanie has accomplished so much! Last year she became a MLK Leadership Summit student coordinator, taking an active role in designing and implementing the leadership retreat with other student coordinators, staff and faculty. Stephanie’s energy, encouragement, role modeling and enthusiasm were key ingredients to a successful weekend. Stephanie is a part of the anti‐racism team (ART), which seeks to have discussions on race and racial issues with professors and their classes. She has been a Discovery Fellow, which is a team of students working with the Discovery program and facilitating important issues and conversation on our campus. Stephanie has also been an intern with the Hamel Recreation Center and has focused on promoting healthy body image and a program to have folks balance fitness, nutrition, and embracing their own body type and characteristics. Stephanie was an active participant and leader in the 2012 ALEC Conference at Southern New Hampshire University, which focused on social justice and diversity issues. She is active with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, with women’s issues on campus, is a member of UNH VOX—a Planned Parenthood Student chapter, is active with SHARPP (Sexual harassment and Rape Prevention Program), with the Bystander Prevention program, with UNH Net Impact, with the Take Back the Night event, and with developing programming around women’s issues on our campus. In the summer of 2013, Stephanie was a Carsey Institute fellow, and did her internship at PAX World Funds.

Ambar Calvillo

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While completing her master’s degree in educational leadership at UNM, Ambar worked at the Women’s Resource Center as a graduate assistant for leadership development. She helped create the WRC’s IMPACT Project, a peer mentoring program to identify undergraduate women’s needs and the resources that could serve them, while building a strong support network among the mentees and mentors. Ambar partnered with other organizations on‐campus in ways that helped strengthen the WRC’s ties to diverse student populations, for example by organizing or participating in panels on women in academia with the Graduate and Professional Student Association, a career development panel with several businesswomen for Women Empowerment: Developing Global Leadership, a queer leadership workshop with the Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color, and yoga classes with the Out Queer Grads. A highlight of Ambar’s UNM career was Gloria Steinem’s visit for the 40th anniversary of the Women’s Resource Center and the UNM Women Studies program. Ambar was at Steinem’s side for the whole day, including a meeting with fraternity representatives working on sexual assault response, a mixer with over 40 student leaders, a meet‐and‐greet with faculty and staff and community members, and the evening keynote dinner (all of which Ambar also helped plan and organize). During the 2012 presidential election, Ambar was a student fellow with the Obama campaign, using her connections within UNM’s feminist and LGBTQ communities to help mobilize the student vote. No sooner had the election ended than Ambar started whirlwind preparations to be the first speaker at TEDxABQ Women 2012. Ambar now puts all of her accumulated expertise to use working with Enroll America to help citizens take full advantage of the Affordable Care Act.

Christine Babcock

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Christine Babcock is an amazing fighter for equality. She grew up a pastor’s child, and upon doing research and seeing “a man’s woman” being listed as the meaning for her given name, she decided to go by her middle name instead. Christine is a young queer woman who has worked tirelessly to advance equality for all people. In 2012, she interned on the “I Commit” campaign for the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center. In addition to this, Christine was active with Western Michigan University’s LGBT student advocacy group “OUTspoken”. In 2013, Christine became involved with a pay equity battle at Western Michigan University. The fight is ongoing, but Christine has become the main student voice fighting for pay equity for female faculty members at WMU. Christine organized a pay equity rally and collected signatures of students, alumni, staff, and faculty who supported pay equity. The rally saw 70 attendees and Christine was able to singlehandedly collect 118 signatures in support. Christine is also the chair of the Queer Women’s Committee at the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center and was instrumental in reviving the committee. Through all of her activism, Christine has remained a proponent of intersectionality of issues. Christine is able to view issues through multiple lenses ‐ gender, sexuality, labor, and religion. She is a star student at WMU, where she studies Gender & Women’s Studies. I thoroughly endorse Christine as a “Feminist You Should Know.” This young woman has grown incredibly as she has come into adulthood. Not only is she talented academically, Christine is WMU’s own Norma Rae. When students were silent at WMU over the pay equity issue, Christine organized them. When there wasn’t a space for women at the KGLRC, Christine created it. When LGBTQ students were struggling to adjust to college life, Christine helped them to feel safe. She works every day to recognize her own privilege while fighting back against oppression for all people.

By Carmen Rios

Carmen splits her time disparately between feminist rabble-rousing, writing, public speaking, and flower-picking. She is currently Communications Coordinator at the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Straddleverse and Feminism Editor at Autostraddle, and a writer with FORCE. Carmen is a SPARK alum and former Managing Editor of THE LINE Campaign blog. She's part of an oncoming anthology about girls' activism.

2 comments

  1. These are an amazing array of young women. I am honored to know just one of them. Imagine the power for positive influence in the lives of women and their communities that the work they do represents!!

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