After receiving hundreds of nominations for our Feminist You Should Know contest, 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.
I never meant to be a feminist. Or, I suppose I was never meant to be a feminist.
I grew up as a missionary kid and a pastor’s kid (and niece, and granddaughter) in a more conservative Christian denomination – and then moved to a small town of less than 2,000 people. I would never wish away my upbringing. I think that the lessons I learned from going to church every week for 18 years, frequently more than once a week, and growing up hyper-aware that there are people in this world who need the support of other people desperately are a part of what gives me the strong desire to do good and create change in this world. Unfortunately, the denomination that I grew up in is not accepting of queer identities and that is how I identify. I also wouldn’t wish my queer identity away for the world. It is the intersection of being a queer woman who was raised deep in the Church that gives me, strength to do this work. I got involved in the social justice movement because I was a queer kid in a corn field with limited access to resources and I want to do everything that I can to make sure that there is never another kid in my position.
I started my college career planning on being a teacher so that I would have direct access to students who were in the same position as I had once been. After a year and a half of being on the track to become a teacher, I started volunteering at the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center (KGLRC). It was the combination of working at the KGLRC and taking a class with a woman in the education department who actively taught about social justice and happened to be a lesbian, that helped me realize that I wanted to do organizing work for the social justice movements that I believed in instead of becoming a high school teacher. Within 36 hours of making a very abrupt decision about my life plans I chopped off all of my hair, got my first tattoo, changed my major, and was ready to change the world. I became increasingly involved at the KGLRC in many different facets. Among the projects I worked on, I was part of a team that organized a non-partisan get out the campaign focused on spreading awareness about queer issues, helped organize events for the organization at large, chaired the Queer Women’s Committee and planned events regarding the history of queer women, queer women’s health, and soon sexual assault and domestic violence within the queer community, and became the student officer on the board. I also was elected to the Secretary position in the student run queer group on my campus where we planned events for Day of Silence Week of Action and National Coming Out Week, as well as our fundraisers Pride Prom and Drag Show. Along with other board members, I shaved my head in order to raise money for our state’s only (yes, this is a problem) queer homeless youth shelter. This past summer I interned at the Office of LBGT Student Services on my campus and organized a LBGTA welcome event. I was then asked to come on as an Office Assistant at the office and have organized our Ready to Work Series, and our Diversity Career and Community Involvement Fair—which is the only one of its kind at institutions of higher learning in Michigan. I’ve been busy these past few years and I know that I’ve made a difference in my community and on my campus.
Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet in social justice organizing, I have started to broaden my horizons past what impacts me directly and started to do organizing work in areas where I know that my voice will be helpful in the fight for equality. At the beginning of this school year, I found out that on average women faculty at my university make 4% less than their male counterparts (yes, they’re equally educated, published, and reviewed). Over time, the disparity between some faculty members is up to $300,000. This is clearly not fair, right, or just. Upon finding out, I quickly organized a student protest and petition. I collected 116 names in support of gender pay equity and the protest had over 70 attendees. Most other students were also outraged that our university was allowing such injustice to occur and responding so slowly. There is still work to be done around this issue, but the university has started to adjust the pay of some of its female faculty. I intend to continue to be a thorn in the university’s side until I graduate, and quite possibly probably beyond.
Like I said, I was never supposed to be a feminist, but I couldn’t be happier that I am. I have done an unequaled amount of organizing work in my four years at my university and will continue to do so. The majority of the work that I have done has been concurrent with full course loads, and a part to full time work schedule—I look forward to doing more organizing and activism now that I am able to get paid for doing the work that I love. Injustice for any group is unacceptable and as long as I have the power and agency to do something about it, I will.