Wonder Women Wednesday: Claire Sonne

By Kristie-Valerie Hoang
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She is wise. She is strong. She is a warrior.

Wonder Woman, one of the most iconic and powerful superheroes, serves as a role model across the world. Her character leads by example, fights for justice, and strives for peace. But Wonder Woman doesn’t just appear in films and comic books—she’s in our daily lives, embodied in those who fight against inequality. Join us each Wednesday as we highlight wonder women from campuses across the country who are leading the charge for change.

Claire Sonne was the only girl on her basketball and water polo teams growing up.
The gender inequality did not stop as she moved up the ranks in sports to play NCAA Divison 1 water polo at the University of California, Berkeley. Sonne said that while her high school water polo team was undefeated at a top-tier circuit, they were not afforded the same amount of support from the school as less-successful men’s sports teams were:

It made me realize a hard truth: it wasn’t about merit, but rather, value and cultural revere were seemingly given based on gender.” 

Sonne grew up acknowledging gender disparities at an early age. She was introduced to the feminist movement through her mother; Sonne said she attended protests and marches with her, even at a young age.

My mom is the person who first introduced me to feminism and the women’s rights movement, and personal heroes like Gloria Steinem and Audre Lorde.”

Sonne utilized her experience with advocacy to co-found the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) at her university, following an anti-abortion conference that was held on campus. Sonne and her friends stood on a staircase overlooking conference tables, holding posters and silently protesting. However, there were only three of them—not enough of a critical mass to significantly impact the ongoing conference. 

When they asked us who we were and why there [were] only three of us, it became clear that we needed to organize and gather more people together. I wanted to create an inclusive community of feminists on campus, and that’s when we created FMLA of Berkeley.”

The FMLA at Berkeley hosts events and organizes for a feminist activist presence on campus. The student organization held a feminine hygiene product drive on campus and screened the award-winning documentary Period, End of Sentence. Other events and activities have included a self-defense class and an educational presentation on breast and ovarian cancers.

We want to bring people together to have safe and open discussions about feminist issues and also to be advocates of feminism on our campus and our community.”

Aside from their successes, Sonne said that the organization was not free from criticism. Claims of inclusivity from other students on social media led Sonne to meet with the head of the campus Gender Equity Center to learn about inclusivity in activism; she said that while the organization certainly did not intend to be un-inclusive, the feedback was appreciated and the organization’s members listened and are learning from it.

Sonne wants to continue her feminist work into the future, merging her two passions: water polo and the fight for equality. Aside from looking to win two national championships while at Cal, she hopes to work for a nonprofit and make large-scale change in gender equity in athletics.

I want to fight for equal pay in professional sports, create more opportunity in sports for young girls, and change the societal culture around women in sports for the better.”

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