A few friends of mine at my residential college have bravely taken up the cause of bringing feminism to the forefront of our lives. Today is the debut of Who Needs Feminism at Rice, and I'd like to say a few words in honor of this noble beginning.
For your information, Who Needs Feminism is a PR campaign that 16 students from Duke University started to dispel negative associations and misconceptions surrounding feminism, including the belief that society no longer needs feminism. Who Needs Feminism works primarily through asking everyone to share what they think of feminism and taking photos of people who finish the sentence on a white board "I need feminism because..." These photos are then shared via social media to inspire conversations about feminism and its misconceptions. Visit their website here to see the amazing photos of people sharing why they need feminism.
In preparation for launching Who Needs Feminism at Rice, my friend and suite mate Clara wrote down a different reason everyday for why she needs feminism on the whiteboard outside her room. One powerful reason that Clara wrote that compelled me was something discussed in a sociology class that she and I share - the fact that statistics show a woman is safer inside a prison than outside of it. Safer from sexual harassment and assault and rape and abuse. Jean Baudrillard (1983) wrote about the hyperreal and the imaginary, and how for example, prisons are there to conceal the fact that society IS the prison. Which reminds me, if a woman is really safer inside prison than outside of it, are we already living in a kind of prison where our liberties are restricted because of our gender?
While doing some research on Who Needs Feminism, I stumbled upon this anti-feminism blog called http://whoneedsfeminismdotorg.tumblr.com/ Naturally I was curious why there is a Who Needs Feminism DOT COM as well as a Who Needs Feminism DOT ORG. But upon careful inspection, it turns out Who Needs Feminism DOT ORG is trying to dispel negative associations surrounding ANTI feminism. How interesting. The pictures submitted include people who assume that being feminist means being oppressive to men and too liberal to women, thus they need (anti)Feminism. For example,
Suffice it to say that it seems to me a lot of the anti-feminism stances rest on the feeling that feminists assume all men are evil rapists pedophiles and judge people based on appearances and gender and that we play victims. I personally call these people pseudo-feminists - people who think all men are evil and I think their mean attitudes and beliefs makes them a bad person, and they just happen to label themselves as feminists. You know how over time people who claim a certain faith might use that faith's name to do mean things? It's kind of like that. I'm sorry, dude with long hair and affection for Hawaiian shirts. I think you look a little creepy, but I don't assume you're a rapist and/or a pedophile, and even if I did it doesn't have to do with the fact that I'm a feminist.
Let's check out what women have to say about anti-feminism.
This is really interesting to me because I don't think that women claim to be victims and solely victims. In fact, a lot of women and feminists I meet are empowering figures who claim to be more than victims. I also think that there is conflation between pointing out how patriarchy hurts us in many ways and claiming total victim-hood. I think a lot of people like to think that feminists "overthink" or "over-analyze" the world around us to construct a world that is always evil to us. I can tell when someone is making up conspiracies, but I can also tell when there are legitimate points being made about how the world relates to us in power dynamics. So to those of you who don't appreciate the intellectual work that some of us do to critically evaluate the world around us: fuck you and stop being intellectually lazy. I don't know about you, but I value my education because I value critical thinking skills, which I need when I walk around this world trying to make sense of everything that is thrown at me.
I would like to take a second to talk about how today's launching event went. I wrote why I needed feminism and got my photo taken. Anya the photographer and one of the founders of this project at Rice estimated that she probably took photos of up to 50 people, which is phenomenal for one day's worth of work! My favorite moments include one of the freshmen boys who wrote that his dad tells him to stop acting like a girl, but women are some of the most inspiring and wonderful individuals he's ever met. Also, our Head Residential Fellow, a history professor at Rice, as well as his 6 year old daughter, filled out the whiteboards. He wrote that he needs feminism because his 6 year-old daughter asked him why women can't be president of the U.S. She wrote that she needs feminism because she knows that men have been unfair to women for years. How beautiful. Wonderful things kept happening one after another. Dean Hutch, the dean of undergraduates at Rice, happened to walk by, and we asked him to write something and take a photo. He wrote that one reason he needs feminism is because women make awesome leaders who have vision and know the importance of peaceful relations. Thanks Dean Hutch! Not too long after, it completely surprised me when I helped a young woman look for none other than President Leebron (president of Rice University), and upon my humble request, Leebron agreed to write on the white board and take a photo as well. Extraordinary things happen when you just ask.
At 7pm, we all gathered at our Master, Luis's house, and feasted on yummy pies from the famous House of Pies, while we talked about feminism. The group was a good size, maybe 15-20 people, and we had very fruitful and honest discussions. From women in the workforce, the household, the political arena, to women and religion and intersectionality, I thoroughly enjoyed everyone's input. Afterwards, we stood around cleaning up and talked about how beautiful it was to hear the men speak up about feminism. And quite honestly, it surprised all of us how interested everyone was and how much a lot of people knew. Next month, Clara and Anya are partnering with ADVANCE, a club at Rice that hosts weekly lunch meetings open to everyone to discuss contemporary issues, from Syria to abortion debates, to talk about the F-word: feminism. And they'll be hosting a campus-wide photoshoot with more whiteboards. I can't wait to see what happens.
For more information, check out the new Facebook page for Who Needs Feminism at Rice!