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Big Women on Campus

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College feminists often get a bad rap these days. They are occasionally lumped in with what some call “oversensitive millennials” while others continue to picture them as stereotypical bra-burning, unshaven young women. College Feminists, a student organization with a growing presence at the University of Rochester (UR), exemplifies how college students can also be flourishing feminists.

The group was founded in 1983 to “increase the consciousness and awareness of the campus community on topics related to gender equality, equal rights, and sexual health.” This includes educating the university community and surrounding communities about feminist issues, taking action at campus, local, state, national, and international levels, and providing leadership and career-building opportunities for students.

To accomplish all this, the organization holds weekly meetings as well as panels, film screenings, roundtable discussions, teach-ins, and events with guest speakers like Kiran Gandhi, who free-bled while running the London Marathon and gave a talk on Kiran Gandhiperiod stigma for Women’s History Month. Other events include Love Your Body Day, Sexual Assault Awareness Day, Equal Pay Day, and The Clothesline Project. If you have not heard of it, The Clothesline Project is a national project to display shirts made by women who have experienced violence or know someone who has.

As part of the #YesAllWomen campaign, the group recently partnered with Zoë Markovits to create a print series featuring simple phrases such as “Because men don’t text each other that they got home safe” and “Because apparently the clothes I wear are a more valid form of consent than the words I say.” Members also created a reproductive justice photo #yesallwomencampaign earlier this month to show their support for Planned Parenthood. It is notable that there has been a lot of coed support for such projects – in one photo, a male student holds a sign that says, “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.”

The College Feminists are not the only ones talking about feminism on the UR campus. Earlier this year, the Debate Union held a public debate titled “Has Beyoncé Been Good for Feminism?.” Plus, as we have mentioned before, it has a She’s the First chapter, which sponsors girls’ education in low-income countries so they can become the first in their families to graduate secondary school. Moreover, there is a Her Campus chapter and a club called The Society of Women Engineers, which empowers female students interested in engineering.

At the academic level, the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies is “dedicated to addressing curricular and scholarly issues important for understanding the roles of gender, sexuality, and women throughout history and inEqual Pay Day contemporary society, as well as promoting a campus environment that is safe, equitable, and inclusive of all members.”

In addition, the Susan B. Anthony Center focuses on social justice advocacy and awareness. Last year, for Equal Pay Day, it partnered with the Coalition for Pay Equity to create a survey that explores the wage gap in the Rochester area.

So, next time you encounter someone who believes college students are no longer sincerely interested in feminism or that all college feminists can be found doing is hosting bra-burning bonfires, just point him or her to the College Feminists at the University of Rochester.

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