Click here for Starting a Feminist Group on Your Campus: Part I
The ideas are endless but you have to decided, as a group (or passionate individual), what you would like to accomplish and find those who are willing to support you in this cause. If you have a group of people interested in activism, you might want to come up with two ideas (to start) to focus on for the semester. For example, you can celebrate Love Your Body Day, work with campus security on developing a comprehensive sexual assault policy, plan a spoken word event for feminists (faculty, students and community members) or you can do a writing campaign to your university newspaper to alert people injustices happening on campus. These are only examples; the ideas can come from campus climate. No matter what topic you choose, be sure to delegate the work so that one person does not end up doing all of the work.
Take into account all students on your campus. You don’t want to marginalize a particular group because you are not being inclusive. For example, if you are a feminist organization you probably should recognize race, class, gender, sexuality, ability and additional intersections that are often neglected. A feminist space has the potential to create a space for everyone. You will need to be mindful that a diverse of population student will be interested and a variety of perspectives are valuable.
Reading some books that focus on feminism might be a good way to get students interested, however, you may loose interest of those who are interested in participating in activism. Some great books that I have read include: Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks, The F-Word by Kristin Row-Finkbeiner, Sisterhood Interrupted by Deborah Seigel and Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy. An idea to take into account is to read books that may not be viewed as feminist in nature, just to see what non-feminists think of feminist subjects.
Reinventing the Wheel…or not
The National Organization for Women has Campus Action Networks (CAN) that provides you with the tools to start NOW on campus. The great thing with NOW is that you are able to create it around issues that are important to you and your campus. You always have the support of the national office and local NOW chapters in your state. There is a manual that provides ideas on how to start CAN, publicity campaigns, working with the press and access to campaigns that are happening on a national level. Each year there is a National NOW Conference and if you are considered an official student organization, student may be able to apply through Student Senate (or the governing student body) for funding to attend. This Young Feminist Leadership Institute provided a lot of great workshops that could help start CAN.
The Feminist Majority offers students the opportunity to form a Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) which allows participation in national campaigns but can address local issues as well. They offer support to Campus Organizers who are trained to work with students in feminist activism.
Sometimes, it is appealing to become apart of a larger organization but keep in mind the issues that are happening locally on your campus or in the area of your college. It is great to keep these organizations in mind in the alliance capacity. If you have a feminist group on campus already or do not want to use the name and mission of FMLA or NOW, create your own group. In my experience, both organizations are more than happy to be allies. It is great to think global and act local. You know your campus better than any outside organization.
Talk to a few faculty that are supportive. Faculty members in Women’s Studies Departments I have been a part of have offered students extra credit for participating in an activism outside of the classroom. Sometimes faculty offer credit attending meetings or actually helping with the group (like, creating a website, creating flyers, planning an event). E-mail faculty you know are supportive of your group, they may be able to refer former students to your group. To universities, numbers are everything and you can create change on a larger scale.
Facebook started out as a student only network that allows for students to interact with each other. Let this be to your benefit. Create a Facebook group that can allow you to see how many people are interested in your organization. Once you have that, post your events for all students at your school to see. This will allow for people to know about your organization and may even get a few new members. In addition to Facebook, try having your own website.
Campus Paper Trail
The bureaucracy of student government may be an obstacle when establishing your organization. But the general process is:
1. A group of students, often a certain minimum number, who are interested in the organization
2. Faculty Advisor – Knowledgeable about the university resources and issues the group will address
3. By laws – Rules and standards that your organization will represent your organization on paper. It often includes a mission statement and purpose of the group. There is often a template offered by student government and there are usually requirements of what needs to be included.
4. Executive Board – You will need to have student leaders involved in positions such as Treasurer, Secretary, President, Vice President or even Co-Presidents
Although the paper trail is an ongoing process, throughout the year, students will often have a budget, a mailbox, possibly office space, and access to resources such as copiers, paper for flyers and ability to set advertise through student channels such as a television network, campus newspaper and a variety of other benefits that make having a recognized organization a great endeavor. A great way to leave another paper trail is to have a newsletter, even if it is a one page calendar of feminist events happening on campus or in your area.
But of course, we know that there are cons as well. One that many mention is the hierarchy; it is present with student organizations and ultimately one student who will be the president. One way to challenge this a create a collective group effort is to have Co-Presidents and individuals on different committees. For example, if you are planning supplemental events for "The Vagina Monologues" by Eve Ensler, then have a committee that is dedicated for work for that event. If members have ideas for the event, the committee can put the ideas into an actual tangible event. This allows for a group effort and members of the "Executive Board" can be on these committees, but committees that consist of members allows for other voices in the group to be heard.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Feel free to email me if you are going through this process and need some additional help.
Past Feminist Activism for the College Grrl Columns:
I want to hear about the feminist activism happening on your campus -- shoot me an e-mail and we'll compile a rich database of ideas for feminists to share.
Lisa Covington is a graduate from Clarion University where shestudied Social Change and Women's Studies and foundedthe only feminist based student organization. Sheserved on the American Association for UniversityWomen Student Board and was selected as a top leaderfor feminist activism by Ms. Magazine. Lisa looksforward to attending graduate school for Women'sStudies and working in the healthy development ofadolescent girls.