During move in week at Clarion, students were coming back to their apartments or dorms, parents were hauling their child's belongings to campus and new students were getting the lay of the land. Simultaneously, a Clarion University fraternity (located the main street to the campus) tied a blow up doll to a telephone poll with a sign that said: We'll take care of your daughters. The campus received phone calls from parents and students concerned about safety. The Office of Social Equity responded and required the students to attend sessions about their behavior with the Counseling Center.
My point is no one knows your campus better than you! Take a look at your campus and see if there are things that you find questionable. If this motivates you to start a feminist group on your campus or take action on your campus that’s great and I hope Activism for the College Grrl can help you determine a course of action that fits your campus. But remember, you don’t need a group in order to speak out.
There will be two parts since this is such a large project. If there is an area that you think I should focus on email me and I will include it in Part II!
Students are often inspired to form a campus group as a result of what is happening on a personal level or something that is taking place on campus. Inspiration from their mother, participating in “The Vagina Monologues”, attending Take Back The Night, or simply taking Women’s Studies 101 are among the few. I receive a lot of emails from Feminist.com readers about how they would like to start a feminist group but do not know where to start. You may have experienced injustices on campus that make you wonder “Does that just bother me?” I would have the say the answer is probably no. Some topics that college women have concerns with are sexual harassment from professors or peers, services of the health center, lack of a comprehensive sexual assault policy, no women’s center, or run-ins with campus a campus group, such as the frat at Clarion.
So where do you begin?
See if your campus has a Women’s Center or a Women’s Studies Department. Although you might think you know all of the things that are on your campus, you might find that your school does have a Women’s Center you didn’t know existed. Research using your college’s website and find the mission of the center and see if they host feminist events or have on campus student groups you could reach out to.
You do not need to reinvent the wheel by starting an organization if you have a way to reach feminists on campus. However, you may want to consider it depending on the resources you have. If you campus has no Women’s Center or Women’s Studies Department then check to see if there is an Office for Social Equity or something similar. At Clarion, this office served as a hub for the several committees such as the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the President’s Commission on Sexual Harassment. This might provide you with faculty and staff members who are feminists and could serve as a potential advisor to your organization. They also might be able to connect you with students who have views similar to you.
Create a feminist community
See if you have any friends that are like-minded or check Facebook and see if there is already a group devoted to feminism and equality for women at your school. If not, create a group! Even if there is no physical group on campus a virtual space is a great place to see if there is enough interest to start an on campus organization. Contact campus IT and Computing Services and see if you can get a mass e-mail sent out. Create a catchy title and message that will get readers attention. See who responds (not all messages will be pleasant) and go from there! Another way to reach students is by flyering! Create flyers that show what you would like your group to be about and make sure it covers at least the who, what, where, when. You can figure out how and why once you are together. Once At that meeting have one goal: brain storm. See what issues are bothering other students and share your concerns. You can have it around a theme or include food (students love free food), at Clarion each year, our feminist group hosted a Hawaiian Luau and an Ice Cream Social.
After you get a group (small or large) of people who are dedicated, together you can start defining what you want the group to be. It could be a book club where we read modern feminist ideas, an activist group that has recognized the Health Center provides free condoms but no free contraceptives for women, or find that you are disappointed in not having a Women’s Studies Department or an on campus Women’s Center.
Since starting a campus group is a lot of work, there is also a lot of other areas I would like to cover. Part II will include activism, book clubs, national organizations and working with on campus student government that can assist you on your journey. If there is an area that you think I should focus on email me and I will include it in Part II!
Click here for Starting a Feminist Group on Your Campus: Part II
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.