Feminists seek to change stereotype
One tends to conjure up some very stereotypical images of man-hating, all natural, pro-choice lesbians upon hearing this idiom.
For the feminists at Eastern, these clichés don't ring true.
Cate Gooch, a member of Feminists For Change (FFC) at Eastern, has dealt with the way that people view feminism.
"I think that the most common misconception is that all feminists hate men and that we don't shave our legs or wear make-up," Gooch said.
Karina Kwiatkowski, co-president of FFC, couldn't be farther from a stereotypical feminist with her neatly kempt blonde hair and powdered face.
"We love men, we don't hate men at all," Kwiatkowski said. "My fiancé would be in trouble if I hated men."
FFC, which has been a part of the Eastern community for nearly six years, has a mission of activism not just for women, but for both genders.
"We work towards all kinds of gender activism and gender equality issues," Kwiatkowski said. "We consider ourselves a humanist group, as in we take in all kinds of human rights issues, but our main focus is gender."
As an activist group, FFC inserts itself in campus life in many different ways. Each year, FFC participates in Take Back the Night, Rock Against Rape, The "Vagina Monologues" and poetry slams. All of these events are designed to promote activism, support and gender equality among Eastern's student body.
FFC also holds an educational panel each year with the mission of educating people on gender. The panel holds the view that gender is something that is socially constructed and not innate to humans.
"What we consider masculinity and femininity, these rigid gender boxes that we shove men and women into, there is nothing natural or biological about it," Kwiatkowski said. "You know, if you were born in the woods, you wouldn't naturally want to wear high heels and have an ironing board in front of you."
With this educational panel, FFC strives not only to be activists, but to educate people on issues they deem to be pertinent in society.
"Hopefully we better people's lives through our activism and our education," Kwiatkowski said.
Another thing FFC hopes to instill on the Eastern campus through its presence is awareness. FFC wants the Eastern community to take note of the many different types of people on this campus and the importance of being open and accepting to them.
Although she has seen a fair amount of change on campus in recent years, Farah Ardeshir, co-president of FFC, still encounters things she feels are unsettling around campus.
"I still frequently see horrible, degrading, epithets on people's T-shirts, like 'Louisville girls are fat,' or 'Don't be a girly man,'" Ardeshir said. "Now, that stuff makes me think, 'What's going on, on campus that you have the nerve to wear that and see nothing wrong with it?'"
FFC spends some Saturday mornings volunteering as activists to escort women who are outside clinics seeking abortions. They are there to help women through the throngs of protesters waiting outside the clinic and to be supportive.
"Honestly, it's a great experience," Gooch said. "It's nice to know that we can be there for other women to help them out with what they are going through."
Kwiatkowski agrees that escorting at the abortion clinic is a fulfilling experience, but it can be a bit intense at times.
This activity furthers the notion that feminists are all pro-choice man haters, but Kwiatkowski reiterates the fact they are an activist group centered around gender equality.
"We aren't pro-abortion," Kwiatkowski said. "We are pro-women making decisions."
The group has worked hard to overcome the preconceived notions of feminists and their views.
"A feminist is just someone who cares about equal rights," Gooch said. "A lot of people think that we're extreme or that we're men haters, it's just not true."
The inclusion of men in FFC is proof of the barriers feminism has overcome. There are several active male members. The group's faculty advisor, Dr. Brent Shannon is male, something one would not expect from a feminist organization.
"We just need to debunk myths on this campus about being a feminist," Ardeshir said. "Because it's not sexy to be a feminist, it's not cool to be a feminist, it's not popular to be a feminist or to be an activist and stand up for something when you know it's wrong and everyone knows it's wrong.
Dana Cole (Eastern Progress)
Published on May 13, 2010