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Students embrace feminism

Kellie Galentine
Assistant LV Life Editor

A surge of campus clubs based on the values of feminism are developing on campus, mirroring a national trend.

A total of 55 percent of women voters and 30 percent of men voters identified as feminists in a 2012 poll done by Ms. Magazine; and students on campus supporting women’s initiatives through clubs are bringing the trend of feminism to campus.

Clubs like One in Three, Shades of Essence and Her Campus, La Verne (of which this writer is a co-founder), which all support women’s issues, have developed within the past year to empower students.

“I feel like with this generation of students, they are very independent and know what they want and are not afraid to stand up for it,” said Lisa Beaudoin, senior history major and clubs and organizations coordinator.

While there are more than 60 clubs on campus, about 10 are specifically supportive of women’s issues and empowerment. Men and women alike are coming together to tackle issues such as sexual assault, domestic abuse, cultural trends and other important topics relating to the condition of women.

“A friend and I on campus got together and talked about the issues we notice with underclassmen females and how sometimes there is tension and cattiness, and we wanted to create a club where women can bond and grow together and understand each other,” Breana White, president of Shades of Essence, said.

Not only are groups on campus seeking to create spaces where women can come together to discuss issues, but One in Three started up with a mission to educate about sexual assault and domestic violence.

“When I started One in Three, we didn’t see anything brought by the school about women’s issues, and recently we are seeing a lot more started up by students,” Kimberly Navarro, junior business major and president of One in Three, said.

Within the past year, students have made a statement through action about their feelings toward women’s movements. The SPARK Leadership Conference is another example of an emerging women’s movement on campus started to inspire and motivate college women to be educated on politics, business and career preparedness.

“One Billion Rising,” brought to La Verne with the help of One in Three, had more than 100 people in attendance and raised awareness about sexual violence. The club started in the fall semester, and Navarro said they are interested in educating men and women to remove ignorance in areas people typically do not understand.

“Because of the negative stereotype of what a feminist is, people are afraid to show their support,” Navarro said.

New clubs have found faculty and staff to be supportive of student-started women’s initiatives, but on the other hand, the University does not offer a full-fledged women and gender studies program or major, among other things to validate these women’s causes and feminist issues.

“We would like to see the school develop a women’s resource center and the school themselves putting on programs to educate students since a lot of students don’t even know what the definition of rape or sexual assault is,” Navarro said.

Despite the lacking resource center or educational programming on the University’s end, many staff and faculty members dive in at the chance to assist students with their ideas.

“I know of several women on this campus, both faculty and staff, that are very aware of the importance of feminist action and have participated when they hear of student driven clubs,” Judy Holiday, assistant professor of writing, said.

White said she has found guidance and advice through the participation of faculty and staff in Shades of Essence.

“President Lieberman came to our meeting last month,” White said. “We have a lot of female supporters among the faculty.”

With faculty support, the students who have kick-started these movements during the past year can gain knowledge they would not get in the classroom at La Verne since the University does not have a women and gender studies major, only a minor that is not maintained or advertised on a regular basis.

“The program has never really been promoted very much because it got passed, the faculty were excited about it, but the structure to support it has never been put into place,” Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain, said.

Wagoner, who was a part of the faculty that moved for a gender studies minor, also said challenges lie in maintaining the selection of classes and figuring out who would manage the minor.

“I definitely feel like the University needs more women and gender studies curriculum because it would definitely help remove ignorance and some of the hatred people have towards each other because of their differences,” Navarro said.

Communication between feminist student leaders and staff and faculty has the potential to create a positive change.

“I think what would be really wonderful is if there was a collective conversation between leaders of student groups and faculty and staff that are interested in this issue to talk about how to collaborate and create something very strong together,” Wagoner said.

Clubs and organizations work daily to help get their messages out and spread the word about the initiatives they have going. The validation of their causes through university curriculum could help increase student awareness of women’s issues.

“Women are not seen as being completely capable, and we have to work extra hard to show we are capable of pursuing anything we want,” White said.

Kellie Galentine can be reached at kellie.galentine@laverne.edu.

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