For students, feminism not defined by gender

The Temple Area Feminist Collective meets regularly to discuss current issues in society including rape culture and gender role expectations. | Andrew Thayer TTN
The Temple Area Feminist Collective meets regularly to discuss current issues in society including rape culture and gender role expectations. | Andrew Thayer TTN

It’s not a girl thing.

The members of the Temple Area Feminist Collective have plenty of different ideas about the definition of feminism, but they all agree that activism is open to both genders.

“When people hear the word ‘feminism,’ they automatically think of a bunch of women arguing about how women are the superior gender,” said freshman university studies major Megan Jones. “But in reality, feminist ideologies fight for the equality of all sexes.”

A recent recruit of TAFC, Jones said the collective aims to combat rape culture and raise awareness of stereotypes – concepts that she said are basic human rights.

“We try to explore the positions which intersect with femininity, like race, class, sexuality and gender identity, among others,” said sophomore women and gender studies major Morgen Snowadzky. “An important thing to remember about feminism is that it is inconsistent. It lacks a solid definition, which is sometimes the beauty of it.”

Although Snowadzky was responsible for creating the organization in the fall and hosts Thursday night meetings in her living room, she holds no title of leadership. She said the group is structured non-hierarchically.

“The goal is to be open to learning from each other to form a greater common knowledge,” Snowadzky said.

That goal is one of many outlined in TAFC’s manifesto that includes eliminating girl hate, appreciating the benefits of an anti-capitalist stance and fighting back against oppressive institutionalized and internalized power structures.

“So often you see college students doing things only because it looks good on a résumé,” said sophomore political science and women’s studies major Tom DiAgostino. “But with this organization, people are there because they care and because they are passionate about radical intersectional feminism.”

It wasn’t hard for the group to generate interest quickly.  Snowadzky said she contributes the success to the women and gender studies major, which she described as a “built-in safe space for feminism.”

“We would get together to study, but end up just discussing feminist issues until one in the morning,” Snowadzky said. “I would imagine it’s more difficult to find out if you have fellow feminist allies in [other] majors or departments.”

While Snowadzky said the meetings usually have about 20 members in attendance, their Facebook group has ballooned to more than 220 members who post thoughts and share relevant links daily.

“We come from different academic backgrounds that contribute varying perspectives to our feminism,” said sophomore women’s studies major Riley MacDonald. “It isn’t the sort of student organization where the same people lead the discussion every week.”

Junior African-American studies major Sarah Giskin said the agenda for meetings always begins with an introduction activity and that all members are encouraged to lead discussions about topics they’re passionate about.

“We do this because we get new people every week and we want everyone to feel welcome and respected,” Giskin said.

Word of mouth played a big factor in raking in more members, including sophomore Gabriel Gonzalez, who said his initial motivation to join spurred from a conversation about pop culture.

“I was talking to one of the members and we kind of got into a discussion about Miley Cyrus or someone who claimed to be very feminist,” the media studies and production major said. “What drew me in was finally being able to find a place where people share similar ideas and meet to discuss them.”

That same motivation inspired Drexel pre-junior and English major Melody Nielsen.

“I became friends with [Snowadzky] through a collaboration between queer groups at Temple and Drexel,” Nielsen said. “We hung out a lot over the summer [and] when [Snowadzky] decided to start a collective, I was super on board and got involved from the very beginning.”

Nielsen, a founding member of Drexel’s feminist group Students Advocating Feminism and Equality, said her experience with both university groups is different. While SAFE is more focused on education about feminism, both groups remain focused on changing respective university policies regarding sexual harassment and consent.

Sophomore geography and urban studies major Jenny Ryder said TAFC hopes to partner with the university to institute a series of workshops to combat sexual harassment on campus.

“Temple needs to address explicitly the most common crime on campus,” Ryder said. “[They] need to demonstrate a sincere concern for its students safety, not just from stereotyped and criminalized non-university offenders, but also from members of the university community itself.”

Junior theater major Becca Greenberg said she applauds Temple for its efforts, including its participation in the annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event and the Wellness Center’s production of “The Vagina Monologues,” but there is still room for improvement.

“There are certainly more things the university can do,” Greenberg said.

Snowadzky said TAFC also supports friends of the organization lobbying for gender-neutral restrooms and living facilities on campus. Members said they will continue to seek cultural change both on and off campus this semester as the group continues to grow.

“There’s power in numbers,” Ryder said.

Jessica Smith can be reached at jessicasmith@temple.edu.

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