Fighting For Feminism at UNH

While it is true that most stereotypes of feminism are negative, feminists at the University of New Hampshire are pushing past this and looking to spread their message across campus in a positive way.

One way this is happening is through the student organization VOX, Voices for Planned Parenthood, which was created last semester.

VOX members at the Take Back the Night walk. COURTESY PHOTO

VOX members at the Take Back the Night walk. COURTESY PHOTO

VOX, which means “voice” in Latin, is a group of feminists who hold events to raise awareness of feminist and social justice issues.

Making sure to be inclusive of all social justice issues is important to feminists on the UNH campus as feminism continues to grow and progress.

“Feminism first and foremost is a liberation based on gender,” senior Caiti Duttry, a member of VOX, said. “But it’s really a movement for liberation from all types of oppression.”

As Faina Bukher, the assistant coordinator for UNH’s women’s studies department, said, feminism now encompasses race, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity, instead of only focusing on women’s rights. Junior Katie McAuliffe, a VOX member, agrees with this and often puts herself out there in order to support all identities.

“In my eyes being a feminist is willing to sacrifice personal and social success in order to fight for justice for all social identities,” McAuliffe said.

Bringing this viewpoint to UNH students is a challenge though and the feminists on campus don’t expect that everyone will be accepting of it. Sophomore Taylor Barclay, a VOX member, thinks that most UNH students aren’t even sure what a feminist is and this is something that she hopes can change.

“I think that the average UNH student is a little confused,” Barclay said. “I feel like I get a lot of eye rolls and I feel like a lot of them think it’s just a load of crap. They think it’s just silly and that it’s just women complaining about things.”

With the creation of VOX and the events that they have been holding and co-sponsoring, feminism is becoming more prominent on the UNH campus. On Oct. 3, VOX co-sponsored the popular lecture Orchestrating Orgasms with MUSO. It wasn’t advertised as a feminist event, which some VOX members think was a positive thing because 500 people attended and became educated on different aspects of sexuality.

Dawn Zitney, a proud feminist as well as the communications and information coordinator at Health Services, believes that events like this are important. She thinks they are beneficial to the UNH student body, as well as to VOX and other feminists on campus.

“[VOX] shows the campus that feminism is alive and well and it’s not dead cause sometimes I think people think feminism is dead or that the newer generation doesn’t care,” Zitney said. “It’s nice to see students taking initiative and getting involved.”

On Nov. 7, VOX sponsored Take Back the Night, a walk around the UNH campus and Durham to raise awareness of rape culture and to try and bring an end to sexual assaults and harassment.

Students leading the Take Back the Night walk. PHOTO by Katie Gardner

Students leading the Take Back the Night walk. PHOTO by Katie Gardner

One aspect of this is that not all women feel safe when walking alone at night across college campuses.

“We’re all about awareness,” sophomore VOX member Laurel Galford said. “I think we want to make everyone aware of sexism, of feminism. That’s why we do things like Take Back the Night.”

As the group of men and women walked a big loop around the UNH campus, they blasted music and chanted about rape culture. They were looking to make people aware of the issues that women have to face when walking alone at night. While there are many issues revolving around feminism, rape culture is one that’s very important to VOX members.

“As a female college student, the issue of rape culture is so meaningful to me because it takes me two hands to count the number of friends I have who have been sexually assaulted,” McAuliffe said.

Duttry also believes that sexual violence is one of the biggest feminist issues, especially on college campuses. She described it as a unique kind of violence due to the fact that it comes from a power dynamic.

“It’s so pervasive and we have SHARPP and it’s still so invisible,” Duttry said. “I recently learned that SHARPP is one of five of its kind of campus orgs in the country.”

Although UNH has always tried to care for women students and faculty members and be equal with them, it wasn’t until 1978 that SHARPP, the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program, was founded. After that, it wasn’t until a sexual assault incident in Stoke Hall in 1987 that the program was given an advisory board. On this board was Andrew Merton, head of the English department.

“It’s absolutely an improvement that there’s some place that women can go,” Merton said. “But the same problems exist. It’s very discouraging.”

In the meantime VOX is continuing to try and show UNH students that feminism is a good thing while at the same time trying to break the stereotypes.

“It’s not man-hating lesbians, which is a huge stigma that people have when they hear the word feminist,” Galford said.

Bukher, Zitney, Duttry, Barclay, and McAuliffe also talked about stereotypes and used phrases similar to Galford, as well as the words “butch,” “hairy” and “unhygienic.” Merton, a self-described “gut level feminist” wishes to break these long standing stereotypes.

“I’m a feminist and I’m not a lesbian,” Merton said.

The members of VOX understand that changing people’s minds isn’t going to be easy and that it’s a fight that’s been going on for years. They will continue to hold events around campus though and will continue trying to share their viewpoints.

“I personally want everyone to be a feminist but as long as they try and hear us out that’s all that matters to me,” Barclay said.

For VOX members, as well as other feminists on the UNH campus, the idea behind their passion is very simple.

“Feminism isn’t an F word,” Bukher said. “All it is, is asking for equality of all genders.”

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UNH Took Back the Night With Walk Across Campus

On Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. UNH students gathered on the great lawn in order to take part in the Take Back the Night walk sponsored by VOX. The walk was to raise awareness of rape culture and to try and bring an end to sexual assaults and harassment. One aspect of this is that not all women feel safe when walking alone at night across college campuses. As the group of men and women alike walked a big loop around the UNH campus, they blasted music and chanted.

For a Storify of the event, click here.

The Biggest Issues Affecting College Women

There are so many issues that affect women in college, but to some people, certain issues stand out more than others. This may because it is an issue that has affected them personally or it may be something that they’ve seen over and over again. At the University of New Hampshire, three different groups of people weighed in and answered the question, “What is the biggest issue affecting college women?” and the answers varied widely. The first group, the professionals, consist of people from Health Services and the Women’s Studies Department. The second group, the observers, consist of men on campus, whether they be a students or a professor. The third group is women themselves.

The Professionals

The Observers

Women

Men Have Mixed Feelings About Sexy Halloween

On Halloween, men aren’t expected to dress any certain way. In contrast to women, men aren’t expected to wear certain costumes and there usually aren’t standards set by society.

In a recent article from Cosmopolitan, a male writer interviewed his male friends to see what they thought of girls who wore skimpy costumes on Halloween. For the most part, they made jokes. “They make statements of apparent misogyny from a post-modern position of ‘you know we’re not actually like this so we can joke about it.'”

When that same writer took to the streets of New York to interview men about what they think of how women dress up, many were in favor of sexy costumes. At UNH though, for the most part men said that it can be degrading to women.

Women’s Thoughts on Sexy Halloween

With dressing sexy being a major trend on Halloween, especially on college campuses, “slut-shaming” is becoming more and more prevalent. Girls have been known to tear each other down for their choice of costumes and make each other feel bad for how much, or how little, skin they show. They say it’s degrading to women and that it’s asking for attention. Other girls think it’s empowering though and they’ll wear their skimpier costumes with pride. Below, three UNH women share their ideas on whether dressing sexy for Halloween is degrading or empowering to women.

Society Shames Sexy Halloween

Skimpy Halloween costumes are not a new concept, but for some girls it’s becoming harder and harder to find a costume that keeps them covered. Because of this, along with pressure from society and the media, more girls are dressing “sexy” for Halloween. While women are free to wear whatever they want, many are getting judged for their revealing costumes.

According to a recent article from Cosmopolitan, “slut-shaming” is ruining Halloween. “It’s much easier — and, unfortunately common — to shame individuals rather than try to change the society that seemingly made their choices for them.”

At Bindy's Boutique in Durham, NH this wall of costumes is one of the first things costumers see as they walk in. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

At Bindy’s Boutique in Durham, NH this wall of costumes is one of the first things costumers see as they walk in. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

While Bindy's does have a lot of thrift clothes available for costumes, "sexy" costumes are the ones given more of a showcase. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

While Bindy’s does have a lot of thrift clothes available for costumes, “sexy” costumes are the ones given more of a showcase. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

Bindy's has a wall of accessories to complement costumes, including jewelry, fishnet stockings, false eyelashes and more. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

Bindy’s has a wall of accessories to complement costumes, including jewelry, fishnet stockings, false eyelashes and more. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

In the back room of Bindy's where most of the costumes are kept, a lingerie inspired piece hangs amid more traditional costumes. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

In the back room of Bindy’s where most of the costumes are kept, a lingerie inspired piece hangs amid more traditional costumes. PHOTO/Katie Gardner