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, 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.
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.”