Club profile: campus feminists in ASWI
Since the ancient times of Adam and Eve, there has been a battle of the sexes. Empirically, males have been proclaimed the dominant societal figure, while females have held a lower rank. However, in today’s modern society, females have shown a more dominant side than ever before. One movement that has made some serious headway in our gender-schematic society is feminism. A particular group here on NAU’s campus is striving to keep feminism alive and well. The group is ASWI.
An active member of ASWI, Kaylynne Gray is a freshman pursuing a double major in women and gender studies and psychology.
“ASWI stands for ‘Associated Students for Women’s Issues’,” Gray says.”We’re mostly about feminist issues and we hold discussions on a weekly basis about these feminist issues. We organize a lot of events and table to spread awareness of what feminism is because there are so many misconceptions about [it]. So many people can’t get passed the stereotypes and really listen to the important issues we’re focusing on. Our main goal is to help people understand what feminism really is and how many types of people can feel like they’re a feminist, and identify as a feminist.”
Gray and other members of ASWI went on to speak of how to educate students about feminism and what makes someone a feminist.
“I can’t speak for everyone in ASWI but the people I’m familiar with in the group consider ourselves to be equivalists,” Gray says. “We don’t think that women should be at a higher stature than men, and we don’t just focus on woman’s issues, but also issues within the lesbian, gay and transgender societies. We mostly just want men and women be on equal playing fields. We want respect in relationships, and women to feel safe in the community. To us, that’s what feminism is.”
Some members of society may be familiar with a harsh stereotype of feminists referred to as radical or man-haters. While there may be some feminists who take their stances to such extremes, this is often a severe misrepresentation of feminism.
“There are so many different people and beliefs that fall under the umbrella of feminism,” Gray says. “There are definitely radical feminists who are what most people think of when they hear the word feminist. To me, it just means I want to make the same amount of money in a job that a man would. I want to have more of a political voice because right now women don’t have much of a voice [compared to men.]“
Gray gains inspiration from feminism and feels proud to be one herself. People might wonder what the life of a feminists is like on a day-to-day basis. How is it different; are there any pros and cons to this life style? What is the message as a feminist? Do they encourage more women to be feminists?
“I do; I definitely do,” Gray says. “You’d be surprised at how many women are in favor of patriarchy and who don’t want to see changes. I also think that everyone should have a good understanding of what feminism means . . . because we aren’t super radical and I think a lot of what we stand for is something everyone should stand for. But I definitely encourage all women to be enthusiastic about being empowered.”
There are many unique challenges faced by feminists in society and many of them are caused by misunderstanding.
“I have had people say things like, ‘Are you a lesbian?’ or ‘How can you be a feminist when you wear makeup? Isn’t that contradictory?’” Gray says.
Obviously many people fail to realize or appreciate the reality of an ASWI feminist. Gray does her best to stay positive even among incorrect criticism.
“This type of attitude towards feminism can be frustrating. A lot of people will question me because I am in a relationship with a man, and people think I can’t be a real feminist if I still date men. That’s a negative view; my boyfriend happens to support feminism and is for women’s empowerment.”
The ASWI organization, full of such passionate members, does what they can to spread the accurate definition of feminism around campus.
“We recently did the Vagina Monologues, which I was an active participant in,” Gray says. “We had NAU Feminists Coming Out Day, which was aimed at beating down the stereotypes of feminism and what it really is. It was a very fun and successful event. We also [had a] table in the [University] Union [to] get people excited about feminism. On March 24, we’re hosting the Wonder Women Five Minute Film Festival in the Cline Library at 5:30. The event is about glorifying the everyday woman.”
With all these female inspired events taking place, have more more women been joining the fight?
“We have experienced some growth in ASWI,” Gray says. “But it’s mostly getting the word out that has been expanding. A lot of people hear ‘feminists’ and think of the stereotypical, radical bra-burner, who doesn’t shave and hates men. This stereotype severely limits how many people come to see what we’re actually about.”
With feminism on the rise, it feels that more people should know of its values. There are many misconceptions about feminists and feminism which must be broken.
“I think anyone who converses with me daily is very aware of my passion toward feminism,” Gray says. “It’s important to let people know what you stand for, otherwise you’re not staying true to yourself and what you believe in or what you stand for. You’re also limiting the knowledge of your beliefs by not expressing them to the people around you.”