Group: Feminist Alliance
Category: Special Interest
Name: Becca Love
Position: Member, former Vice President
Year: Class of 2011
The Feminist Alliance had a very grassroots beginning. In the fall of 2009, a number of concerned women and men, many of whom had not known each other before that point, got together to protest the payment and venue being given to a misogynist speaker hired by a student group. The next semester, some of these students started the Feminist Alliance, “to promote gender equality, awareness, and empowerment across the Johns Hopkins campus.”
Much of our work so far has involved educating the campus about what feminism is and is not. We’ve presented our “Famous Feminists” board (pictured above) at various school events, and the reception it got showed the need for education: one individual guessed that Malalai Joya was not a feminist because of her head covering, while another pointed to Kay Hutchinson’s status as a Republican as supposed proof (answer: it’s a trick question. All the individuals featured on the board have done work in promoting women’s rights and leadership abilities, fighting domestic violence, and deconstructing gender stereotypes). We’ve also gotten a lot of people to play “Feminist Jeopardy,” and everybody usually learns something.
In response to several negative articles in the News-Letter last semester, we hosted a “Love Your Body Day” to highlight ways in which the media creates unreasonable expectations for women and men, and to promote a healthy, positive body image instead. We’re working with the administration on several projects to change the ways in which sexual assault is addressed as well as to become more proactive in preventing it. We’re also trying to raise awareness of the prevalence of rape and sexual assault on campus, and we’re about to kick off a series of discussion meetings about such topics as sex and consent.
Feminism, of course, is not limited to issues surrounding women. After a campus publication published a piece denigrating men and promoting harmful male gender stereotypes, the Feminist Alliance’s board as well as other members wrote back with rebuttals. We’re also in the process of bringing to campus a speaker to discuss ideas of masculinity and other gender issues specific to men, and are planning to devote at least one of our discussion meetings specifically to men’s issues in hopes of fostering an atmosphere of greater awareness on campus.
One of my favorite things about the Feminist Alliance, and one which has been the most valuable to me, has been our “safe space” policy, which provides that any personal experiences or concerns shared during the meeting are kept confidential among those who were there. This means that meetings provide an outlet to talk out negative experiences and worries with people who, most likely, have been through the same thing; in other words, meetings are a place where you can vent and no one will think less of you for it. Our “safe space” policy also includes strict injunctions against slurs about any group of people to ensure that it’s a safe space for the people listening as well.
My time with the Feminist Alliance has been deeply rewarding as I learn the satisfaction of working to solve problems and make a better campus for everyone. New members, especially freshman, are always welcome, and the time commitment is as little or as much as you want to make it. There’s always something to do in the way of promoting gender equality and awareness, whether it’s planning our next event, debating a particular manifestation of sexism in the media, or posting flyers around campus to educate our fellow students.