Trigger warning: Mention of rape.
Feminism has been at the forefront for defending and fighting for women's rights. Issues as simple as reproductive freedom (which should be a given) have been compromised over the past few years, leaving women in an unfortunate predicament. Feminism is a powerful movement that has given many people all over the world a purpose. To touch on that, Fresh U interviewed a few college students who consider themselves to be feminists and get their on take on what that means to them personally.
1. Re'Nyqua Farrington, Nova Southeastern University
While becoming involved in feminism can be a journey for some, Re'Nyqua expressed that it came naturally to her. In her own words, "I was the little girl who got in trouble for 'talking too much,' the pre-teen who validated softball as a competitive women's sport and the high schooler who defended abortion rights through two class periods." She also expressed that she didn't always recognize that her efforts were making a difference, especially within the feminist movement. She went on to tell Fresh U, "I just knew that I was a staunch advocate for an inclusive spectrum of women's rights. I later learned the language for my belief: Intersectional feminism. Once I put a name to my cause, I was able to join in a movement that reflects the way I lived my life and the way I want to continue living my life." Feminism is more than a movement. It is a lifestyle choice.
2. Roberto Ruiz, Florida Southwestern State College
*did not want to be pictured.
Being male and being a feminist can be a challenge. Roberto told Fresh U that, "... as long as you aren't speaking over women, you can definitely be a male feminist. It's all about standing with other women instead of standing in front of them." He explained that it only becomes a problem when men decide that it is their fight and try to take the lead instead of following along.
Growing up in a Hispanic household and watching his hardworking mother mold a better life for his family, he expressed that he learned the fundamentals of respecting and valuing women as a whole: "Back then, I began researching and learning more about feminism. It was something new to me, but everything they stood for aligned with my views. I began calling myself a feminist and educating myself on bigger issues within the movement. Today, I consider myself not only a feminist, but also an activist." Having men become a part of the battle and understand our struggle is important.
3. Mia Cole, UNC Chapel Hill
Fresh U's own former senior editor, Mia Cole, told me that being a feminist was never really a question for her. Being raised by strong women that taught her the values of the feminist movement, she never really had to "get involved." She finished by telling Fresh U, "I suppose I started calling myself a feminist in high school when I started writing about more feminist issues on my blog and speaking out about them in public. To me, feminism is making all sexes, races, genders, etc. equal in rights, and working on eliminating pre-disposed stereotypes and beliefs in our society. It's meant for all people — not just women." Despite many misconceptions, the feminist movement advocates for groups of people all across the board, not just women.
4. Caleb Good, University of Louisville
*did not want to be pictured.
Feminism has done a lot for Caleb as he told Fresh U about trauma that he endured. Being a rape survivor, Caleb received an incredible amount of support from other feminists and the movement itself. He stated, "It gave me the courage to speak out about my rape." When we asked him what made him get involved, he responded, "Basically what got me involved was seeing the injustice women all around the world face and no one taking it serious[ly]. Feminism is more than just women's rights though. It's equality for all including men like me. Feminists fight every day so that male rape victims have a voice and that means a lot." It's important to remember that feminism advocates for male victims as well.
5. Kat Riascos, Washington University
For some, the understanding and comprehension of feminism came early. As Kat states, "I first began understanding the concept of feminism when I was probably twelve or so. My grandmother, a teacher, had bought me a book from her school's book fair. It was called something like, 'You Go Girl: A Tween's Guide to Feminism.' That was my first introduction to the idea of feminism. If I remember correctly, it was very white, middle class woman centric, but that was my model for feminism for a long time. Later in life, I identified as a womanist before realizing that that space wasn't for me, outside of prioritizing black women and femmes*. As someone who is not a woman I don't feel that is authentic, and that's not my space to take. My place in that particular movement is in solidarity and as an accomplice." Kat's preferred pronouns are they/them and while they do stand up for feminism, they feel that it is more of a woman's fight. They are happy to be an ally but they will not speak over women, which is very important when it comes to marginalized groups speaking out. As they also mentioned, much of feminism is centered around white women, but intersectional feminism is inclusive of all women.
6. Alicia Bontemps, Nova Southeastern University
Feminism is a learning process. Alicia explained to Fresh U that she never would have imagined considering herself a feminist until she met me. I'm very honored that during our interview, she told me, "Being a feminist first came to me when I met you, Shelby. You inspired me to believe that simply following a man's word for his word wasn't going to cut it and digging deeper always led you somewhere better. Before, I used to think 'boys will be boys' and it was acceptable because boys matured slower than girls — biologically, physically and sometimes mentally. You taught me that when someone makes a rude comment about women, the only right thing to do is [to] call them out and speak up. Staying quiet only makes it okay to be disrespectful." It's important to remember that the littlest things can inspire someone to change their views about the world and about the people around them. She went on to say, "Feminism doesn't revolve around women only, but men too. I believe that it means to fight for the equality of all genders, and not to limit equality but to have it open to everyone. I hope that men change the way they feel about this big 'F' word and embrace it rather than run from it." Feminism is often branded as a negative word, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
Feminism may just be a movement to some, but to others, it has given them a purpose and even a reason to live. For people like Caleb and even myself, feminism has reformed and healed them. If that isn't enough to make you realize that it is a very necessary movement, I don't know what would be more convincing.
Lead Image Credit: Pixabay