Despite the more than 20 women’s rights groups on campus, one student thought something was still lacking.
For Ellen Hansen, a graduate student in the School of Nursing who received her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont, the absent element was a strong community of feminists.
“Here, I just wasn’t feeling that,” she said. “I felt like there were a lot of splintered women’s rights groups on campus, which is excellent, but I wanted a group that could talk about all subjects relating to women’s rights. I felt like we were missing an activist community.”
Penn Feminists is the newest women’s rights group on campus. Hansen, the groups’s founder, hopes to set members of Penn Feminists apart from those of similar organizations on campus in the range of issues they discuss.
“Our generations of feminists are trying to advocate more for LGBTQ people, and minorities, and people of lower socioeconomic status and trying to find out how these factors play into oppression,” she said. “Feminism now is all about equality at all levels and places, and no one can deny that there are still gaps for women around the world.”
For Ashley Arens, a graduate student in the School of Social Policy and Practice, this broad focus was part of the group’s appeal.
“Once it gets up and running, I think it can be really comprehensive and pull in people of a lot of different viewpoints,” she said. “That is one of the reasons I would be more likely to attend a group like this rather than a very specialized group.”
Another element which Hansen believes works toward individualizing the organization on campus is its embrace of the word “feminism.” She points to the stigma attached to the word and its connotations of radicalism as a reason for the few campus organizations that identify themselves as such.
“Using the word feminist is important in terms of a historical sense,” she said.
Hansen added that the term better acknowledges the history of women’s rights and the oppression women face under a patriarchal society.
For Benjamin Goodrum, a graduate student in the School of Nursing, the term was the main draw for his joining the organization.
“It’s good to be around people who aren’t afraid to call themselves feminists or to say that they are for social equity in its true sense,” he said. “Not just for men or women, but for everybody on the outside of that, too.”
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