A new club on campus wants to provide more space for feminists to meet and discuss issues they are passionate about.
PennFems is an initiative under the Penn Association for Gender Equity. College sophomore Donnisa Edmonds, who is the president of PennFems and PAGE marketing chair, said freshmen on PAGE’s board last year noticed that PAGE is the only general feminist group on campus, which they wanted to change.
Edmonds added that PAGE also has a specific focus, which is to function as an umbrella group that organizes events and assists constituent groups.
“It doesn’t really provide a space for people to have discussions about feminism,” she said.
PennFems had its first general body meeting on Oct. 12, when PennFems Educational Chair and College sophomore Desteni Rivers talked about the history of feminism and intersectionality before opening the meeting up to a discussion with all the attendees. About 20 women attended the first discussion, but Edmonds said the group aspires to have students of all gender identities participating in future discussions.
College sophomore and PAGE Education Chair Mischa Neal said she enjoyed the event and appreciated the new forum for discussion.
“We don’t do a lot of educational stuff and so I thought the educational aspect worked really well. I really appreciated the opportunity to discuss each wave of feminism and how intersectionality played out in each iteration," Neal said.
She said that PennFems has its roots in an initiative that PAGE started last year called Freshman Fellows. Freshman Fellows is open to first-semester freshmen who apply to attend around 10 hours of meetings about feminist literature, panels and discussions.
In 2016 and 2017, roughly 20 students participated in the program and leaders hope that these students will become more involved in PAGE during their time at Penn. However, since PAGE only has nine board seats, the current leaders saw a need to increase the number of opportunities for students interested in discussing and promoting feminism.
Edmonds said a focus of PennFems will be intersectionality and how oppression affects people differently based on factors such as race, gender, class and sexuality.
Meriem Messaoudi, PennFems community service chair and College junior, said the group also plans to get involved with organizations outside of campus to foster community service opportunities.
“It’s crazy because students are so active on campus, but not so much outside of it,” Messaoudi said.
Edmonds agreed and said “within feminist spaces there is a lot of discussion but not a lot of concrete action.”
Rivers said that while PennFems provides a general space focused on feminism, it is not the only place on campus to be involved in the cause.
“I’m involved in certain organizations that don’t necessarily scream, ‘Feminism,’ but they do have feminist perspectives,” Rivers said, citing Penn Anti-Violence Educators and GlobeMed as examples.
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