Feminist fair seeks to broaden movement's goals

The Feminist Majority Leadership Association sponsored a fair to inform students about feminism and gender equality issues Jan. 24 on Library Walk.

Chris Padfield

“”We want to break down the stereotypes [of feminists] and get people to identify themselves as feminists who would otherwise not,”” said FMLA President Corinne Hart.

The FMLA invited organizations and individuals associated with women’s issues to staff tables during the fair.

More than a dozen groups attended the event, including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Center, Vox and the Womyn of Color Conference Committee.

Chris Patfield

Student response to the fair varied, but most attendees showed distanced support.

“”I don’t feel that I’m treated unequally on campus,”” said Muir sophomore Alison Shimasaki. “”But I think [the fair] is a good thing to have there and available.””

Members of the FMLA spoke about concerns such as feminism in dating relationships and retaining femininity while being a feminist.

A presentation about women in Afghanistan garnered the greatest audience.

Sian Hilliard gave a brief talk about the United States’ responsibility to the women oppressed by the Taliban. One of the organizations present at the event, Students Against Gender Apartheid, dedicates itself primarily to supporting these women via the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan.

The fair’s title, “”The Changing Face of Feminism,”” is represented in the membership of the FMLA, which includes two men.

One is Gene Larsen-Hallock, a transfer student. Like many other members of the FMLA, he grew up in a home that supported feminist policy. When presented with the opportunity to join a formal feminist organization upon arrival at UCSD this year, Larsen-Hallock took the chance.

“”It’s not really weird,”” he said in reference to being a male feminist. “”At its core, feminism is about equality. It’s not about elevating one gender over another.””

According to Hart, the FMLA hopes to build on that understanding and get “”people to identify as feminists and not be afraid of the word.””

Organizers scheduled the fair to coincide with the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

“”The biggest national issue is the abortion issue because we have a conservative president who can appoint conservative justices,”” said Hart when asked about the direction of American feminism.

Though feminism is most often associated with being pro-choice on abortion, that was not the only opinion represented Thursday.

In a separate event Thursday night, the Catholic Community at UCSD sponsored a lecture — “”The Feminist Case For Life”” — given by Michaelene Jenkins.

Students at the fair could find positions more moderate among the organizations represented there. The Women’s Resource Committee, while not identifying itself explicitly with the pro-life camp, showed its position in a statement: “”We look at women holistically and try to educate them about their options and the many negative side effects of abortion.””

Despite the disparate political positions held by FMLA leadership and the invited groups, a sense of cooperation pervaded the afternoon.

“”Most people today are feminists; they just don’t know it because they see feminism tied to radicalism,”” FMLA member Katie Jacquet said. “”We view it as a philosophy of human rights.””

Whether most students agree with that appraisal is unclear.

“”I don’t think it’s as much of an issue,”” said Marshall Junior Margaret Ling. “”If anything, I feel more oppressed because of my race.””

Diversity and affirmative action were cited by Hart as issues of primary importance for feminists at UCSD.

“”Part of the feminist platform is to promote diversity as given by the national organization [the Feminist Majority Foundation],”” Hart said.

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