‘Who Needs Feminism campaign comes to ISU

Liz Zabel

Everyone needs feminism. At least according to the students taking the “Women in the Public Sphere” course at Duke University, taught by Rachel Seidman.

They say something needs to be done about the widespread belief that today’s society no longer needs feminism.

Disturbed by connotations and stereotypes attached to feminism, these young women launched a public relations campaign for feminism called “Who Needs Feminism” to debunk myths and reassert the importance of feminism today.

The campaign uses social media such as Facebook and Tumblr to spread awareness of the definition of feminism through the voice of anyone willing to participate. Participants submit reasons of why they personally need feminism, usually in the form of a photograph, with a sign that says: “I need feminism because (blank).”

Jenifer Roberts, graduate student in student affairs and graduate assistant at the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center, stumbled upon this campaign by chance while browsing the internet and was amazed by its power.

Roberts said this campaign was different because unlike many “one-track” campaigns with a single vision, this was a “multi-vision” campaign that gave everyone a voice: the opportunity to express their own personal views. Inspired by the women at Duke, Roberts decided to bring the campaign to Ames.

Over the past week, Roberts has been taking pictures of various students, staff, and faculty around campus with a sign saying why they personally need feminism.

Kelly Leonard, program assistant in the LGBT Student Services Center said he needs feminism.

“No one’s full potential should be kept locked in a closet,” Leonard said.

Roberts said that there are a lot of reasons that she personally needs feminism.

 “Being a feminist is a big part of my life,” she said. “I need feminism in regards to working with students because all students should feel safe and welcomed on campus,” Roberts said.

This applies to several issues, Roberts said, including the high rate of violence against women on campus, sexual assault and unwelcoming climates for LGBT students, students of color and many others.

“Feminism can help improve the climate of the campus so all students feel safe and welcome,” Roberts said. “[Feeling safe and welcome] shouldn’t be something that isn’t a reality for all students.”

Kaitlin “K” Walker, senior in women’s studies, says she’s been an activist “probably since birth.”

“It’s a really easy way to get involved to show awareness of what feminism actually is and what it means to a lot of people,” Walker said.

Walker goes by “K” as a way of eliminating the gender bias in her name. “K,” Walker said, “keeps it neutral.”

For Walker, feminism is not just about equality between men and women; it’s about recognizing the differences between men and women.

“Everyone has multiple identities and it’s silly to categorize someone on one identity … [or] their genitalia; which is really no one’s business anyway,” Walker said. “Feminism to me just means it’s about creating awareness of everyone’s differences to end oppression and help everyone flourish to the best of their abilities.”

Walker said people’s interpretation of feminism has led to notions of lesbianism and man-haters, when it started out as a means to bring awareness to the fact that women deserve the same rights as anyone else.

Walker hopes that the “Who Needs Feminism” campaign ends the negative connotations surrounding feminism, so that people will be open to be more educated about these issues hiding behind the “invisible shield” stereotypes have put up.

“A lot of the invisibilities will come out in the ‘Who Needs Feminism’ campaign,” Walker said. “[Invisibilities] will vary from person to person. … For me, my main issue is the fact that my having a vagina dictates every aspect of my life, including what clothes I wear, how long my hair should be, what job I should go into, what I should care about, how active I should be, how big my muscles should be, the list goes on and on.”

Roberts said people have a narrow definition of what feminism is and that they feel they don’t fit that definition; in reality, feminism is about equality, equity, and respect.

“I think the fear of social backlash if you identify that way … that people are going to judge you and challenge you, they fear that people may not accept them if they identify that way,” Roberts said.

When people make themselves visible and voice what they believe in, they can have a positive impact, Roberts said.

“Someone is going to see and think about [feminism] in a different way … even if they don’t go and talk to anyone else about it, at least that seed was planted,” Roberts said. “They start to think about feminism in a different way and that’s really all we can hope for.”