Friday, November 12, 2010

Tales from the Road

The National Campus Organizers here at FMF have been traveling all over the country, firing up feminists in California, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Here are some reflections from our time on the road.

Tania and Patrice got in touch with their Southern roots and met with amazing activists in Tennessee and Mississippi.

Tania says,

"This October we traveled across Tennessee to support feminist activists at Austin Peay State University, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee and Rhodes College. At each school we found students eager to discuss ways to break through the stigma and stereotypes of feminism and create a dialogue where feminist activism is relevant and necessary. AT UT we walked to the crisis pregnancy center across the street from campus and were thrilled to see that it has moved!

"Students at APSU are already organizing to expose the dangers of fake clinics in their community after a representative from a nearby CPC spoke to students on campus. To combat the deception of CPCs, young activists at Rhodes are supporting their comprehensive clinics in Memphis as patient advocates. And in perhaps the largest group meeting we’ve ever attended, the wonderful Women in Action of MTSU spoke to a packed room of young students about upcoming events to address body image and violence against women on campus. "

Patrice writes,

"My fall travel to Mississippi has been my best organizing experience thus far! Campus Organizer, Tania Stewart and I visited with feminist student activists at University of Mississippi, Mississippi Valley State University, Millsaps College, and Jackson State University. Though these universities range greatly in their campus dynamics i.e. from liberal to conservative, public to private, majority to historically black, one thing is for certain, young feminists exist and are thriving in Mississippi! We’ve found at every campus students creating a space for more dialogues about the intersection of racial and gender discrimination and its pervasiveness in everyday living in Mississippi. Many students were especially eager to support and adopt the only comprehensive women’s reproductive health center in the entire state.

"At MVSU, located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta where poverty and unemployment is at its highest, former Bennett College FMLA leader now MVSU graduate student, Adrian Brooks, is ready to shake up the campus and dispel the myths about feminism and its relevancy to the African American community. At Jackson State University, we spoke to almost 200 male and female students who wanted to see more feminist action on campus. Many of them cared deeply about Mississippi’s teen pregnancy and STI rates and are advocating for comprehensive sex education and criminal justice reform. The Feminist Majority student group at Ole Miss has been strong and active since its inception. These feminist leaders have successfully helped in defeating the “personhood” initiative campaign last year and are continuing their work to address violence against women, body image and increasing membership. Mississippi feminists – YOU ROCK!!"

During Meghan's inaugural trip as a National Campus Organizer, she and Danielle faced some challenges on the road in Pennsylvania (bed bugs, parking tickets, and more!), but their fierce feminist selves would not be deterred! Says Danielle,

"There is some uncertainly in mainstream media about where the young feminists are. Well good news - I've found them! They're easy to find! By which I mean, you and I always knew where they are: on campus and mad as hell. Meghan and I had the privilege to spend a week visiting campus feminist groups in the Philly area.

"As we met dozens of passionate activists and professors at each college, I kept thinking of that tired cliché where young women are told we are disengaged, apolitical, and not as radical or enthusiastic about smashing patriarchy as our feminist role models have been. Several bloggers have responded that young feminists have moved online, but I’m not sure that’s the full truth either. Some FMLA leaders and feminists blog regularly, but I think more do not.

"Young feminists are even more active off-line, and we are everywhere – raising awareness at Bryn Mawr College about crisis pregnancy centers, talking about titties and breast health at West Chester University, loving our bodies at PSU Abington and Kutztown University, you name it and we're doing it. So I just wanted to thank all of you again, and everyone we met on the road, for your hard work making your campus, community, and world a safer and more equitable place for women and girls."

Emily and Tania had the pleasure of experiencing Northern New England in the fall, and were introduced to a remarkable feminist community in Maine and New Hampshire. Writes Emily,

"Neither Tania and I had ever spent quality time in New Hampshire or Maine before we headed north in October, and we weren't sure what to expect. The feminists we met are wonderful. At the University of Southern Maine, the Gender Studies Student Organization is rebuilding its presence on campus, tackling issues like reproductive choice, LGBT rights, and on-campus childcare. University of Maine is home to the Student Women's Association, who partner with their local comprehensive clinic and are planning a Pro-Choice Week on campus. Activists at Colby College and Bates College are countering the apathy and privilege they find on campus, and the VOX at University of Maine - Farmington has been collecting signatures for affordable birth control and the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

"In New Hampshire, activists at Dartmouth College are working to stop sexual assault on campus. University of New Hampshire students organized a march to the polls on Election Day, and the activists of AWARE at Plymouth State University are doing amazing work despite limited funds and administrative support. Everywhere we traveled, we met folks committed to social justice and equality for all. Thank you for your hard work, and keep it up! We need you more than ever!"

Thank you all for an amazing semester. If you are interested in having the National Campus Organizers visit your school, contact us!

Image via the Library of Congress

This post is part of the November 2010 ezine. To subscribe to the monthly ezine, click here.

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