Feminism’s reach extends on campus

By Kat Prosachik / Staff Writer

What do Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence and growing groups of Pitt students have in common?

Hint: It’s not fame, celebrity or money. It’s their fight for women’s rights. 

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Yet, feminist — a follower of feminism — is a title that many are afraid to don, but is a comfortable fit for more and more Pitt students. 

As activists, actresses, academics and humans of all genders, races and sexual orientations take their stance on feminism, the subject loses its taboo. Across Pitt, students are joining women’s rights clubs, producing feminism articles and accepting that gender equality is not just a women’s issue. 

According to Kerrie Kauer, a visiting scholar in the gender, sexuality and women’s studies program at Pitt, social media’s speed helps the millennial generation promote activism and embrace feminism.

“They have access to different voices describing what feminism actually is, instead of only getting information from mainstream media, which has historically trivialized and demonized the feminist movement,” Kauer said. 

Additionally, there is a “growing collective identity with people fighting for social justice on college campuses,” according to Kauer.

“[It] isn’t just about normalizing certain groups, but really working to dismantle dominance,” she said.

On Sept. 29, Pitt’s Campus Women’s Organization discussed men’s role in accepting the title and gaining gender equality for women. The meeting drew 23 men and 40 women — more than a third of the group were men, who were also the most outspoken during the discussion.

Eleanora Kaloyeropoulou, CWO president and a junior Africana studies and history major, said men frequently attend meetings. 

“Every week, we have a group of equity-driven men who attend our meetings. The number of people who identify as male is growing [within] our membership,” Kaloyeropoulou said.  

CWO doesn’t identify as a feminist group, Kaloyeropoulou said, because its members don’t want to be exclusive. The organization is open to everyone, even if they don’t identify as feminist. 

“Historically, mainstream feminism has left many people out of the conversation about equality, so it is important to recognize feminism’s roots even if today it is more inclusive,” Kaloyeropoulou said. “At CWO, we try to make our actions as inclusive as possible.”

At the CWO meeting, Graeme Meyer spoke about men’s role in gender equality and why he personally became involved in the cause. 

Meyer, a junior and a member of Student Government Board, said he supported Emma Watson’s recent U.N. speech on feminist issues and “He For She,” an equality movement inviting men to join gender discussion. 

But Meyer said men shouldn’t need to be invited. 

“That should already be happening,” Meyer said. “And while I think she made a good start with ‘He For She,’ I think we should work toward something more like ‘he for us’ or ‘he with us.’ We should be fighting for equal human rights and equality across all gender identities.” 

Meyer said the language in “He For She” put him off.

“I think this reinforces the stereotype that women are less competent than men and, therefore, need their help to accomplish certain tasks,” Meyer said. “Rather, I think this campaign should be focused on reaching out to men to ask them to work with women (and all gender identities), not do it for them.”

Men need to understand how gender equality socially and economically benefits society. 

Men becoming part of the feminist campaign isn’t the only issue being discussed on campus. Slutciety, a new feminist publication at Pitt, brings more issues to light with its articles. 

According to Slutciety’s mission statement on its Facebook page, the group is a monthly feminist publication striving to break gender stereotypes through writing. 

“We reclaim derogatory terms such as ‘slut’ and use them in our favor, hence our name. We are answering to a need for a premiere feminist publication on college campuses,” the statement says. 

Amanda Chan, a sophomore sociology major, established Slutciety in March.

Chan said she wanted to create something that would bring to light intersectional feminist issues, the idea that feminism prioritizes sexism related to white women and needs to recognize sexism gay women, black women, Asians and men face.

Maddie O’Connell, a sophomore sociology major and co-vice president of Slutciety, said the publication’s members are trying to be more inclusive and want to increase intersectionality feminism. 

“We want to represent Pitt’s population more in their intelligence and their diversity in culture,” O’Connell said.

As the only feminist publication on campus, Slutciety is working to open the minds of Pitt’s students and provide an open forum in which students can discuss these issues.  

“We are trying to establish a community where you can be completely feminist and speak your mind about feminism,” Chan said. “We want our members to make smart, educated, thought-provoking points in an environment where they can feel safe to speak freely.”