Women’s History Month Panel Advocates for Feminism

March 27, 2015

By Jaime Eyssen

ALLIANCE, Ohio – A panel of Mount Union faculty members and guests spoke as advocates for feminism this past Tuesday at the University of Mount Union.

The panel discussion, titled “The F Word,” was part of a series of ongoing events to celebrate Women’s History Month on campus throughout the month of March. Panelists spoke about their beliefs and experiences regarding feminism or the “F Word.”

Panelists included Dr. Lori Kumler, assistant professor of political science; Dr. Jennifer Martin, assistant professor of education; Dr. Michelle Collins-Sibley, professor of English, chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary and Liberal Studies, director of Integrative Core and director of Africana Studies and American Studies program; Dr. Jamie Capuzza, professor of communication and coordinator of the Gender Studies Program; and Martina Sharp-Grier, Stark State Community College faculty member, department coordinator and assistant professor of sociology.

Each panelist gave a five to seven minute presentation regarding her views on different areas of feminism. The different waves of feminism, rape culture, black feminism and womanism were all areas brought to light during the discussion. 

“Feminism is the philosophy that drives the action to end all forms of oppression,” said Martin. She spoke of the dangers regarding the silence of feminism and how the feminist movement cannot be successful without men joining to take action. 

Sharp-Grier went on to describe what it is like to be a modern black feminist.

“Black feminism lets us define ourselves in our own quest for individualism,” Sharp-Grier said. “I challenge you to really understand what all of this is.”

Collins-Sibley took the message even farther to describe herself as a womanist, an individual who prefers women’s culture and is committed to the survival and wholeness of the entire population, male and female. She discussed how that ties into all forms of oppression, male and female.

“People can experience privilege and oppression at the same time, it just depends on the context,” said Collins-Sibley.

Individual experiences are one aspect that plays into how people respond to feminism. Kumler discussed how her women’s college athletic team being cut influenced her views on feminism.

“What I found meaningful was hearing stories from different women I know,” Kumler said. 

Capuzza challenged students and attendees to take part in the “We Need Feminism Campaign.” This public relations campaign began at Duke University as a way to decrease the negative perceptions associated with the word feminism. As part of this movement, individuals are encouraged to post pictures of themselves on social media holding signs describing why they need feminism. This nationwide campaign allows individuals to find their voice and take action. Members of the audience participated in the campaign using their own social media hastags and sharing stories. 

“If you aren’t getting push back, you aren’t doing it right,” Capuzza said regarding some of the negative attitudes toward the feminist movement.   

Following the panel presentation, the Jane Westen Chapman Award was presented to senior accounting and management major Allie Johnston of Massillon, Ohio for her efforts in promoting gender equality, educating peers about women and providing opportunities for women. This award, named for the first female graduate of Mount Union, is awarded to faculty, staff or students who spread women’s history and address women’s issues on campus.

The evening served as a reminder of the importance of feminism and the impact that it has on our society. 

“Feminism was important yesterday, it is important today and if you haven’t experienced it yet, you will,” Kumler concluded.

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