Originally published October 15, 2015.
Feminism is one of the largest social movements to take place in western society, yet it’s possibly one of the most misunderstood concepts in today’s culture. By definition, feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men,” according to the Oxford Dictionary. The idea of this is still considered very taboo to talk about.
A quick search for feminism at Millersville rears very little, and while most liberal arts colleges offer clubs and organizations that focus specifically on feminist issues, finding any history of the same activity at MU is inexplicably difficult. This is why FeMU, Millersville University’s feminist organization, being granted temporary club status is nothing short of a historical event.
This year has brought about quite a bit of change with MU’s social justice course of action; the implementation of new measures to ensure social equality is a sign of the changing times. Students and faculty are taking matters into their own hands to make sure all students feel welcome and included.
“This campus, like all places, could benefit from being a little bit safer for everyone,” said Ed Hirtzel, a junior at MU and president of FeMU. “Women, especially women who are marginalized in other ways – women of color, disabled and Deaf women, lesbians like me and other same gender attracted women like bi and pan women, mentally ill women, poor women – are often targeted because we live in a misogynistic culture.”
FeMU aims to cultivate a safe spot for women on campus. “First, we aim to be intersectional – we want to encompass multiple issues within one organization – of course, all student organizations do that, but we really want to focus on fundraising, outreach, volunteering, activism and support for women on campus,” Hirtzel said. “We would also love to help other organizations on campus with their efforts.”
The goals of FeMU reach far beyond that, however. The club aims to be inclusive in their efforts, as well as promote education of feminist issues happening in society and on campus. While many feminist organizations can exclude folks in the transgender community, FeMU is very trans-inclusive and welcoming of all females.
“FeMU is dedicated to promoting equality for women and femme-presenting individuals, and those who gender identify as female; it’s not just about the rights of biologically born women, it’s not just about having a vagina,” said Adjunct Professor Nikole Kochan, the faculty adviser for FeMU. “Anyone who believes in equality for women, and people who identify with the feminine gender [are welcome to join the club].”
One of the common misconceptions about feminists is that they hate men, and that they just want to put men down. While that is the ideology of some feminists, that does not represent feminism in its purest form, and does not represent most of those who identify as feminist. “FeMU is not a misandrist organization. Our goal is not to put others down in order to lift a certain group up… but we do need to recognize as a society that we still very much so have marginalized groups, and those marginalized groups need a voice,” Kochan said. “FeMU is about getting those voices together, to be heard, and to make a difference.”
Both Hirtzel and Kochan were surprised at the lack of a feminist organization on campus. “My VP, Cody, and I really wanted to fill that gap,” Hirtzel said. “They are president of GSA, so I volunteered to step up and try to help this organization get started.”
Hirtzel, Kochan and the surrounding Millersville University community are excited for this club to begin. “I think we’d be empowering. Just knowing there are other people in this fairly small community that have the same beliefs and values as you… Sometimes it just helps to know that you’re not alone. And I think it’ll also help students to realize that feminism is still quite alive,” Kochan said. ““This organization was started by students, and I’m happy to be a part of an institution with powerful, intelligent young minds. It’s just nice to be a part of that, and it gives me hope for future generations.”
Meetings for FeMU haven’t started yet, however they’re slated to begin soon. The implementation of this new club will likely have profound effects on those at Millersville University who haven’t yet found their niche, and are waiting for their voice to be heard among like-minded folks. While it is 2015 and advancements are being made in relation to gender equality, there is still a lot to be done. “It’s getting better, but that doesn’t mean we can just stop doing work,” Hirtzel said.