Identify yourself as a feminist today and many people will immediately assume you are a man-hating, bra-burning, whiny liberal. Perhaps a certain charming radio talk show host will label you as a “Feminazi” or “slut.” Even among more moderate crowds, feminism is still seen as too radical, too uncomfortable or simply unnecessary. Feminism is both misunderstood and denigrated regularly right here on Duke’s campus.
We, the 16 women of Professor Rachel Seidman’s course Women in the Public Sphere, have decided to fight back against these popular misconceptions surrounding the feminist movement.
Our class was disturbed by what we perceive to be an overwhelmingly widespread belief among students that today’s society no longer needs feminism. In order to change this perception on campus, we have launched a PR campaign for feminism. We aim to challenge existing stereotypes surrounding feminists and assert the importance of feminism today.
Hanging all over Duke’s campus this week are posters featuring students from a variety of backgrounds and group affiliations, each asserting why they need feminism. These posters feature both male and female students, and include football players, ballet dancers, fraternity members and campus leaders. You will be hard-pressed to define a “typical feminist” in this group because “typical feminists” don’t exist. But atypical feminists are everywhere at Duke. They are in your classes, on the bus, standing beside you in line at Alpine. These are ordinary people of any age, gender or race, who simply believe that women and men are equal. They recognize that this is not merely a woman’s movement, but a human movement. What makes these people different from those who say, “Oh yeah, I support women’s rights, but I’m not a feminist or anything” is that supporting feminism is not a scary thing to them. They are willing to stand by their belief in gender equality even when doing so may make other people uncomfortable.