Students revamp campus' Feminist Alliance
Berol Dewdney ’ 13 (left) and Bailey Girvan ’12 have taken over the task of resurrecting the Women’s Group, renaming it the “Feminist Alliance.”
A group of passionate students have brought the Feminist Alliance, formerly known as the Women’s Group, back to life over the past year. In light of the College’s continued discussion of issues of diversity and awareness on campus, the goals of the Feminist Alliance are to engage students in crucial dialogue concerning gender and sexual diversity inequalities on campus and to create a truly safe and dynamic community on the Hill.
Professor of English Phyllis Mannocchi and former Associate Professor of Education and Human Development Marilyn Mavrinac originally founded the Women’s Group in the early days of what would later become the women’s, gender and sexuality studies department. Unfortunately, in recent years the group has remained inactive and in need of reorganization.
Berol Dewdney ’13, the student gender and sexuality resource officer on campus, and Bailey Girvan ’12 are breathing new life into the group. The change from “Women’s Group” to “Feminist Alliance” was a conscious one: “We thought Feminist Alliance was more descriptive and inclusive. The group is not just for women!” Dewdney said.
Both Dewdney and Girvan became involved with the group last year when the Pugh Center decided to push to get the group back up and running. “I wanted to be a part of teaching the campus about what feminism really is,” Girvan said. “I think that a lot of people on this campus and all over the world have delusions about what being a feminist means, and we are aiming to inform them that if they foster beliefs of equality for all human beings, they’re feminists.”
The Alliance concerns itself with promoting education and awareness as well as acting as a resource to help students learn about the empowering nature of feminism.
“It’s important that students realize how deeply rooted male entitlement is and how deeply it affects women on this campus. Body image, fear of sexual assault, sexual liberation and elimination of double standards are all feminist issues and we want to bring campus’ attention to them,” Girvan said.
“Historically the Women’s Group, now the Feminist Alliance, has been the student voice on campus addressing structural sexism and has pressed the College on a range of issues, from advocating for a more inclusive curriculum and a more informed health center staff, to better policies on sexual harassment, sexual assault and date rape,” Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D., professor of education and human development, said.
The newly revitalized alliance is still growing and has so far been involved in several smaller campaigns such as National Eating Disorder Awareness week and a campaign to sign the “Stand With Planned Parenthood” petition in order to try to prevent Congress from defunding the program.
The Alliance’s current focus is a semester-long campaign on body-image awareness and the education of students on a range of related issues including eating disorders and how to feel good about yourself. The Alliance is also helping to establish a Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at the College, in order to provide support for issues of sexual harassment and assault, as well as a safe space for addressing a wealth of other gender and sexuality-related concerns such as eating disorders and homophobia.
“In my time at Colby, the group has attracted some of the most ardent student activists,” Brown said. “I’ve been inspired by them and fully support their latest effort to press for a much needed Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at Colby.”
Members of the Feminist Alliance include men and women of all class years and majors, although women’s, gender and sexuality studies majors have proven the easiest to recruit. There has been an increase in male involvement since the Campus Life Expo in early September, and the Alliance is hoping to attract even more members during the upcoming Pugh Club Palooza.
“These issues impact all of us in some way, so information, communication and engagement are particularly important in this context,” Assistant Professor of American Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Feminist Alliance Advisor Lisa Arellano said. “Groups that work on issues of gender and sexuality outside of the classroom are extremely important to the health of the Colby community.”
“What makes it such a powerful alliance is that we have a wide audience,” Dewdney said. “Feminism is, at its root, about humanism and equality, and I would hope that those are things the whole Colby community is invested in as well.”