FAW kicks off Women’s History Month with Feminist Panel

March is Women’s History Month, and to kick it off, the Feminist Association of Wheaton sponsored a Feminist Panel on Monday, Feb. 25, where a panel of six feminists presented their views on the subject.

The panel, held in Meneely 102, consisted of Rasheeda Abdul-Musawwir ’13, Judith Gil ’14, Joe Nelson ’14, Assistant Professor of Math and Computer Science Tom Armstrong and LIS Social Science Liaison Lauren Slingluff. The two moderators were Caitlin Hawkins ’14 and Hanna Juergens ’13, who opened the panel with two questions: “What does feminism mean to you?” and “How do you ‘feminist?,’” using the word ‘feminist’ as a verb as well as a noun.

Abdul-Musawwir started the conversation by saying that to her, feminism is equality in all forms, a perspective that was echoed by the rest of the panel in their respective turns. Abdul-Musawwir defined feminism as a lens through which she deals with issues and said that she is always conscious of what her mentors have told her throughout the years. Gil added that she educates people, making sure that people are aware that feminism isn’t something to be afraid of. “It’s about wanting your mother, sister or wife to have the same rights,” she said.

Nelson added that feminism is all about not doing harm, not saying or doing sexist things, and continually and actively challenging the standards for women. “The number of times I hear ‘slut’ on campus is astonishing,” he said. Nelson also stated that he tries to root out ignorance and challenge double standards.

Slingluff argued that feminism is all about equality, activism and not doing harm. She grew up in a feminist household, and believes feminism is all about finding what empowers a person as an individual.

Throughout the talk, the moderators asked questions about how feminism has changed the panelists’ relationships, what stereotypes need to be changed and where the feminism movement needs to go now.

One of the students in the audience asked about chivalrous acts, such as men holding doors for women, and whether that shows that someone is against feminism. All the panelists responded “no.”

“Chivalry is good when it’s coming from manners or being polite, not because I’m delicate and need to be handled with care,” said Slingluff. “We are all still people and need to be able to do what we think is right.”

Many women, both from the panel and the audience, agreed with this point, but Nelson’s response was the one that got the most laughs: “Sliding doors… everywhere.”

The Feminist Panel presented many perspectives surrounding feminism and what it means to be a feminist. The Feminist Association of Wheaton is planning several other events for Women’s History Month, including a thank-you note writing session to inspiring women on Wednesday March 6; “Binders Full of Women,” which will feature pictures and facts about historical women; and the movie Half the Sky, which will be shown on March 19 to celebrate women’s empowerment around the world.