The Berkeley Beacon

Friday, December 19, 2014

Feminist panel hopes to stomp out stereotypes

By Anna Buckley / Beacon Staff
November 8, 2012 at 1:31 am

Three feminist activists will discuss their work, how they see their missions as feminists, and why they do what they do during the panel “How Does Feminism Inform Your Activism?” today, Nov. 8. The panel will be moderated by Claudia Castañeda, a scholar-in-residence at the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Aleks Fonseca, a member of the Emerson Feminists and a student in Castañeda’s Introduction to Women and Gender Studies class, said she will be attending the panel. She said she’s excited to hear what the panelists have to say on the topic of feminism, because she plans on continuing to delve further into gender studies.

 “I do usually go to panels anyway, but for them to come to Emerson and talk about specifically what feminism means to them and why you should care is such a godsend,” said the junior writing, literature and publishing major.

On the panel will be Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition Gunner Scott, International Human and Sexual Rights Consultant Cynthia Rothschild, and Executive Director of ¿Oíste? Alejandra St. Guillen.

Casteñeda said that each of the activists’ careers relate in some way to women’s and gender issues, and they’ll discuss how they translate their feminism into activism.

“Each of them are activists in different ways: One of them works on transgender issues; one of them works on international women’s issues, kind of at the UN level; and one of them works for an organization called ¿Oíste? which is organizing Latinos around political issues,” Casteñeda said. “These different activists show really the many different dimensions of feminist and gender studies. Its about helping students to see that feminism and gender issues are not just something we study, but they’re something we can actually devote our time to in a more profound way.”

Fonseca said that listening to the speakers will be just as beneficial and inspiring for audience members as those involved directly with the cause.

“I think this panel is really important for anyone who has misconceptions about feminism, especially because these are real [people] working real jobs, striving for equal rights,” Fonseca said.

As an active member of Emerson Feminists, Fonseca said she has witnessed students turn feminism into a joke and judge it strictly on stereotypes. Because of this, Fonseca said she believes the panel is capable of overturning some of these misconceptions.

“Personally, I’m just striving to get rid of the negative stigma,” she said. “This panel, I think, will really open people’s eyes to see that there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding feminism, but you don’t have to fit that stereotype to be a feminist.”

Casteñeda said that some of the stereotypes of feminists are that they are lesbians, that they’re aggressive, and that they hate men.

“I would say that people who really are feminists have a much more sophisticated understanding of the systems of oppression and how they work than to hate men,” Casteñeda said. “There is an understanding of how masculinity works and the ways men are also pressured in certain ways by the gender system that oppresses women.”

The panel, which was funded through a grant from Service Learning and Community Action, will be held in the in the Little Building’s Cabaret from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

Fonseca said that she is looking forward to hearing about other people’s backgrounds and involvement with feminism at the panel.

“I just want to hear what other people have to say about feminism, just because I know what it means to me, but I don’t know what it means to other people,” Fonseca said. “There’s this term in feminism called intersectionality which [says] you can’t really define feminism because people’s experiences are what defines them.”

Casteñeda said that to her, feminism is a mode of thought and politics that addresses the injustices that are faced by women, including issues of race, class, sexuality, ability, disability, as well as gender issues.

Fonseca said that she hopes Emerson students will choose to attend the panel to better understand that feminism is about more than just women’s rights. Casteñeda mirrored this sentiment, saying she would like students to get a sense of how and why feminism personally affects them and where their potential place is in the cause. Casteñeda also said that it’s important for men to understand feminism because the system of gender puts pressure on men as well as women.

“[Men are] required to conform to certain kinds of standards that are arguably oppressive or problematic — at the very least — to them,” Casteñeda said. “Furthermore, men know women, so they are friends, brothers, fathers, [and] in some cases, partners, to women.


Buckley can be reached at anna_buckley@emerson.edu.