As feminists living in a supposedly “Post-Feminist” world, we were perplexed by how people could fail to see feminism as still pertinent to our lives today. Feminism can mean various things for different people but it is essentially the basic belief that men and women are equal, but it goes beyond that. Feminism is an ideology, a politic that colors one’s world view, a lifestyle. It challenges the dominant power structures in society and the way that different forms of oppression (racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, etc.) intersect to maintain the status quo.
We have witnessed and participated in various discussions around campus revolving around feminist issues and various issues around identity, diversity, inclusion and exclusion at Tufts. For example, on Saturday January 31st, the Women’s Center Student Governing Board had a Speaking Feminism retreat where we discussed what it means to be a feminist, how to advocate for your beliefs and values without being written off as that token person among your friends, or in your classes, who calls people out on sexist or homophobic jokes and comments, who brings up issues around gender, sexuality, race, class, etc. We also talked about the state of feminism at Tufts, whether people identified themselves as feminists or not, carrying on a conversation that the Tufts Feminist Alliance (TFA) had back in November, “The F Word: “I’m not a feminist but…” and the Myth of the Post-Feminist Generation”.
On Tuesday February 3rd, Molly Adler from Self Serve Toys came to talk about sex positivity: the idea that sex is not just for procreation but can be for recreation and pleasure, that sex is not just heterosexual intercourse, that sex education should be comprehensive and teach about the pleasures of sex instead of just all the things that could go wrong in an attempt to scare kids off. Sex positivity is the flip side of the discussions around sexual violence and offers an alternative paradigm to the way we think about preventing sexual violence – not only do we have to shift more of the focus, more accountability to the perpetrators instead of the victims, but we also have to shift the perspectives and the conversations we are having about sex and sex related issues in general.
On Thursday February 5th, there was a Fireside Chat where Tufts students discussed community relations on the Tufts campus. People talked about how the group of six (the Africana Center, the Asian American Center, the Latino Center, the Women’s Center, the LGBT Center and the International Center) interact, or fail to interact with each other. These centers are open to and inclusive of everyone but they seem to segregate more than they integrate.
We wanted to create a safe space to sustain these important and insightful conversations. We also wanted a space to bring issues to the forefront that people may normally not think about or shrug off. For example, why is it that Tufts’ Women’s Studies Program is not called Gender and Sexuality Studies? Why is it that many people, both male and female, do not know where the Women’s Center is? Why is it that when you walk into Dewick or Carmichael, you do see all the black kids sitting together, or all the Asian kids sitting together? Why is it that the Tufts administration does not fully support survivors of sexual assault? Why is it that female professors, professors of color, and queer professors make up such a small population of the tenured professors at Tufts?
We are all privileged to be here at Tufts and we need to confront our privilege and use it to critically examine the world we live in in order to change it for the better. Many students at Tufts are passionate and involved in various issues and are using their privilege to help create change. After all, isn’t that what we came to Tufts for? But we cannot do so without making oppression on our own campus visible.
Let’s talk about it constructively.