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Club seeks to create open dialogue on feminist issues

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Students gather for a FemUNITY meeting on Nov. 1. Credit: Lydia Freudenberg | For The Lantern

Students gather for a FemUNITY meeting on Nov. 1. Credit: Lydia Freudenberg | For The Lantern

An Ohio State student organization continues to encourage equality and feminist ideals at a time when some people fear equal rights might be at stake once Donald Trump becomes president with a Republican-controlled Congress.

FemUNITY, founded in 2011,  is an undergraduate club focused on creating a safe environment for discussion and education on a range of feminist issues.

“A lot of students really want to learn about feminist topics, but don’t necessarily have a great place to learn,” said co-president Stavroula Pabst, a fourth-year in history and modern Greek. “We want to provide a feminist space for students to grow, learn more and challenge their views on these topics.”

The club discusses social, political and economic topics, and then works to find solutions compatible with feminist ideals.

Pabst said that recent discussion topics have included the interconnected nature of race, class and gender; access to feminist resources; the history of lesbian feminism; and the Black Liberation Movement. Club members said they aim for respectful discussion of serious topics.

“We all know that we share a mutual interest in feminism and women’s liberation,” said co-president Alyssa Kerensky, a second-year in political science and sociology. “I feel like any disagreements can be civilly discussed because there is that shared connection.”

Kerensky said they have various speakers a semester that teach on their areas of expertise.

Mary Thomas, associate professor in the Department of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, was invited to speak on the prison-industrial complex. Through a feminist lens, the club discussed the racial and gender gap between society and the current prisoner population.

In the past, femUNITY has hosted speakers Constance Gadell-Newton, from the Ohio Green Party, and Lauren Strand, an adviser from the WGSS department, who discussed ableism.

Pabst said femUNITY strives to accommodate members’ interests by inviting speakers or having social outings.

“As a feminist organization, there are a lot of politics,” Pabst said. “But you also want to make it a club that people want to come to. ‘What events does everyone want to have?’ that sort of thing.”

Before Pabst became co-president in 2014, the club was available only to those majoring or minoring in WGSS, but it is now open to all students.

“It is good to open up a space for everybody interested in feminine topics,” Pabst said. “We know that a lot of students who are interested are not majoring or minoring in WGSS.”

Secretary and treasurer Zoe Brinkmiller, a second-year in art and technology, said the club has members from a wide range of  majors and minors.

“A lot of different people come to the club, which is great,” Brinkmiller said. “People who aren’t the same race, gender or sexuality as you share their own viewpoints and it makes you think about what other people in the world have been experiencing.”

Kerensky said these expressive discussions with a range of students have helped her better understand her own views and ideals.

“I love that I have been able to watch my own political views really shape and solidify through our discussions,” Kerensky said. “It’s great to share the same goals and to get different perspectives on how to reach those goals.”

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