The Feminist Society & Students for Sexual Respect at NYU
“Ewha, where change begins” – this slogan, introduced in 2010 by Ewha’s 14th president, Kim Sun-wook, is still perceived as the school’s spirit and is printed on students’ T-shirts, hoodies, and other group purchases. Changing the status quo may seem daunting, but the beginning of a change comes from smaller things.
“As much as you continue to keep creating conversations around feminism and challenge the mainstream, ideas will spread and that’s how change is made,” said Emily Hockett, the president of the two groups; The Feminist Society and Students for Sexual Respect at NYU.
The Feminist Society is a coalition of individuals in NYU who identify as feminists. The members gather to read feminist literature and discuss the history and theories of feminism.
“The goal of The Feminist Society is to expand the informal education about Gender Studies because it’s so central to understanding feminism in a deeper way,” Hockett explained. “It’s important to study movements of racial justice and women getting the right to vote. A lot of these things started because of progressive movements on college campuses.”
Hockett explained the three waves of feminism referred in American history. The first, in the early 20th century, focused on women’s right to vote and the crazy-radical-womenwho-wore-pants. Feminism’s second wave, in the 60s, demanded equal rights in the workplace adding “sex” to the list of factors that employers cannot unlawfully discriminate against in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
“Right now, people say that we’re in the third wave,” Hockett said. “A lot of criticism, particularly from women of color, said that the previous movements were led by straight white women who wanted to have equal rights as white men. A more academic conversation also began about gender as something more flexible than just man (and) woman in separate categories.”
Another group that Hockett takes part in, the Students for Sexual Respect at NYU, works with the school’s administration to make sure the university’s sexual misconduct policies comply with Title IX, the American federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in education.
“Last year, we campaigned to get free menstrual hygiene products for students,” Hockett said. “Students were spending over $10 a month on pads and tampons which is a lot of money for students. There shouldn’t be a gender discrepancy in terms of cost of living. These products are essential, and should be treated like toilet paper, which is free (in school bathrooms).”
The campaign from Students for Sexual Respect has enabled NYU students to be provided free menstrual hygiene products since the 2017 spring semester.
As a celebration, Students for Sexual Respect hosted a period trivia, where students talked about their periods and a comedy group was invited to perform sketches on the reality of and myths behind periods.
“Some people say during your period you can’t go swimming, you can’t have sex, or that women’s period sync up, which isn’t true,” Hockett said with a laugh. “In this event, there were all these men sitting in the back being like, ‘I didn’t know that!’ They were so in shock about all these facts and kept getting everything wrong. It was so funny and I was so happy. You don’t necessarily have access to a wide range of people who have different perspectives. It was really cool to be with these people who had no idea what it’s like to bleed every month.”
The recent discussion to fire up Students for Sexual Respect members was when President Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, met with men’s rights organizations to talk about sexual violence on campus. These groups claimed that men were being discriminated against because women falsely accuse men of rape while men face unjust persecution and expulsion by women who just want revenge.
“The person that’s supposed to be enforcing the law and make sure all genders are treated equally in education is giving a platform for this ideology,” Hockett said. “It was a wake-up call for folks who definitely lived in the NYU, New York City bubble (which is considered more progressive because of its diverse nature).”
Finally, Hockett presented her own definition of feminism and gender equality.
“Feminism is the right to do whatever you want. Everyone has an equal opportunity to do what they want to do and should feel safe and comfortable doing so.”