‘We can do It!’ at Chapman University

Juliana LaBarbiera did not know exactly what feminism was when she walked into her audition for The Vagina Monologues this past fall.

She found out.

“It was huge, I had no idea,” said senior theater major LaBarbiera on her experience with The Vagina Monologues.

La Barbiera is just one of many students who have discovered the need for feminism through one of Chapman’s organizations. Some of Chapman’s feminist outlets include C.A.R.E.S., I AM THAT GIRL, Chapman Feminists, and the yearly performance of The Vagina Monologues.

Before discussing these groups individually it is important to be aware of what feminism is. Women’s studies professor and advisor for I AM THAT GIRL and Chapman Feminists, CK Magliola defines feminism as more than just a movement toward equal rights for women.

“For me it’s better to define feminism as a position and actions that challenge the oppression of women,” said Magliola.

This is exactly what Chapman’s feminist outlets strive to do, and then some.

First is C.A.R.E.S. (Creating a Rape-free Environment for Students). C.A.R.E.S. is the branch of P.E.E.R. that serves the sole purpose of combating sexual abuse on campus.

C.A.R.E.S.’ work against such blatant oppression of women makes it a major feminist outlet on campus.

The organization hosts many events that serve to educate Chapman’s campus on sexual violence. These events include Denim Day, Take Back the Night, Clothesline Project, and Chapman’s Walk Against Violence.

On Denim Day people are encouraged to wear their tight jeans as a symbol rejecting placing the blame on victims in sexual assault cases. The event is inspired by a 1998 Italian Supreme Court ruling: a rape conviction was overturned when justices decided that consent must’ve been given because the victim’s jeans were so tight that the assailant couldn’t have removed them alone.

Yet another blatant example of the oppression of women.

The Clothesline Project is another event put on by C.A.R.E.S. It is an exhibit where victims of violence and those impacted by violence make t-shirts that are then hung throughout Chapman’s Attallah Piazza. The project serves to end silence regarding violence. Dani Smith, Director of P.E.E.R. and Health Education and Rape Crisis Counselor, believes the event gives victims a voice to speak out against violence when actually speaking out may not be possible.

“It gives women a voice to finally say this is not okay. You see the rows and rows and rows of t-shirts and frankly I’m appalled,” said Smith.

Another major feminist outlet at Chapman is I AM THAT GIRL, or IATG. Like C.A.R.E.S. this organization is not an explicitly feminist group, but it is a major source of feminist efforts on campus.

This organization serves to empower women, by creating a safe space where everyone can discuss contemporary issues. Shana Kheradyara, sophomore television production and writing major and IATG co-president, describes her organization as a positive outlet for empowering women.

“That’s something we really strive for, having women lift each other up instead of making it this super competitive field with that stereotypical cattiness,” said Kheradyara.

This goal is reflected in the organization’s events that encourage women to overcome many oppressive ideas within society. One such event is EveryBODY is Beautiful, an event which consists of promoting body positivity. Activities at this event help participants to discover beauty in themselves despite societal pressures to look different.

When it comes to education on feminism, Chapman Feminists is where it all is. The organization is a special outlet on campus because it embraces a very progressive, modern form of inclusive feminism. The club hosts events that serve to inform members and nonmembers why Chapman needs feminism and what exactly feminism is. Rose Mackenzie, senior theatre studies and philosophy major and president of Chapman Feminists, describes this type of feminism as virtually the only feminism her organization wants to discuss.

“We are focused on intersectionality, that is the foundation of the work that we do. It has to be intersectional or it’s not right,” said Mackenzie.

By intersectionality Mackenzie means the acknowledgement of all types of oppression. When taking a feminist stance, the members of Chapman Feminists know that they must look at a given issue not only from their point of view, but from the point of view of another victim who experiences entirely different, but equally important, forms of oppression.

The final and most unique outlet is The Vagina Monologues. This event is a nationwide performance in which female performers present a series of monologues written by women who have suffered different forms of oppression. This performance covers the various types of oppression that Mackenzie stresses must be equally acknowledged.

Because The Vagina Monologues is a show, it is the most non-threatening way to inform people on feminism. The audience enters as a group of disconnected observers, but through interactive activities and first person narratives by performers, the audience is taught to understand the reason behind the show. It is, therefore, a major player in spreading feminism on campus because attendees may enter solely for the purpose of seeing a show with vagina in the title, but they leave, at the very least, informed on why feminism is such an important issue.

LaBarbiera found that the presentation was not only informative for all the audience members she spoke to, but for herself as well.

“I think this was a way to start the movement, to have a positive effect on campus in regards to feminism,” said LaBarbiera.

The Vagina Monologues, along with the other previously mentioned organizations, seek to inform people why feminism is here. There is a common misconception of feminists as bra-burning, man-hating, angry women. The Vagina Monologues encourages viewers to look at feminists not as angry man-haters, but as victims of oppression. This is the first major step toward spreading feminism, dispelling myths. So although The Vagina Monologues may only occur once a year, the show is a fundamental player in spreading feminism throughout the country and at Chapman.

LaBarbiera was not alone in her uncertainty about feminism. There are many more students on campus who unsure about feminism and whether they want to be known as someone who embraces it. Sophomore sociology major, Victoria Cole, admits that this skepticism makes a lot of sense considering all the different claims to feminism today.

“I can understand why people say that they’re not a feminist. Feminism is represented in so many different ways now that people don’t really know what it is anymore,” said Cole.

The goal of feminist efforts at Chapman is this: promote women in a society that inherently ranks them second to men. That’s it.

So before you decide you’re not a feminist remember to educate yourself, because feminism might not be what you thought.

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