Following the first student to graduate with a major in women and gender studies this past spring, junior political science major Maggie Hake knew that the birth of the Webster University Feminist Collective was only natural. With every major or program, there is some sort extracurricular club. Hake, President of the Collective, said that this group fills this role for the new women and gender studies major.
by Heather Bartel
Founding members Maggie Hake, Maggie Nagle, Michelle Bloyd-Fink, and Rosie Jones developed the idea for the Feminist Collective after realizing the importance of discussing feminist issues in a feminist and gender theory course. The Webster University Feminist Collective focuses on empowering and educating students.
Hake said the Collective is meant to act as a safe space where students can talk about their ideas.
“We really want to welcome anybody,” Hake said. “People who disagree with feminism, people who don’t know a lot about feminism – we really want to be an educational kind of group, especially because there are so many facets of feminism.”
Hake hopes that one of the functions of the group can be to debunk the myths of feminism, showing instead that feminism can exist effectively without being radical. Hake said that women should be valued for their feminine qualities rather than allowing them to be portrayed as weak. The Collective was not just established for female students though.
“It’s something that men can benefit from, because the patriarchy hurts everyone and I think that’s something people don’t really realize,” Hake said.
Sophomore and Treasurer of the Collective, student Michelle Bloyd-Fink said that the desire for the group already existed, it was all just a matter of giving some organization to the people who felt that way.
Bloyd-Fink, a women and gender studies and sociology double major said that the Collective was ultimately founded on the notion of developing a feminist presence on campus after discovering the shared interest in the topic with her founding group members.
She said that it was great to realize that other people were feeling the same things she had been for years and that the Collective made it possible to give a voice to that feeling. Most importantly, it established a place where relevant issues could be talked about.
It’s not all about talking though. Part of the Collective’s purpose is to be political advocates and eventually become more involved in the community outside of Webster. For now, the Collective boasts a strong collection of annual events in which all Webster students are invited to participate.
Events such as “Feminism Is…”, a day devoted to students writing down what feminism means to them, and “A Walk in Her Shoes”, in which participants are presented with sexual assault or domestic violence scenarios to see what they would do in such a situation, provide opportunities for Webster students to learn about feminist issues. The Collective also puts on “The Vagina Monologues” every February.
The reactions around campus to the Collective have all been extremely encouraging. Not only does there seem to be a number of students showing interest, there has been very little criticism towards the club. Hake said she mostly receives questions from students about what feminism is because they want to learn.
“I haven’t come across anything at the university that’s anti-feminist, because it’s Webster,” Hake said.
Hake said that it is possible for the Collective to exist at Webster because it is such an open and accepting school and that any encounters it has just present a different opinion to learn from. Bloyd-Fink said that if there’s anything all students should learn about feminism, it’s that it’s not about hating men. This, she said, seems to be the biggest myth surrounding feminism.
“There’s a general agreement that women are oppressed and it’s not because of biological factors,” Bloyd-Fink said. “We want to work on ending sexist oppression.”
According to Hake, anything the Collective is able to achieve is worthwhile, even if it is just enabling Webster students to feel more empowered, and the little changes can certainly go a long way.
“Little victories are important,” Hake said. “I don’t think we should forget about the big goals, but along the way we should be happy about the little changes we’re making.”